Queen leads ceremonies to remember British war dead

13th November 2011, Comments 0 comments

Queen Elizabeth II led Britain in honouring its war dead on Sunday as the country fell silent on its national remembrance day.

In bright autumn sunshine, the queen laid the first wreath at the Cenotaph memorial in London to commemorate members of the armed forces who have died fighting in all conflicts since World War I.

More than 7,000 ex-servicemen and women marched past the Cenotaph, followed by civilians including 60 war widows as Prime Minister David Cameron, military chiefs and thousands of spectators gathered to pay their respects.

Prince William's wife Catherine watched the sombre ceremony at her first Remembrance Sunday service as a member of the royal family.

When the first stroke of 11:00 am sounded from nearby Big Ben, the crowd observed a two-minute silence.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond, just back from visiting British troops in Afghanistan where 385 have died since Britain joined the US-led invasion in 2001, paid tribute to the armed forces.

He said: "We know that public opinion of the Armed Services is at a record high, the Armed Services have acquitted themselves incredibly well, of course in Afghanistan on an ongoing basis -- and also in the operation in Libya over the course of this year."

Soldiers in Camp Bastion, Britain's largest base in Afghanistan, and other military outposts across the world held their own services.

Military chiefs were however still batting off suggestions from a leaked army memo that a programme of defence cuts could be speeded up and severely wounded soldiers would be laid off.

The Ministry of Defence said the memo, which indicated that up to 16,500 soldiers -- thousands more than originally proposed -- faced the axe by 2015, was the "factually incorrect" work of a junior officer.

The document seen by the Daily Telegraph also showed that 2,500 wounded soldiers, including 350 who have lost limbs, would not be spared in the budget cuts.

© 2011 AFP

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