Remembrance Sunday: UK falls silent as prime minister says that 'no virus can stop us honouring their memory'

·3-min read

The Queen and senior members of the Royal Family have marked Remembrance Sunday at a scaled-back event at the Cenotaph, due to coronavirus restrictions.

Last year, more than 1,000 military personnel took part in commemorations in Whitehall in central London - this year, it was fewer than 150. Where ordinarily 10,000 veterans would usually gather, just 26 former service men and women marked the occasion.

However, despite the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said ahead of the ceremony that "no virus" would stop those who made the ultimate sacrifice being honoured.

Prince Charles laid his own wreath and also one on behalf of the Queen, who watched the event from a nearby balcony - as did the Duchess of Cornwall and Duchess of Cambridge.

Prince William, the Princess Royal and Earl of Wessex also laid wreaths.

Prince Andrew 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.

After stepping down as a working member of the Royal Family, Prince Harry, who now lives in California, instead paid tribute to the nation's war dead in a podcast marking the occasion.

The former Army officer 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.

"To me, the uniform is a symbol of something much bigger, it's symbolic of our commitment to protecting our country, as well as protecting our values.

"These values are put in action through service, and service is what happens in the quiet and in the chaos."

The event at the Cenotaph was closed off to the public, but people could watch the tributes on television and join commemorations by sharing family histories, personal stories and messages of remembrance using the hashtag #WeWillRememberThem online.

Hundreds of local events across the country were still able to take place, held outside and in accordance with strict social distancing guidance.

The Royal British Legion also asked people to stand in silence for two minutes outside their front doors at 11am.

Ahead of Remembrance Sunday, the prime minister paid his respects at Uxbridge War Memorial in west London at a low-key event on Saturday.

"We come together every November to commemorate the servicemen and women from Britain and the Commonwealth who sacrificed their lives for our freedom," Mr Johnson said.

"In this time of adversity, no virus can stop us from honouring their memory, particularly when we have just celebrated the 75th anniversary of victory in the Second World War.

"And in times of trial, our tributes matter even more. So let's come together once again and remember those to whom we owe so much."

In a video message ahead of his attendance in Whitehall on Sunday, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: "2020 has been a year of struggle and sacrifice, and we know many challenges lie ahead.

"But in these difficult times, whenever we are in need of inspiration we can always look with pride, not only to our wartime generations or those who are currently serving our nation at home and abroad, but to all our servicemen and women who throughout this pandemic have stood side by side with our key workers in the battle against this virus.

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"So on this special Remembrance Sunday where we mark 80 years since the Battle of Britain and 75 years since the end of the Second World War, let us say thanks to all those who have served and all those who continue to serve this great country."

In a brief ceremony at Westminster Abbey on Wednesday, the Queen wore a face mask in public for the first time as she commemorated the 100th anniversary of the interment of the Unknown Warrior - who represents the First World War soldiers whose place of death is not known or whose remains are unidentified.