Page last updated at 13:28 GMT, Saturday, 8 May 2010 14:28 UK

VE Day 65th anniversary: Prince leads tributes

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Service marks VE Day anniversary

The Prince of Wales has led veterans in a service marking 65 years since the end of World War II in Europe.

The national ceremony at the Cenotaph in London commemorates VE Day - declared on 8 May 1945.

The Prince, accompanied by the Duchess of Cornwall, laid a wreath ahead of a reception at Horse Guards Parade.

The leaders of the three main political parties took time away from negotiating the formation of the new government to attend the ceremony.

Bittersweet

Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg, who stood side-by-side as the service took place, also laid wreaths.

The Duchess of Cornwall, who fractured her leg last month, was taken to her seat in a wheelchair.

About 2,000 veterans, serving members of the three armed forces, ambassadors, religious and political figures, and members of the public attended.

AT THE SCENE
Nick Clegg, David Cameron and Gordon Brown
By Peter Jackson, BBC News
As the survivors of some of the most significant battles in living memory bowed their heads to remember the fallen, it was a poignant reminder that VE Day, 1945 was about loss as well as joy.

Now in their late eighties and nineties, the dwindling band of 200 veterans proudly sat in the cold in a sea of different coloured berets.

As the Last Post sounded and Whitehall fell silent, rain fell on the leaders of the three main parties who stood impassively in a show of unity that belied the political realities that lay ahead.

After wreath laying, prayers and readings, the crowd broke into spontaneous applause as the old warriors rose to their feet to march off.

As they left - on foot and in wheelchairs - reflecting on the eternal virtues of courage and sacrifice, it was moving to think it may be the last major anniversary for some.

Up to 580,406, UK and Commonwealth forces were killed in the six year conflict, and 67,073 civilians died in the Blitz.

The Last Post was sounded and a one-minute silence observed during the service for those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

The crowd heard prayers and readings before singing the hymn "O God, our help in ages past".

Royal Navy veteran George Broomhead said it was important for him to be there during the ceremony.

He said: "I never thought I would see this day. It is absolutely wonderful."

Mr Broomhead said that he celebrated after Prime Minister Winston Churchill announced the end of hostilities in Europe in 1945.

"I climbed on top of the lion's head in Trafalgar Square when it happened. I'll never forget it - I've never seen such joy in people's faces."

Cpt Edward Olver, a current member of the Household Cavalry, said he had been inspired to join the army by his grandfather who was a spitfire pilot in the war.

He said it was a privilege to attend the event and added: "It's a great occasion to get together to celebrate the wonderful achievements of George's generation and, again, focus on what the armed forces are doing today."

However he said the ceremony was tinged by sadness as not everybody returned home when the fighting ended.

The reception at Horse Guards Parade was hosted by the Royal British Legion.

On Monday, a commemoration gala concert will be held at the Royal Albert Hall in aid of the British Red Cross.

It was absolutely fantastic, unforgettable, I'd never seen so much jubilation - it went on for hours
George Broomhead

Elsewhere in Europe, French President Nicolas Sarkozy laid a wreath at the statue of General Charles de Gaulle near the Champs Elysee, and on Sunday Russia will hold its 65th victory Parade in Moscow's Red Square.

The ceremony, renowned for its show of military might, has British presence for the first time after Number Two Company of the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards were invited to take part with troops from other nations who fought alongside Russia in the World War II.

The 71 guardsmen, accompanied by the Royal Air Force band, will be dressed in full ceremonial uniform.



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