Service will mark death of last WWI veteran

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The Independent Online

The death of the last known First World War veteran will be marked by a National Memorial Service at Westminster Abbey, Defence Secretary Des Browne announced today.

It will reflect the events of November 11, 1920, when the unknown warrior was laid to rest and the Cenotaph unveiled in Whitehall, he said.

Speaking on the first national Veterans Day, Mr Browne said: "Millions of men and women from across the British Empire made great sacrifices serving their country in World War One. Millions more endured the loss of their loved ones.

"A National Memorial Service will allow the whole nation to honour the valour and spirit shown by the veterans of World War One and will commemorate an entire generation."

The number of surviving veterans of the 1914-18 conflict is believed to be in single figures.

Among them is Henry Allingham, Britain's oldest man, who celebrated his 110th birthday earlier this month.

The memorial service would be held within about 12 weeks of the death of the last known veteran.

Details of the events being held to mark Veterans Day were set out by Chancellor Gordon Brown after he attended Mr Allingham's celebrations.

The national event, to be held every June 27, is designed to celebrate the contribution and achievements made by military veterans of all ages and experiences.

It aims to complement Remembrance Sunday which is specifically to remember those who have given their lives for their country.

Mr Browne said: "Today is about honouring our veterans.

"Through their service in the UK and overseas, both in peacetime and in conflict, veterans have made an important contribution to the freedom, democracy and prosperity of this country. For that, we owe them a debt of gratitude.

"We often think of veterans as the older generation who fought in the World Wars, but we want to remind people that a veteran can be any age from 18 to 110.

"I am delighted that Veterans Day will mark the contribution made by of all them."

More than 180 events are taking place all over the country.

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