Nation to fall silent for Remembrance Sunday

People across the UK will be privately paying their respects as they mark Remembrance Sunday at home this year.

It comes as the coronavirus pandemic forces many commemorations to be scaled back.

The annual service at the Cenotaph in London will go ahead on Sunday, with the ceremony being held outdoors and invited guests required to observe social distancing.

Although the public are unable to attend, the event will be broadcast live on multiple channels, with people encouraged to take part in the two-minute silence at home.

Boris Johnson laying a wreath
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, with Ian Ritchie from Hillingdon and District Royal British Legion, lays a wreath at Uxbridge War Memorial in west London (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Ahead of Remembrance Sunday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson paid his respects to the war dead at Uxbridge War Memorial in west London at a low-key event on Saturday.

He said: “We come together every November to commemorate the servicemen and women from Britain and the Commonwealth who sacrificed their lives for our freedom.

“In this time of adversity, no virus can stop us from honouring their memory, particularly when we have just celebrated the 75th anniversary of victory in the Second World War.

“And in times of trial, our tributes matter even more. So let’s come together once again and remember those to whom we owe so much.”

Downing Street is adorned with poppies designed by children across the country ahead of #RemembranceSunday.

You can support this year’s @PoppyLegion#PoppyAppeal by downloading a poster and donating here: https://t.co/1iPxZUTbyapic.twitter.com/y1DBJoJgm8

— UK Prime Minister (@10DowningStreet) November 6, 2020

In a video message ahead of his attendance at the Remembrance Sunday service, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “2020 has been a year of struggle and sacrifice, and we know many challenges lie ahead.

“But in these difficult times whenever we are in need of inspiration we can always look with pride, not only to our wartime generations or those who are currently serving our nation at home and abroad, but to all our servicemen and women who throughout this pandemic have stood side by side with our key workers in the battle against this virus.

“So on this special Remembrance Sunday where we mark 80 years since the Battle of Britain and 75 years since the end of the Second World War, let us say thanks to all those who have served and all those who continue to serve this great country.”

Duchess of Cornwall
The Duchess of Cornwall visited the Field of Remembrance at Westminster Abbey in London ahead of Armistice Day (Eddie Mulholland/The Daily Telegraph/PA)

The Queen and members of the royal family are expected to join the country in commemorating the nation’s war dead at the Cenotaph.

Among those who are expected are the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

The Duke of Sussex stepped down as a working member of the royal family and now lives in California.

But in a podcast to mark Remembrance Sunday the former Army officer said: “Being able to wear my uniform, being able to stand up in service of one’s country, these are amongst the greatest honours there are in life.

“To me, the uniform is a symbol of something much bigger, it’s symbolic of our commitment to protecting our country, as well as protecting our values.

“These values are put in action through service, and service is what happens in the quiet and in the chaos.”

Cleaners at the Cenotaph in London
Cleaners at the Cenotaph in London as preparations are made ahead of Remembrance Sunday (Yui Mok/PA)

In a brief ceremony at Westminster Abbey on Wednesday, the Queen commemorated the 100th anniversary of the interment of the Unknown Warrior,  who represents the First World War soldiers whose place of death is not known or whose remains are unidentified.

The 94-year-old monarch had requested the service – her first public engagement in London since March – after she was advised not to attend an abbey service marking the warrior’s centenary next week, which the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall are expected to join on November 11, Armistice Day.

People are being encouraged to join commemorations on Sunday by sharing family histories, personal stories and messages of remembrance using the hashtag #WeWillRememberThem online.

Knitted poppies outside church
Knitted poppies outside a church in Chatteris, Cambridgeshire, to mark Remembrance Day (Joe Giddens/PA)

Meanwhile, genealogy company Ancestry has made more than one billion UK wartime records free to access over the weekend for people to discover the roles their family played in the First and Second World Wars.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “While this year’s service is a little different to normal, I want to encourage everyone to get involved from their own homes – watch on your TV, research your family history – but most importantly, keep safe.”

About 150 personnel from the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force will be on parade at the Cenotaph, with musicians from all three services to play traditional music for the service, including the Last Post played by Buglers of the Royal Marines.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “Many of the men and women on parade today have already taken part in efforts to fight coronavirus and many more will do so in the weeks to come.

“I applaud their selflessness.”

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