Queen, politicians out in force as UK remembers its war dead

International

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge attend the Remembrance Sunday ceremony at the Cenotaph in Whitehall in London, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. Remembrance Sunday is held each year to commemorate the service men and women who fought in past military conflicts. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

LONDON (AP) — Queen Elizabeth II joined Britons in remembering their war dead, as the country’s political leaders paused campaigning for the Dec. 12 election to take part in a somber Remembrance Sunday service in London.

The queen, dressed in black, watched from a balcony as her son and heir Prince Charles laid a wreath of scarlet poppies on the Cenotaph war memorial near Parliament.

The 93-year-old monarch, who served as an army mechanic during World War II, performed the wreath-laying for most of her 67-year reign, but has cut back on her public duties. An aide laid a wreath on behalf of the queen’s 98-year-old husband Prince Philip, who has retired from public engagements.

The ceremony takes place every year on the nearest Sunday to the anniversary of the end of World War I at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918.

Thousands of military personnel, veterans and members of the public gathered in the streets around the Cenotaph to honor those killed in that war and subsequent conflicts.

As Parliament’s Big Ben bell sounded at 11 a.m., the crowd fell silent for a two-minute pause. The silence was broken by a single artillery blast and Royal Marines buglers sounding “The Last Post.”

A military band played as royals, politicians, leaders from many religious faiths and diplomats from the Commonwealth of former British colonies laid wreaths on the Portland stone monument, erected after World War I and inscribed with the words “the glorious dead.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and other political leaders took time out from campaigning to join the ceremony on a cold, sunny autumn morning.

But the politicians did not entirely steer clear of partisan point-scoring. In a Remembrance Sunday message, Johnson said the Conservative government had established an Office for Veteran Affairs “as a sign of my commitment to those who have served.”

In his own message, Corbyn claimed that service personnel “have faced pay cuts, service accommodation left in disrepair, and are worried their children are left without the support that they need.”

After the formal wreath-laying, thousands of veterans, war widows and their families marched past the monument to the sound of a military band, applauded by well-wishers lining the sidewalks. Almost everyone wore a red paper poppy — the official symbol of remembrance — on their lapel.

Similar ceremonies were held in dozens of towns and cities across Britain and at British military bases overseas.

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