A nation remembers them: King Charles leads country in poignant tribute to Britain’s war dead in march past Cenotaph

12 November 2023, 12:42 | Updated: 12 November 2023, 14:25

King Charles led the remembrance service today.
King Charles led the remembrance service today. Picture: Alamy

By Jenny Medlicott

King Charles has led the country in Sunday’s remembrance service as veterans marched in a poignant tribute to Britain’s war dead.

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The monarch led the two-minute silence at Sunday’s service as he placed the first wreath in front of the Cenotaph.

Charles was followed by other members of the Royal Family, including Prince William, as well as senior politicians.

Rishi Sunak, Suella Braverman, Sir Keir Starmer, Sir Ed Davery and James Cleverly also assembled behind the Cenotaph.

The Home Secretary attended Sunday’s service amid growing calls for her to be sacked after she was accused of ‘sowing the seeds of hatred’ after violence broke out in central London on Saturday.

It came after she wrote an article in The Times calling for a pro-Palestine march planned for Armistice day to be banned, while also accusing the Met police of bias.

Swathes of people arrived at Whitehall on Sunday morning to pay tribute to the war dead.

Police lined the edges of the Cenotaph and surrounding roads while the service went ahead.

Some 10,000 veterans and 800 armed forces personnel are set to participate in a Remembrance Day march-past, while members of the Royal Family laid wreaths in dedication to the war dead at the Cenotaph.

King Charles laid the first wreath on the Cenotaph.
King Charles laid the first wreath on the Cenotaph. Picture: Alamy

Surrounding crowds broke out into applause as the march-by went ahead.

A band from his Majesty’s Royal Marines Portsmouth played throughout the service.

Queen Camilla and the Princess of Wales watched the service as they stood from Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office centre balcony.

The service also marked 70 years since the end of fighting in the Korean war and 20 years since the start of the UK’s military operations in Iraq.

Nuclear test veterans were also invited for the first time on Sunday’s service and were given medals to acknowledge their contributions.

Crowds applauded during the march-past.
Crowds applauded during the march-past. Picture: Getty

It comes after counter-protests held on Saturday’s Armistice Day saw 126 arrested by the Metropolitan Police and left nine officers injured.

Officers will be on a 24-hour guard of the Cenotaph throughout Sunday's services, while some 1,375 cops will be on duty - more than double the usual amount.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said of the event: "The courage and commitment shown by our servicemen and women, both today and throughout the generations that came before them, is humbling and I know many across the country will be honouring their memory today in quiet reflection.

"Recent events have served as a stark reminder that we cannot take the hard-earned peace we live in for granted, which is why I am honoured to lay a wreath on behalf of the nation in the memory of all those that have lost their lives defending our country and the values we hold so close.

"I am determined to ensure we never forget the ultimate sacrifice they have made."

Read more: PM and Met slam chaotic Armistice Day which saw more than 100 arrests and nine police officers hurt

Read more: Violent clashes erupt between counter-protesters and police as 300,000 Palestine activists march through London

Queen Camilla and Kate stood watching from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office centre balcony.
Queen Camilla and Kate stood watching from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office centre balcony. Picture: Getty
King Charles led the country in Sunday's remembrance service.
King Charles led the country in Sunday's remembrance service. Picture: Alamy

The clashes between far-right counter-protesters and police erupted on Saturday as some 300,000 pro-Palestine activists marched through central London.

Rishi Sunak has faced further calls from Labour MPs to sack Home Secretary Suella Braverman after she was accused of “sowing the seeds of hatred” ahead of Saturday’s march in an article she wrote for The Times.

Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, and Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, are among those who have called on Mr Sunak to sack the Home Secretary.

Charles will lead 10,000 in Sunday's service.
Charles will lead 10,000 in Sunday's service. Picture: Getty

Of the 126 arrests made during Saturday’s events, it is thought at least 92 were right-wing counter-protesters.

While 150 pro-Palestinian protesters were detained by police - although it is understood not all of those detained went on to be arrested.

Mr Sunak said of the scenes: “I condemn the violent, wholly unacceptable scenes we have seen today from the EDL and associated groups and Hamas sympathisers attending the National March for Palestine.

“The despicable actions of a minority of people undermine those who have chosen to express their views peacefully."

It comes after Armistice Day saw violent clashes between counter-protesters and police.
It comes after Armistice Day saw violent clashes between counter-protesters and police. Picture: Social media
More than 120 arrests were made on Armistice Day.
More than 120 arrests were made on Armistice Day. Picture: Alamy

AC Matt Twist said: "This operation took place in unique circumstances, against a backdrop of conflict in the Middle East, on Armistice Day and following a week of intense debate about protest and policing.

"These all combined to increase community tensions. The extreme violence from the right-wing protestors towards the police today was extraordinary and deeply concerning.

"They arrived early, stating they were there to protect monuments, but some were already intoxicated, aggressive and clearly looking for confrontation.

"Abuse was directed at officers protecting the Cenotaph, including chants of 'you’re not English any more'."

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