The presence of Tony Blair at the dedication of a national memorial to sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan was, for some, an irony made more bitter by the absence of space for the families of some of the fallen.
“They could have got another mum or dad or wife or husband to take his ticket,” said Gerry Cartwright, whose Lance Corporal son, James, was taken at 21 in a tank accident.
The chaplain in charge, Ian Wheatley, had said that not even Wembley Stadium would have contained all those who wanted to attend. But on a morning charged with the emotion of wounds still sore and bereavements too recent, his words were lost on the breeze.
“I honestly think somebody else should have had his ticket, like one of the parents,” said Tracey Hazel, of Mr Blair’s attendance. Her son, Ben, was killed at 24 when an explosive hit his vehicle.
“I always think anyone’s innocent until proven guilty, but the Chilcot inquiry just proves different,” Ms Hazel said, adding of the conflict: “It wasn’t worthwhile. It achieves nothing, and it also ended my son’s dad’s life.”
Mr Blair, whom Sir John Chilcot found to have deliberately exaggerated the threat posed by Saddam Hussain before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, had taken his place at Horse Guards Parade in London, alongside two other former prime ministers, David Cameron and Sir John Major, and Theresa May.
She had insisted in parliament on Wednesday that no-one from the “bereaved community” had been turned away. But some military widows came forward to say they had not even been made aware of the event.
It was the Queen who led the proceedings. Bathed in spring sunshine, a military drumhead ceremony was followed by a smaller service of dedication at the memorial, in the shadow of the Ministry of Defence building in Victoria Embankment Gardens.
The Queen received a posy from the Lunn family - Sergeant Mark Lunn, who was awarded the Military Cross for his actions during a fire-fight in Basra, his wife, Corporal Michelle Lunn, and their two year-old son, Alfie.
The toddler squirmed in his mother’s arms as the Queen began to chat. As she was handed the flowers, the little boy reached out to take them.
A few yards away, a heavy armed police presence reminded everyone that although the local conflicts may be over, the repercussions are felt still.
Paul Day, the artist who created the circular, double-sided bronze sculpture, flanked between two large stones, acknowledged the work in progress.
“The memorial is not, as it were, saying there’s been a tidy end to things,” he said. “It’s a living thing, work is still going on to try and help secure peace and democracy.”
Pete Dunning, a former Royal Marine commando who lost both his legs in a roadside bomb attack and was there yesterday as a guest of the Royal British Legion, said the monument was as much for civilians as for the armed forces.
“In the three conflicts, 682 military personnel unfortunately lost their lives, but we don’t know about the civilians as well,” he said. “We are celebrating the work they did out there as well.”