laid tributes to Britain’s veterans. Prime Minister Theresa May and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also laid wreaths, as did Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Commons Speaker John Bercow.
President Steinmeier became the first German leader to lay a wreath at the Cenotaph during the traditional Remembrance Sunday service as he stepped forward, placed a wreath decorated with the German flag at the foot of the memorial, stepped back and bowed his head. Big Ben, quiet since renovations to the Elizabeth Tower began in August last year, struck 11 o’clock to mark the two-minute silence.
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,” she said. “I’ve got a photo of my great-grandfather taken 100 years ago to celebrate them all coming back from war.” After the Royal Family had departed, more than 9,000 veterans marched past proudly, some of the oldest in wheelchairs. They included former Army sergeant Ron Freer, 103, who went blind after being held in a Japanese prison camp. Private Donald Smith, 98, paraded with the Queen’s Own Highlanders and Jeff Watkins, 97, travelled from San Diego, California, to march with the Federation of RAF Apprentices and Boy Entrants.
Big Ben sounded again at 12.30pm, joining bells across the rest of the world to echo the celebrations of 100 years ago as news of the Armistice spread. Moments later, 10,000 members of the public chosen by ballot marched past the Cenotaph for A Nation’s Thank You – The People’s Procession. Among them was Jackie Sheridan, whose great great uncle Oliver Davies was killed by a stray bullet aged 21 while serving near Jerusalem as a driver for the Royal Engineers in December 1917. Mrs Sheridan, from Syston, near Leicester, wore a Land Army badge that belonged to her grandmother. Wiping away tears, she said: “That was very important to her.” At the Abbey last night, the Queen and Mr Steinmeier shook hands beside by a marble memorial to Sir Winston Churchill. Mr Steinmeier quoted from John’s gospel in German: “Beloved, let us love one another.”
Moments earlier, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said: “The fact that John’s words will be read in German by that country’s president, a friend to this nation, demonstrates what can be done. “On this day we remember in order to act.” A beacon was lit at Westminster Abbey along with more than 1,000 others across the UK last night. The lights are intended to symbolise the end of the darkness of war and a return to the lightness of peace. Many went to the Pages of the Sea commemoration, where artists at beaches around the UK drew pictures of heroes into the sand as a final farewell. Their creations were then washed away by the tide.