The nation will go silent to remember the fallen
Millions of people will fall silent this weekend to mark 100 years since the end of the First World War.
A series of events will take place up and down the nation for the centenary of the Armistice.
The Queen and senior members of the royal family will attend the annual Festival of Remembrance at London’s Royal Albert Hall tonight, which will commemorate all those who have lost their lives in conflicts.
Tomorrow, the Prince of Wales will once again lead the nation in honouring the country’s war dead during the national service of remembrance.
The Queen has asked Charles to lay a wreath at the Cenotaph in Whitehall on her behalf – the second successive year he will perform the duty.
During the Cenotaph event, the Queen will watch the service from the balcony of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office building, as she did last year.
For the first time, a German leader will lay a wreath at the Cenotaph, with President Frank-Walter Steinmeier performing the duty on behalf of his nation in a historic act of reconciliation.
After the service, 10,000 people, chosen by ballot, will have the opportunity to pay their respects to all those who served in the First World War by taking part in the Nation’s Thank You procession past the Cenotaph.
During the day, church and other bells will ring out as they did at the end of the First World War – and a Westminster Abbey service will be held along with others in Glasgow, Cardiff and Belfast, to give thanks for peace and those who returned.
Battle’s Over, a series of hundreds of local events to mark the centenary of the Armistice, will also take place tomorrow.
Pipers will play, beacons will be lit and church bells will ring in all corners of the UK and around the world as communities pay tribute to the First World War fallen.
Described as a nation’s tribute, Battle’s Over has been in the planning for four years and will see hundreds of locally-organised events mark the centenary.
The National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire will again be a focus of reflection, with up to 6,000 people expected to gather.
As is traditional, and fitting, the people of Britain will fall silent at 11am tomorrow morning. The yearly time for reflection has taken on greater significance on this, the 100th anniversary of the Armistice.
As demonstrated by the wealth of exhibitions and research projects and seas of poppies spilling from churches and public buildings, communities will not forget the sacrifices made in attempts to bring peace to war-torn lands.
The First World War was dubbed – incorrectly, as it turned out – the war to end all wars.
It was followed quickly by the Second World War and countless conflicts through the decades, right up to modern day atrocities committed in Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe.
Sadly, battles continue to rage across the world and we live in increasingly dangerous times.
Ideologies thought to be on the wane are rising again, climate change threatens massive socio-economic instability and the concept of nationhood takes on evergreater significance.
That is why it is wrong to suggest this centenary commemoration should be the last.
The scale of events may never again match what has taken place over the last 12 months but there is no doubting the value of the annual remembrance.
However well meaning, to suggest it is time to forget the past and concentrate only on the future is misguided.
Future generations, or those who have not lived through a world war or its aftermath, must be taught about how their freedoms were won so that they can also learn how quickly they could be lost.
The stories told in the pages of The Courier, and so many places elsewhere, about soldiers, sailors and civilian casualties are not glorying in a war which saw needless slaughter on an industrial scale.
They serve to remind us what was given up on those brutal foreign fields, and why.
It is for that reason we remember them and will continue to do so.
Moving tributes in a Remembrance Field at Royal Wootton Bassett.