Page last updated at 13:12 GMT, Tuesday, 11 November 2008

WWI veterans mark Armistice Day

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World War I veterans lay wreaths in London

Three of the four surviving British veterans of World War I have helped mark the 90th anniversary of the end of the conflict.

Henry Allingham, 112, Harry Patch, 110, and Bill Stone, 108, represented the RAF, Army and Royal Navy respectively at a ceremony at London's Cenotaph.

They led the country in observing two minutes' silence from 1100 GMT.

Among other Armistice Day events across Europe, Prince Charles laid a wreath at a battle site in France.

The three veterans were met with a round of applause as they were wheeled to the Cenotaph for the ceremony.

Lit up by rays of winter sunshine, the men watched silently as their armed forces representatives laid wreaths on their behalf, one by one.

The ceremony formed the core of Britain's most important service to mark the 90th anniversary Armistice Day commemorations.

At 1100 GMT, a two-minute silence marked the moment - at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month - when the Armistice Treaty signed by the Allies and Germany to end four years of conflict came into effect.

I'm glad to be here - it means a lot to me. I hope people realise what my pals sacrificed on their behalf
Henry Allingham
World War I veteran, aged 112

Mr Allingham - the world's oldest World War I veteran and the UK's oldest man - said: "I'm glad to be here. It means a lot to me. I hope people realise what my pals sacrificed on their behalf."

The last-known survivor of the Battle of Jutland, who is partially deaf and nearly blind, said his comrades should never be forgotten, and he could not describe what they meant to him.

Mr Allingham released an autobiography last September in the hope that, as the last of the World War I veterans disappear, their story will live on.

Former sailor Bill Stone said: "I shall never forget it. I was one of the lucky ones and I'm thankful for that.

"Of course they should be remembered. If it wasn't for them [those who died] we wouldn't be here."

Defence secretary John Hutton said: "It's important for us to remember the sacrifices that were made by that brave generation and try to repay the debt of gratitude that we all owe them."

Henry Allingham, Harry Patch and Bill Stone before the ceremony
The veterans represented the RAF, Army and Royal Navy

Dennis Goodwin, chairman of the World War One Veterans' Association, said the three veterans' presence at the ceremony was "tremendous".

He added: "These men suffered the horrors of a war and they had to then face a life of uncertainty - the Great Depression and the aftermath of the war.

"They had little or no help for any of the traumas they suffered and no help from the government, and they created our generation."

Accompanying the veterans throughout were their modern representatives: Marine Mkhuseli Jones, who holds the Military Cross; Lance Corporal Johnson Beharry, who has the Victoria Cross; and Flight Lieutenant Michelle Goodman, a holder of the Distinguished Flying Cross.

The service was led by the Bishop to the Armed Forces, the Right Reverend David Conner.

The three veterans met Prime Minister Gordon Brown at a Downing Street reception afterwards.

The fourth surviving British veteran, Claude Choules, 107, lives in Australia and was due to attend events there.

Military personnel gather athe Cenotaph
Military personnel gathered at the Cenotaph to honour the fallen

Last week, veteran Sydney Lucas died at the age of 108. He had been one of the last conscripts called up in 1918, although peace was declared before he was sent to the trenches.

Another ceremony was held at the National Memorial Arboretum, in Alrewas, Staffordshire. Here there was also a two-minute silence, and a Royal Air Force flypast.

The memorial at this ceremony was designed so that at 1100 GMT on 11 November, a shaft of sunlight would pass through it to illuminate a wreath on the central plinth.

The Royal Family was represented by Prince and Princess Michael of Kent.

HAVE YOUR SAY
We should honour those who fought and died in all all wars, but recognise that WW1 was utterly unnecessary
Suki Hundal ,Coventry, UK

Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall were the guests of honour of French President Nicolas Sarkozy at the event in Verdun.

The French and German armies clashed there in 1916, and the site has since become a symbol of Franco-German reconciliation.

Meanwhile, a Christian research group has criticised the Church of England's involvement in Armistice Day events, saying it amounts to a "political statement" at odds with its teaching and beliefs.

Ekklesia claims that, when the Church says it is commemorating "those who have given their lives for the peace and freedom we enjoy today", it is ignoring the political and theological implications of its actions.

But the Rev Dr Giles Fraser, the Rector of Putney in south-west London, responded that the Church was right to honour people's sacrifice.


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