Queen leads ceremonies in memory of war dead

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The Independent Online

The Queen led Remembrance Sunday ceremonies at London's Cenotaph in honour of the war dead of Britain and the 54-nation Commonwealth.

The Queen led Remembrance Sunday ceremonies at London's Cenotaph in honour of the war dead of Britain and the 54-nation Commonwealth.

The Queen, dressed in black, laid a wreath of red poppies at the base of the white Portland stone monument in Whitehall, heart of Britain's government.

Prince Philip, Prince Charles - dressed in the uniform of a Royal Navy rear admiral - Prince Andrew, Princess Anne and the Duke of Kent also laid wreaths at the monument, followed by politicians led by Prime Minister Tony Blair, representatives of Commonwealth nations and leaders of the armed forces and veterans' groups.

Other members of the royal family watched the ceremony from a nearby Foreign and Commonwealth Office balcony.

For a second year, the Queen Mother did not attend the Cenotaph ceremony. The 100-year-old broke her collarbone in a fall at her home last week. A wreath was laid on her behalf.

Earlier, several thousand veterans marched along Horse Guards Parade to the Cenotaph, watched by hundreds of onlookers. As Big Ben struck 11 o'clock, the crowd observed a two-minute silence, broken by a single artillery blast and the sound of Royal Marine buglers sounding the "Last Post."

After the service, veterans marched past the monument in the weak autumn sunshine. They were followed by 2,000 civilians from groups vital to the wartime "home front," including land girls, London Transport workers, the ambulance service and the Post Office.

For the first time, the march-past included the World War One Pardons Association, relatives of some of the more than 300 British and Commonwealth soldiers shot for desertion during World War I. Many were later judged to have been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

They were not part of the 'official' military parade, however, but joined the smaller civilian section behind them after approval by the Royal British Legion.

The families of the executed men had been campaigning for years for their relatives to be exonerated but say they are still waiting for justice.

Representatives of five religions were also taking part in their first parade. The Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and Greek Orthodox parties were the first new faiths to be included since 1947.

A Royal British Legion spokeswoman said there were around 8,000 people in the parade, 6,000 military and 2,000 civilians.

The remembrance ceremony is held every year on the nearest Sunday to the anniversary of the end of World War I on November 11, 1918, at 11 a.m.

On Saturday, the anniversary of the World War I armistice, millions of Britons observed a two-minute silence at 11 a.m., bringing railway stations, buses, supermarkets and soccer stadia to a standstill.

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