Country stages proud tributes to our armed forces

ALL EYES might have been on the Queen in London at 11am today, but it was across the country where the true spirit of memorial ceremonies was felt.

Remembrance Service by the Poppies at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Bretton, Wakefield...SH100142392c..8th November 2015 ..Picture by Simon Hulme
Remembrance Service by the Poppies at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Bretton, Wakefield...SH100142392c..8th November 2015 ..Picture by Simon Hulme

Towns and villages staged their own Remembrance Sunday services to honour members of the armed forces killed in conflict.

In London, thousands gathered and millions watched on television as the Queen accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, other senior royals and members of the leading political parties met at the Cenotaph in London.

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Also present was King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands who laid a wreath following an invitation from the Queen to mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands after the end of the Second World War.

The Duke of Cambridge, Prince Harry, and the Duke of York also laid wreaths, as the Duchess of Cambridge, Queen Maxima of the Netherlands, the Countess of Wessex, and the Princess Royal’s husband, Vice Admiral Sir Timothy Laurence, looked on from the Foreign Office balcony.

Prime Minister David Cameron was the first politician to lay a wreath, followed by Jeremy Corbyn who was wearing a poppy, and participated in the singing of the national anthem.

Mr Corbyn had previously attracted wide criticism for not singing the anthem at the Battle of Britain 75th anniversary commemorations.

There was speculation about whether the anti-war campaigner would wear a poppy - he had earlier refused to rule out wearing a white pacifist poppy. But Mr Corbyn was seen wearing a red poppy to the war dead at the Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday, and again at the Cenotaph service at which he lay a wreath.

However, he faced some criticism on social media from those who felt he did not bow deep enough. But he was also defended by many who felt the accusations were unfair.

Speaking after placing crosses at the Remembrance garden outside Westminster Abbey, Lance Corporal Ray Uzzel, 67, of the Gloucestershire Regiment, said: “The younger generation should carry it on. One day there will not be any more Second World War veterans left, but they will still be remembered, and Afghanistan veterans will still be around. It is important for us to remember not only those who gave their lives, but those who fought for their country.”

But this was more than just a London occasion. For many, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in Bretton, Wakefield, seemed the perfect place to be. Wave, a work of art comprising sculpted poppies, began at the Tower of London but is now on display at the YSP. There hundreds gathered on the bridge above the poppies in solemn tribute.

York Minister also played its part. Remembrance Sunday featured poetry and Bible readings reflecting on the waste and futility of war and a performance of Requiem, by the French composer Gabriel Fauré.

The Choir of York Minster performed Fauré’s music alongside readings of poets such as Wilfrid Owen (1893-1918).

Back in London, there was sadness after a war veteran Peter Bennett, of Grantham, Lincolnshire, lost his coat containing his war medals. His family appealed for help to locate them.

The mother of murdered soldier Lee Rigby has said she hopes to visit schools to “teach the right message” in a bid to combat radicalisation.

Lyn Rigby said she hoped the family’s fledgling charity, the Lee Rigby Foundation, would become an “astounding legacy” to her son.

Fusilier Rigby, 25 - a drummer and machine gunner with the 2nd Battalion Royal Regiment of Fusiliers - was killed outside his barracks in Woolwich, south-east London, in May 2013 by two Islamic extremists. Michael Adebolajo was given a whole-life term and Michael Adebowale was jailed for a minimum of 45 years for his murder.

Fusilier Rigby married his wife Rebecca in Southowram, West Yorkshire, in 2007.