Never before have so few been allowed to honour so many as Remembrance Sunday parades are kept small
NEVER in 100 years of conflicts have so few been allowed to remember so many.
Lest we forget, Covid killed the traditional march-past of 10,000 British Legion veterans at yesterday’s national Service of Remembrance in London.
Lockdown meant just 25 were allowed to pay their respects to dead comrades.
The 21 men and four women took 85 seconds to parade past the Cenotaph instead of the usual hour. Royalty was there, with notable exceptions Harry and Andrew, as were politicians. But for the first time in a century the public were banned from entering Whitehall to pay tribute.
Services at war memorials around the UK were kept to a minimum to avoid spreading the virus. Many also paid their respects from their doorsteps.
At Whitehall, the 94-year-old Queen, who like everyone there was not wearing a mask, looked on from a balcony at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office with her lady in waiting, Susan Rhodes. On another balcony to the Queen’s left, Camilla and Kate stood socially distanced. Sophie Wessex and Princess Anne’s hubby vice admiral Tim Laurence watched from a window on Her Majesty’s right.
Charles, William, Edward, Princess Anne and the Duke of Kent stood, heads bowed, during the two-minute silence.
It is usually punctuated with coughs and noise from onlookers stood ten deep behind barriers. This year birds could be heard in the trees near Downing Street and along Horse Guards.
The Prince of Wales laid the Queen’s wreath on the Cenotaph, as his great-grandfather George V did in that first ceremony 100 years ago, on November 11, 1920.
Its message, echoing the words on the Cenotaph, said: “In memory of the glorious dead.” After William, Edward and Anne, a frail-looking Duke of Kent, 85, hobbled up but struggled to lay his floral tribute.
The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester were also due to attend but did not travel “on medical advice”. PM Boris Johnson led political leaders including Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer and Ian Blackford of the SNP.
Former PMs were also there, including Sir John Major, Tony Blair, David Cameron and Theresa May. Gordon Brown was absent and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab self-isolating.
OUR Royal Photographer Arthur Edwards was the only member of the public allowed to lay a wreath in person at the Cenotaph yesterday.
Arthur, 80, an evacuee in World War Two, laid the floral tribute on behalf of you, and it said: “Our readers will always remember them.”
He added: “It was a fitting tribute to our readers who have given so generously to this year’s Poppy Appeal.”
After the official wreaths were laid, including five instead of the normal 54 from the Commonwealth, the Legion vets marched past.
Among them was Sri Lankan Army veteran Pasan Kulrane, 59, who was taken ill during the service. But he returned after paramedics gave him a drink.
Chris Warren, 58, of Winchester, a Lt Colonel in the Royal Gurkha Rifles, said: “We are in a national lockdown but maybe we could have got 50 veterans. Twenty-five seems a bit few.”
Sergeant Monica Parrott, 74, who served in the Women’s Royal Army Corps, has been there ten times but this was her first as a Chelsea Pensioner.
She said: “So many people were deeply disappointed they could not go.
“Remembrance is one of the most emotional times of my year. I find it very, very hard not to cry. So many young boys went gloriously to war and never came back. Their mothers were grieving, their sweethearts were grieving and the whole world grieved.”
Ex-aerial photographer Stephen Mullis, 66, was one of two veterans representing 75,000 members of the RAF Association. Stephen, of Newbury, Berks, said: “It felt weird with so few people around the Cenotaph but it was humbling to be there.
“I always have a lump in my throat on this day but I was more choked than ever.”
Normandy veteran John Aitchison, 96, from Elephant and Castle, South London, was the last in the line. John, a driver mechanic who landed on Gold Beach on D-Day, said: “I have been 28 times and laid a wreath on five occasions but this was the most unusual. I really missed the atmosphere of the people normally here.”
One, ex-Household Cavalry Trooper Geoff York, 66, was prevented by police from attending and had to stay in Trafalgar Square. He said: “I wanted to lay a cross for my dad, Sapper Jack York, who was captured in the fall of Tobruk. I was really upset not being allowed in.”
How to be a poppy star
THE pandemic may have stopped thousands of sellers from hitting the streets — but it doesn’t have to stop you from buying a poppy. MIKE RIDLEY looks at some of the ways you can do your bit for the appeal by going to:
- Fundraise for appeal: Move to Remember and the 11/11 Challenge are among the fundraising suggestions from the appeal itself. Free fundraising packs on the website will give the help and support you will need.
- Poppies in the post: Help make up for the reduced number of volunteer collectors by requesting 20 poppies free of charge from the RBL — and then giving them to friends and family yourself in return for a donation.
- My poppy run 2020: Run, walk or jog any distance, anywhere and at any time. Get family and friends involved to raise cash. And buy a T-shirt to run in and a medal to give to yourself afterwards!
- Visit the poppy shop: There is an extensive range of products from poppy pins and jewellery to clothing, stationery and homeware. All profits fund the Legion’s work in supporting the Armed Forces community.
- Make online donation: Alternatively, you could just visit the British Legion’s website and make a donation. You can choose a one-off payment or set up a regular amount — and no amount is too small.
…OR POP INTO YOUR LOCAL SAINSBURY’S, TESCO, ASDA, ALDI OR MORRISONS AND BUY A POPPY
Ex-Chief Petty Officer Wren Catherine Lewington, 71, has taken part in the Cenotaph march past since the 1980s.
For the last seven years she has marched with the Royal Naval Association.
Catherine, from central London, said: ‘It always means so much to be there and honour the fallen but in 2020 I felt as if I was representing so many thousands who couldn’t make the trip themselves.”
Christine Dziuba was among the 25, representing Britain’s war widows.
Her husband Falklands and Northern Ireland veteran Wing Commander Steve Dziuba, an RAF Air Traffic Controller died in 2006, age 55.
Christine, who has been at the Cenotaph three times said: “It felt odd – very different from previous years.”
Chelsea Pensioner John Byrne, 70, who served 45 years in the Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters, was attending the Cenotaph service of Remembrance for the first time.
He said: “The whole country tuned in but many people went out onto their doorsteps and it helped forged a sense of community during lockdown.”
Former Regimental Quarter Master Sergeant John, who also served in Kososvo, Iraq and Afghanistan said: “I remembered the guys in my regiment who died in Northern Ireland and some mates who lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“We must never forget how lucky we are that there were people who fought for us with integrity and bravery, and who willingly laid down their lives so that we could live on.”
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