UK pays silent tribute to war dead on Armistice Day

The nation has paid silent tribute to those who lost their lives in conflict on a coronavirus-hit Armistice Day.

Covid-19 restrictions forced much of the British public to observe the traditional two-minute silence at 11am on Wednesday from their homes this year.

But scaled back socially-distanced commemorations were also held across the UK, from London to Edinburgh.

This year, Armistice Day marks the centenary of the burial of the Unknown Warrior in London’s Westminster Abbey after the end of the First World War.

Poet Laureate Simon Armitage has penned a poem commemorating the anniversary, which honours the symbolic “son we lost” who is “a soul without name or rank or age or home”.

Armistice Day 2020
Armistice Day 2020

The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall attended a private, televised service at the abbey to mark the funeral of the unknown British serviceman whose body was brought back from northern France in 1920.

He was laid to rest at the west end of the abbey’s nave on November 11 that year to represent all those who lost their lives in the First World War but whose place of death was unknown or body never found.

In his poem The Bed, Mr Armitage charts the fallen soldier’s journey, from being “broken and sleeping rough in a dirt grave” to being buried “among drowsing poets and dozing saints”.

It concludes: “All this for a soul, without name or rank or age or home, because you are the son we lost, and your rest is ours.”

Armistice Day 2020
Armistice Day 2020

Elsewhere in the capital on Wednesday, early morning train services run by Great Western Railway carried swathes of poppy wreaths from locations along its network to Paddington Station.

The Poppies to Paddington initiative, involving military charities, local authorities and military bases, aimed to place the wreaths by the station’s war memorial on Platform 1 on behalf of those unable to travel to London for Remembrance events this year.

It's a great honour to be preaching at today's @wabbey service for the centenary of the burial of the Unknown Warrior.

Each time we gather at this grave we're reminded of the call to sacrifice – but also of the certainty that sacrifice is never unseen by God.

— Archbishop of Canterbury (@JustinWelby) November 11, 2020

At the Cenotaph on Whitehall, a small closed ceremony was held, helping to mark 100 years since its permanent inauguration in 1920.

Lance Sergeant Stuart Laing from the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards performed the Last Post and Reveille on a bugle recovered from the mud of the Somme battlefield in 1915.

Earlier, environmental campaigners from Extinction Rebellion staged a protest at the memorial, unveiling a banner which read: “Honour Their Sacrifice, Climate Change Means War”.

Commemorations were also held in Staffordshire at the National Memorial Arboretum.

The two-minute silence was observed at Edinburgh’s Memorial Gardens and by clergy at York Minister.

In Liverpool, soldiers helping with the mass Covid testing at the Arena Convention Centre paused during their work.

The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted landmark anniversaries and remembrance events throughout this year, including Victory in Europe (VE) Day and Victoria in Japan (VJ) Day.

Last weekend’s Remembrance Sunday service at the Cenotaph attended by the Queen had to be scaled back and was closed to the public.

Despite the coronavirus lockdown in England, Downing Street said remembrance events are allowed if they take place outside and social distancing is observed.