Prince of Wales leads tributes on centenary of Armistice

The Prince of Wales has led the Royal Family's tributes to the nation's war dead on the centenary of the Armistice, as the Queen looked on from a nearby balcony.

The event marks 100 years since the signing of the treaty which ended the battle on the Western Front of the First World War at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.

Charles laid a wreath at the Cenotaph on behalf of his mother for the second year in a row, while an equerry laid a wreath on behalf of the Duke of Edinburgh.

The Queen viewed the service from the balcony of the nearby Foreign and Commonwealth Office, although Prince Philip was absent – one of the few times he has missed the occasion.

He was previously unable to attend in 1956, 1964, 1968 and 1999, a spokeswoman for Buckingham Palace said.

The Monarch was flanked by the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duchess of Cambridge – while the Duchess of Sussex, the Countess of Wessex and Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence stood on neighbouring balconies.

The President of Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, also laid a wreath on behalf of the German people.

It is the first time since the Cenotaph was inaugurated in 1920 that a representative of the country has taken part in the UK's national service of remembrance.

President Steinmeier's presence was a symbol of the friendship that exists between the two countries today, a representative of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said.

The Duke of Cambridge, the Duke of Sussex, the Duke of York, the Earl of Wessex, the Princess Royal, the Duke of Kent and Prince Michael of Kent all laid tributes to Britain's veterans.

Armistice Day 2018
Armistice Day 2018

Prime Minister Theresa May and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also laid wreaths at the foot of the Whitehall memorial, along with Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow.

The traditional two minutes' silence was held at 11 o'clock and was marked by the chiming of Big Ben – despite the ongoing renovations to the clock tower.

The 13.7 tonne bell has been silent since August 2017 since works began, except for ringing in New Year 2018.

It has been fitted with a custom-built electronic mechanism built to power the 200kg striking hammer to ensure it can still sound for important national events while the clockwork undergoes vital repairs.

The end of the silence was marked by cannon fire and The Last Post sounded by the Buglers of the Royal Marines before the wreaths were laid.

Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright said: "On the centenary of the Armistice, we will come together as a nation to stand in silence and honour the fallen of all conflicts.

"Over the past four years, we have told the story of the First World War and the unique generation who served so bravely and made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

"Today, we will also give thanks for all those that returned and the peace they fought so hard for."

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: "To be at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday is a privilege and provides us with the opportunity for reflection along with millions of people in countries that continue to be strong allies.

"The First World War touched communities across the globe and I commend all those who have helped us remember the First World War generation.

"We will never forget them or the sacrifice of thousands of British and Commonwealth troops who have given their lives in other conflicts."

Among the thousands paying their respects was Lieutenant Commander Sarah Bligh of the Royal Navy.

She said it was her grandmother's stories of the war that inspired her to join the forces.

"The thought of it being 100 years is really poignant. I've got a photograph of my great grandfather taken 100 years ago to celebrate them all coming back from the war," she said.

"It's incredible to be here 100 years on."

The ceremony will be followed by the annual Royal British Legion's Veterans Parade.

Big Ben will sound again today at 12.30pm, joining bells across the country and the rest of the world – an event to echo the celebrations of November 11, 1918 as news of the Armistice spread.

In the afternoon, 10,000 members of the public – chosen by ballot – will process past the Cenotaph for "A Nation's Thank You – The People's Procession".

The day will conclude with a Service of Thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey.