The few who are left still remember

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The Independent Online

When Henry Allingham was asked on his 111th birthday in June what lessons he learnt while fighting in the First World War, Britain's oldest man had some simple but wise words to impart: "Hear all, see all and say nowt."

Across the British Isles and the Commonwealth tomorrow, millions of people will do just that. At exactly 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month, crowds will fall silent for two minutes – as they have for the past 88 years – to remember the dead from conflicts past and present.

Mr Allingham, who served with the Royal Naval Air Service and later the RAF, is one of just two known survivors of the Great War. The other is 109-year-old Harry Patch – the last British soldier known to have fought in the trenches and gone "over the top".

Mr Patch was badly wounded and saw three of his friends killed when a shell exploded a few yards away from him during the Battle of Passchendaele in 1917. He recalled that moment recently, saying: "September the 22nd, half past ten at night, that's when I lost them – that's my Remembrance Day".

At 10.30am tomorrow, the Queen will attend the National Service of Remembrance at the Cenotaph in Whitehall. Across the country, branches of the Royal British Legion will host their own wreath-laying ceremonies. Again this year, with the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan exacting their toll, the ranks of veterans and their families commemorating Remembrance Day will be swelled by new additions.

More than 16,000 servicemen and women have been killed or injured since 1945 in conflicts including Bosnia, the Falklands, Afghanistan and Iraq. More than 900,000 ex-service people live with a disability.

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