King Charles III leads Remembrance Sunday the first time as monarch
Each year, the nation gathers to remember the fallen at the Cenotaph. This year, they were joined in Whitehall by a new King and a new Prime Minister.
9,800 veterans from past conflicts reunited in their regimental and corps groups on Horse Guards Parade in the early morning. Medals polished, cap badges shining, chests out, they marched through the historic arches onto Whitehall with pride, eager to “do their fallen comrades justice”. The veterans whose operational service ranged from WW2 to present day Afghanistan, joined serving soldiers, sailors and RAF personnel, politicians, foreign dignitaries, religious leaders, and members of the Royal Family for the special service of Remembrance. They gathered to honour the dead in a solemn service whose words and music has remained largely unchanged for ninety years. That familiarity lends security and comfort, and the stark simplicity of the great, white monument in Whitehall around which the parade forms, and around which the wreaths of poppies were ceremonially laid, defies judgement or hierarchy, because it represents all, to all, equally.
Remembrance is very much about the present, not just the past.
Over the last year, around 6,000 UK armed forces personnel have been deployed on 29 operations in 26 countries worldwide. The UK Armed Forces persistently play a leading role in the effort to enhance European and transatlantic security, reassuring our allies and detering our adversaries.
At precisely 11 o’clock, Big Ben tolled, and the Guns of The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery fired to mark the start of a two-minute silence and its end. London is rarely quiet, but on this day even the capital holds its breath respectfully.
After prayers were said and the wreaths were laid on the steps of the Cenotaph by The King, Senior Members of the Royal Family, the Service Chiefs, the Prime Minister and senior members of the government from all political parties, members of the Diplomatic Corps and the Commonwealth, and the Heads of Uniformed and Civilian Services, it was time for the Veterans’ march past. Each veteran contingent laid their own wreath, saluting the Cenotaph as they marched past, boldly. VC holders stood side by side with junior soldiers, The Chelsea Pensioners in their scarlet coats earned a cheer from the crowds, and the blind veterans from St Dunstans with their guide dogs and carers marched past to rapturous applause.
The Veterans’ Parade took them to Parliament Square and back alongside St James’s Park to Horse Guards Parade. There, waiting on a dais beside the Guards Memorial, was HRH The Earl of Wessex, Colonel of the London Guards, who took the salute as the Veterans marched past.
After the solemnity of the service, grief lined faces were smoother, and by the time they reached Horse Guards the atmosphere was light and bright. The veterans could be seen laughing and joking with each other as they posed for photographs and shared happier memories.