Queen leads nation in scaled-back Remembrance Sunday events

By PA Reporters
·4-min read

The Queen has led the nation in marking Remembrance Sunday, as people around the UK privately paid their respects at home due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The 94-year-old monarch was joined by family members and the Prime Minister in commemorating the nation’s war dead at the scaled-back service at the Cenotaph in London.

The Prince of Wales, Duke of Cambridge, Princess Royal and Earl of Wessex laid wreaths at the ceremony, which was held outdoors with guests required to observe social distancing.

Remembrance Sunday
Prime Minister Boris Johnson during the Remembrance Sunday service at the Cenotaph in Whitehall, London (Aaron Chown/PA)

The public were unable to attend this year, with the event taking place during a second national lockdown in England, and were instead encouraged to take part in the two-minute silence at 11am at home.

In other years, Whitehall is usually packed with thousands of veterans and military, but on Sunday less than 30 veterans were in attendance.

The Queen, dressed in a black hat and coat, looked on from a balcony with Lady-in-Waiting Susan Rhodes at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office building, as Charles laid a wreath on her behalf.

The Duchess of Cambridge and Duchess of Cornwall looked on from a separate balcony, while the Countess of Wessex and Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence were on a third balcony.

The Duchess of Cornwall and the Duchess of Cambridge during the Remembrance Sunday service
The Duchess of Cornwall and the Duchess of Cambridge during the Remembrance Sunday service (Aaron Chown/PA)

The Duke of York did not take part in the event, having stepped down from official royal duties following fierce criticism after his Panorama interview about his friendship with sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

Boris Johnson was joined by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and former prime ministers Sir John Major, Tony Blair, David Cameron and Theresa May.

After the ceremony, Mr Johnson and his partner Carrie Symonds met with veterans.

The Duke of Sussex, who stepped down as a working member of the royal family and now lives in California, was not at the ceremony but spoke about what serving his country means to him.

Remembrance Sunday
Prime Minister Boris Johnson with partner Carrie Symonds, talking to a veteran, following the National Service of Remembrance at the Cenotaph, in Whitehall, London (Chris Jackson/PA)

In a podcast to mark Remembrance Sunday, Harry, who spent 10 years in the armed forces, said: “Being able to wear my uniform, being able to stand up in service of one’s country, these are amongst the greatest honours there are in life.”

General Sir Nick Carter, Chief of the Defence Staff, said some veterans might find Remembrance Sunday a lonely experience this year due to the Covid-19 restrictions in place.

Sir Nick told the BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show the guidelines would be “particularly tough on our veterans”, adding: “They traditionally have had the opportunity to get together and talk about their memories and their reflections, but equally to strut their stuff.”

Second World War veteran Seymour “Bill” Taylor, who turns 96 next month, did not experience the loneliness that was feared.

He was on board the HMS Emerald during the D-Day landings, a light cruiser that shelled enemy positions threatening the invasion beaches.

He is usually at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday but paid his respects outside his home in Colchester this year instead on what he described as a “beautiful day”.

Mr Taylor, who served as an Able Seaman in the Royal Navy, joined neighbours in his cul-de-sac as they stepped outside their houses to mark the two-minute silence at 11am.

Remembrance Sunday
Seymour ‘Bill’ Taylor, 95, from Colchester in Essex (Joe Giddens/PA)

“We had our ceremony here and everything. It was most, most welcome,” he told the PA news agency, adding: “It’s something that’s really special and it means an awful lot.”

Mr Taylor praised his neighbours and said that having the ceremony at home “made all the difference”, adding: “I just feel that we’re all neighbours and we stand by each other. It’s a great feeling.”

He said their ceremony was “properly done”, adding: “Everything has been perfect.”

Mr Taylor said it felt like a normal day, just more private and less crowded.

“It’s more personal for one thing,” he said, adding: “I shall remember it as a good day.”

Elsewhere, veterans stood in silence at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire to pay their respects to the fallen.

Reverend Vic Van Den Bergh, the arboretum’s honorary chaplain, addressed about 200 people as he paid tribute “to those whose memory we cherish and those whose names we will never know”.

Irish premier Micheal Martin laid a wreath at the Cenotaph in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, in what was the first time he has attended the event since becoming Taoiseach.

This year is the 33rd anniversary of the IRA bombing of Enniskillen in which 12 people were killed.

Mr Martin was joined by Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster and Minister of State Robin Walker MP.