Nation falls silent to remember war dead as pandemic restricts commemorations

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Britain has fallen silent to remember those who died in war as the coronavirus pandemic restricted Armistice Day commemorations.

Today marks 100 years since the ‘Unknown Warrior’ was buried at Westminster Abbey to symbolise all the soldiers whose bodies never returned home.

An invite-only service was held at Westminster and attended by Prince Charles, the Duchess of Cornwall and Prime Minister Boris Johnson – who all arrived wearing masks.

It comes after the Queen was seen covering her face in public for the first time when she visited Westminster Abbey for a Remembrance Sunday service last weekend.

The PM wore a mask as he headed to Westminster for the service
Image: The PM wore a mask as he headed to Westminster Abbey for the service

Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall also attended the service
Image: Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall also attended the service

ARMISTICE DAY EDINBURGH
Image: Armistice Day commemorations in Edinburgh

A silence was also observed in the House of Commons. Pic: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor
Image: A silence was also observed in the House of Commons. Pic: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

Scaled-back commemorations took place in Edinburgh’s Memorial Gardens, Belfast city centre, at York Minster and the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.

Despite coronavirus restrictions that ban people from meeting more than one other person they don’t live with in England, Downing Street gave remembrance gatherings the green light – providing they were outdoors and socially distanced.

Wednesday also marks 100 years since the Cenotaph was unveiled on Whitehall to pay tribute to fallen soldiers who fought in the First and Second World Wars.

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LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 11: Soldiers observe a 2 minute silence to mark Remembrance Day at Liverpool Exhibition Centre, where the UK military are assisting with mass COVID-19 testing on November 11, 2020 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. Wednesday marked 102 years since the armistice that marked the end of World War I. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Image: Soldiers working at a mass testing centre in Liverpool also came to a standstill

A small number gathered at the Cenotaph to pay their respects
Image: A small number gathered at the Cenotaph to pay their respects

While people usually turn out to lay poppy wreaths at their local war memorials, smaller ceremonies were restricted this year.

Instead people up and down the country were encouraged to stand in silence on their doorsteps or by their windows.

At a mass testing centre in Liverpool, where a new trial is being carried out, work came to a standstill for two minutes to observe the silence.

A special Armistice Day service was also held in the House of Commons for the first time, with around 50 of the 650 MPs able to attend with social distancing measures in place.

Commons speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle announced the service yesterday, saying: “Pausing for two minutes to remember the sacrifice made by so many brave men and women in faraway places 102 years ago is something we should not give up to this awful virus.

Members of the armed forces stood at Penzance station in Cornwall before the wreaths were taken on a train to London for 11am
Image: Members of the armed forces stood at Penzance station in Cornwall before the wreaths were taken on a train to London for 11am

Military personnel carry poppy wreaths at Paddington Station in London, for 'Poppies to Paddington'. Great Western Railway (GWR) and The Veterans Charity are transporting memorial wreaths from around the UK on GWR train services into London Paddington where the wreaths will be laid around the station's war memorial for the two minutes silence to remember the war dead on Armistice Day.
Image: The ‘Poppies for Paddington’ arrive in London

“It is why I wanted this House and its members to have the opportunity to commemorate this moment in the Commons chamber.”

Elsewhere, 100 poppy wreaths were taken by members of the armed forces on a train from Penzance in Cornwall so they would arrive in London in time for 11am.

RAF veteran Alan McQuillin, 97, stands silent at his local war memorial in Cirencester
Image: RAF veteran Alan McQuillin, 97, stands silent at his local war memorial in Cirencester

Malcolm Clerc, 94, who joined the Navy at 15, is pictured outside his home in Knutsford, Cheshire
Image: Malcolm Clerc, 94, who joined the Navy at 15, is pictured outside his home in Knutsford, Cheshire

Eric Howden, 76, former member of the Royal Ordnance Corps, in Redcar, North Yorkshire
Image: Eric Howden, 76, former member of the Royal Ordnance Corps, in Redcar, North Yorkshire

The traditional two-minute silence is held every year to mark the end of the First World War, after an agreement between Germany and the Allies took effect at the “11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month” of 1918.

Commenting on the Unknown Warrior’s anniversary, head of the armed forces General Sir Nick Carter said: “The burial one hundred years ago of the Unknown Warrior was a seminal moment for the British people.

Johnson Beharry, who received the Victoria Cross, is seen arriving at Westminster Abbey on Wednesday
Image: Johnson Beharry, who received the Victoria Cross, is seen arriving at Westminster Abbey

Defence secretary Ben Wallace attended the service in London
Image: Defence secretary Ben Wallace attended the service in London

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer was also in attendance
Image: Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer was also in attendance

“To many of those who stood in silence or who made the pilgrimage to Westminster, he was not unknown at all.

“His very anonymity meant that he was the father, husband, son or brother who never came home from the war.

“Today the tomb of the Unknown Warrior reminds us all that war has a cost and that we should never forget those who sacrificed their lives for our free and open way of life.”

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