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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Queen leads heartfelt tributes to Britain's fallen heroes on Remembrance Sunday

-Kate attends the ceremony for the first time
-Royals and country's leading politicians lay wreaths to commemorate soldiers killed in war

By Emma Reynolds

Crowds formed across Britain today for heartfelt tributes to the brave soldiers who died for their country.

The Queen led the way at a solemn service in Whitehall as thousands gathered across the nation to mark Remembrance Sunday.

The autumn sun shone on central London, where military officers joined royals and Prime Minister David Cameron for the event.

Wearing a black coat and hat, pearls and a cluster of poppies, the Queen laid a wreath at the foot of the Cenotaph, before other members of the royal family stepped forward to do the same.

She was followed by Prince Philip, Charles and William, all of whom wore their uniforms from their time serving in the Army.

Kate Middleton attended the ceremony for the first time, her eyes downcast as she stood beside the Duchess of Cornwall and Countess of Wessex on the Foreign and Commonwealth balcony.

She wore a black, bowler-style hat and coat and two poppies, while Camilla and Sophie flanked her in feathered hats.

The Duchess of Cambrdige at one point shared a joke with the Countess of Wessex, which had them both in stitches.

The pair began laughing around the time Camilla disappeared from view below the balcony - apparently to pick up something she had dropped.

Prince Harry was missing because he is in America on the final stage of his Apache helicopter training.

He instead attended his Army Air Corps squadron's remembrance service parade in Arizona.

Next to pay their respects were the Duke of York, the Earl of Wessex, the Princess Royal and the Duke of Kent.

Mr Cameron bowed after laying his wreath, before Nick Clegg stepped forward ahead of Ed Miliband and other senior state officials.

After the wreaths were laid, Bishop of London Dr Richard Chartres led the short service at the Cenotaph where prayers were said for soldiers who died in major wars.

Then 7,500 veterans marched past the Cenotaph while the emotional watching crowds clapped for them.

Dozens of organisations representing servicemen from past conflicts walked along Whitehall, where Charles was waiting to take their salutes.

Solemn occasion: Kate Middleton stands between the Duchess of Cornwall and Countess of Wessex as she attends the Whitehall event for the first time

Light-hearted moment: The Duchess of Cambridge and Countess of Wessex share a joke as they stand on the balcony between Camilla and Princess Anne's husband Mark Lawrence

The royals had earlier lined up behind the Queen for the two-minute silence - which was signalled by gunfire from the King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery in Horse Guards Parade.

The Queen stood with her head bowed as Big Ben chimed, before another blast marked the end of the silence and the Buglers of the Royal Marines sounded the moving tune of The Last Post.

Meanwhile, hundreds gathered at the Cenotaph in Manchester for the city's Remembrance Sunday memorial.

Servicemen and women in uniform were to march from the town hall to the Cenotaph in St Peter's Square.

They were joined by civic dignitaries, representatives from ex-service organisations and faith leaders - watched by members of the public who wanted to pay their own respects to the fallen.

In Hampshire, around 1,000 people gathered outside Winchester Cathedral for a service and silence.

Local dignitaries, including the city's MP Steve Brine, and veterans from the Second World War laid wreaths at the war memorial outside the west front of the cathedral.

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond led tributes north of the border, laying a wreath during a service at the Stone of Remembrance on Edinburgh's Royal Mile and attending a Service of Remembrance at the city's St Giles Cathedral.

He said: 'Today is a day to proudly remember the bravery of all those who have given their lives in the service of our nation and whose sacrifice will never be forgotten.'

A two-minute silence was also observed at an event at the Cenotaph in Glasgow's George Square.

Representatives of the Royal British Legion paid tribute there to the dead, along with council leader Gordon Matheson, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson.

A Guard of Honour was provided by The Royal Highland Fusiliers, the 2nd battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland.

Perth staged its annual civic Remembrance Sunday parade and church service, beginning at the council buildings on High Street.

Lieutenant General Sir John Kiszely, the Royal British Legion's National President, said: 'Remembrance Sunday is a time for the nation to unite in its reverence for the British Armed Forces past and present.

Bonded in sadness: Stanley Yarnworth, 86, looks at crosses in Royal Wootton Bassett with his grandson Paul Carter today

Leading the country: Prime Ministers and top politicians past and present stood united at the ceremony

Comrades forever: War veterans pass Northampton's Guildhall in a Remembrance Day parade as similar scenes take place across the country

'When we bow our heads in reflection, we remember those who fought for our freedom during the two World Wars, but we also mourn and honour those who have lost their lives in more recent conflicts.

'Today, with troops on duty in Afghanistan and other trouble spots around the world, remembrance, and the two minute silence, are as important as ever.'

Britain's Armed Forces were praised by the Defence Secretary ahead of today's services as he stressed injured soldiers would not be considered for redundancies.

Philip Hammond yesterday flew back from his first visit to Afghanistan into a storm over a report that those wounded while fighting the Taliban could lose their jobs.

A document seen by the Daily Telegraph suggested up to 16,500 personnel may be axed - more than announced so far - and that 2,500 injured personnel, including 350 who had lost limbs, were vulnerable to redundancy.

But the Defence Secretary reiterated a written statement sent out yesterday refuting the article.

Speaking in Whitehall ahead of the Remembrance Sunday service, Mr Hammond said: 'Let me be very clear, there's been no change at all on policy on medical discharges.

'Nobody who is being treated for an injury or a medical condition received on active service will be considered for redundancy - that's our policy, it isn't going to change.

'While they're being treated no-one will be considered for redundancy, of course once people's treatment is complete there is then a medical assessment process which will look at the best way to plan their careers.'

Mr Hammond added: 'We know that public opinion of the armed services is at a record high, the armed services have acquitted themselves incredibly well, of course in Afghanistan on an ongoing basis - and also in the operation in Libya over the course of this year.

'The public hugely respects and admires what our service people do and the professionalism with which they do it, and we're here today to remember those who sadly have paid the ultimate price.

'From a military perspective it's clear that the British held area of Helmand is making very good progress, enemy initiated incidents are well down, the situation on the ground is much more secure. But this can only be part of a broader political process.'

At last night's annual Festival of Remembrance in London, the Queen and senior members of the Royal Family joined an audience of veterans and their families to honour Britain's war dead at the Royal Albert Hall.

The evening was hosted by the Royal British Legion and was both a moving tribute to the fallen and a celebration of their memory through music and song.

X Factor star Joe McElderry, singer Katherine Jenkins and Sir Cliff Richard performed at the Festival.

The televised event included a performance by a choir whose members all have partners serving in Afghanistan.

The Military Wives Choir from the Royal Marines Base Chivenor in north Devon sang Wherever you Are. The women have been led by choirmaster Gareth Malone, who formed the group for his BBC Two television series The Choir.

The event, held annually since 1927, culminated in the traditional release of thousands of scarlet poppy petals from the roof of the Albert Hall to represent all those who have died in combat.

Sea of scarlet: The Field of Remembrance outside Westminster Abbey has been covered with crosses and poppies in the run-up to today



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