Last surviving Great War veterans mark Armistice day

Click to follow

Three of the last surviving veterans of the First World War joined serving soldiers in current conflicts today to mark the 90th anniversary of the day peace returned to Europe.

Henry Allingham, 112, Harry Patch, 110, and Bill Stone, 108, led the nation as it remembered the sacrifices made by the 1914-1918 generation.







All three men laid wreaths at the Cenotaph in central London to commemorate Armistice Day.



The men each represented the armed service they belonged to - the Royal Air Force for Mr Allingham, the Army for Mr Patch and the Royal Navy for Mr Stone.



Heroes of today's armed forces accompanied the three men to the Cenotaph - Marine Mkhuseli Jones (Military Cross), Lance Corporal Johnson Beharry (Victoria Cross) and Flight Lieutenant Michelle Goodman (Distinguished Flying Cross).



They were joined by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Defence Secretary John Hutton, the Duchess of Gloucester and thousands of members of the public.



This will almost certainly be the last significant anniversary that any of those who fought in the First World War will mark.



Of the five million men and women who served in Britain's armed forces in the war, only four are still alive.



The other surviving veteran, Claude Choules, 107, lives in Australia and will mark the 90th anniversary at local events there.



Last Tuesday, Sydney Lucas, originally from Leicester, who was just 17 when he was conscripted as a soldier with the Sherwood Foresters regiment, died in Australia aged 108.



Mr Patch was a machine-gunner in the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry and fought during the Battle of Passchendaele in Ypres, which claimed the lives of more than 70,000 soldiers.



He served in the trenches as a private from June to September 1917.



Before the ceremony he said: "I am very happy to be here today. It is not just an honour for me but for an entire generation. It is important to remember the dead from both sides of the conflict. Irrespective of the uniforms we wore, we were all victims."



Mr Stone said: "I shall never forget it. I was one of the lucky ones and I'm thankful for that.



"Of course they should be remembered. If it wasn't for them (those who died) we wouldn't be here."



He said he would spend the day "thinking of all those who are gone. We must not forget them".



Mr Allingham said: "I'm glad to be here. It means a lot to me. I hope people realise what my pals sacrificed on their behalf.



"May they never be forgotten. I can't describe what they mean to me."



Mr Hutton said: "The First World War devastated a generation of men and women and left an indelible mark on the 20th century.



"Today, as we commemorate the 90th anniversary of the Armistice, the actual events of the First World War will have long since faded from common memory. However, it is important for us to remember the sacrifices that were made by that brave generation and try to repay the debt of gratitude that we all owe them."































The three veterans led a two-minute silence on the stroke of 11am as the nation stopped to mark the moment - the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month - in 1918 that the war ended.

Afterwards, Mr Brown was meeting the veterans at a reception in Downing Street.



In addition to the service at the Cenotaph, a simultaneous ceremony was held at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.



In Dorset, a new war memorial in Bovington, commemorating soldiers of the Household Cavalry and Royal Armoured Corps who have died on active service since 1945, was being dedicated.



And in France the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall were the guests of honour of President Nicolas Sarkozy. Charles was laying a wreath in Douaumont Cemetery, near Verdun.

Comments