Page last updated at 15:08 GMT, Saturday, 11 November 2006

Armistice silence comes to Trafalgar Square

By Alex Kleiderman
BBC News

Several thousand people of all ages gathered in Trafalgar Square for a Royal British Legion event to mark Armistice Day.

Silence in the Square event
Traffic came to a halt as the two minutes' silence was observed

Ordinary members of the public joined veterans of conflicts and their families at the Silence in the Square event to remember those who died fighting for their country.

A lone bugler played The Last Post and at 1100 GMT, traffic came to a halt.

The ringing of the bells of St Martin in the Fields church and the chimes of Big Ben marked the time when, on the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, World War One came to an end.

Then the hum of noise in central London disappeared as the crowd in the square stood in reflection for the two minutes' silence held every year since.

I've come to reflect on my experiences and on the people who have been lost
Gordon Monks, Falklands veteran

Tourists in the area also observed the moment - the Legion had been handing out an information leaflet printed in seven different languages.

The silence was brought to an end by the bugler's Reveille and a fly-past of four Typhoon jet aircraft by the RAF - the sudden noise prompting the square's pigeons to take flight.

As the choir from Charterhouse school sang Mark Blatchley's setting of Laurence Binyon's famous war poem For the Fallen, the crowd was led to one of the fountains, where they placed thousands of poppy petals, turning the water red.

Moving poem

Formal Remembrance Day events, observed at war memorials, cenotaphs and religious services throughout the UK on the second Sunday of November, take place on Sunday.

With troops on active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Legion maintains that the two minutes' silence for Armistice Day is as relevant as ever for all Britons.

"For over 85 years we have been leading the nation in two minutes' silence on 11 November," said the Legion's Stuart Glendall.

The organisation runs the poppy appeal to raise money for service personnel, veterans and their relatives.

Poppies in fountain
Thousands of poppy petals were placed in a fountain

"Today is a Saturday and obviously for many people it will be a day when they will be shopping or out and about with their families.

"We organised this event to draw attention to 11 o'clock today to show people they can take part in a Remembrance event, perhaps on a less formal basis, but still one at which they can stop and think, and hope for the future."

Before the two minutes' silence, schoolgirl Rebecca Sullivan came on stage to read her moving poem There Lie Forgotten Men.

The 13 year-old from Highlands School in Enfield, north London, was inspired to pen the work - which describes a world in which war dead are all but forgotten - after studying the world wars

And girl group All Angels performed two songs, including their cover of Robbie Williams's track Angels, which is to be will released at Christmas, with proceeds going to the RBL.

March past

Falklands veteran Gordon Monks, from Kiddlington near Oxford turned up with his family.

"I've come to reflect on my experiences and on the people who have been lost," he said.

Gordon Monks
Mr Monks will also be taking part in the Cenotaph march past

Mr Monks will also be taking part in the march past at the Cenotaph on Sunday with his colleagues from the South Atlantic Medal Association 82.

Others said they had ended up at Trafalgar Square by chance.

Chris Daniel, 31, from Kent, came to the capital with his wife Shaleene for the Lord Mayor's Show parade but after hearing about the Armistice Day event on the radio headed to Trafalgar Square instead.

"We felt it more appropriate to come here to see what was going on," he said.

"It is important to understand what has happened in the past and to make sure the memories live on for the people who are able to stand in the square today."

video and audio news
People observe the two-minute silence


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