This article titled “Armistice Day: silences mark 100 years since end of first world war – live updates” was written by Mattha Busby (now), Ben Quinn (earlier), for theguardian.com on Sunday 11th November 2018 18.57 Asia/Kolkata
The European Broadcasting Union, which operates Eurovision and Euroradio, will be holding a concert for peace at 2.30pm which shall be broadcasted live to audiences around the world to commemorate the centenary.
Derek Gregory aged 88 from Sidnouth, Devon, was holding his father’s medals from WW1. His father was Albert James Gregory who served with the South Wales Borderers in France where he was gassed, causing him to suffer from health problems in later life.
In disgust at the lack of welfare assistance available on his return from the war, he threw his medals in the coal hole from where his wife later managed to retrieve two of them. Today they are mounted and in frame.
“I think it’s wonderful,” said Derek at the People’s Procession, accompanied by his daughter Lorraine Frost. “I think they should do it every year … It would be unforgivable if it all just faded away.”
Derek’s newborn great-grandson has been named Albert in his father’s memory.
The Irish President-elect Michael D Higgins has attended the Armistice Day centenary commemorations at Dublin’s Glasnevin Cemetery to pay tribute to the memory of the Irish men and women who died in the first world war.
In his speech he said that the events were not a “celebration of militarism”, before going on to criticise how some nations today “seek to embark upon a new arms race” which serves to “fuel fires of war in other lands”.
“Ours is not a celebration of militarism, nor a valorisation of martial spirit, but a simple recognition of our common humanity, as we recall the destruction of the promise and potential of a generation in the First World War, the lasting damage inflicted on the millions wounded and maimed, and the countless others who would go on to suffer mental anguish as a result of the horrors of their war experience,” he said, noting that 200,000 Irish men served overseas.
“Despite all the differences of religion, class and political aspiration, they were united by what would be a shared experience of war, with its comradeship, friendship and shared hardship whether it was on the Western Front, at Gallipoli, or in the Middle East.”
Higgins added that the world today had “the material capacity to abolish all forms of human poverty, to alleviate all unnecessary suffering, we are still devoting so much of our creativity, not to the preservation or achievement of peace, but to the prosecution of and preparation for war”.
“Amidst great human suffering, some nations now seek to embark upon a new arms race, increasing not only their own stockpiles, but exporting weapons of death and destruction to fuel the fires of war in other lands, in Yemen, in Syria, and in the Democratic Republic of Congo,” he said.
More than 47 countries were represented at the service, and officials laid wreaths at the Irish military plot, before the last post was played and the Irish flag returned to full mast.
Poetry from the first world war was read by the British, French and German ambassadors to Ireland, before prayer and a minute of silence.
The commemoration took place at 9am, hours before Higgins was to be inaugurated for his second term as President of Ireland.
Party leaders lay wreaths
The prime minister Theresa May and the leader of the opposition Jeremy Corbyn have laid wreaths during the service of remembrance at the Cenotaph on Whitehall.
Thousands of marchers have begun leaving the Mall in central London in a people’s procession that will bring people from across the country together as they pass the Cenotaph in what has been described as the “nation’s thank you” to all those who fought in the first world war.
Marion Lewis and her sister Dorothy Heslop are marching for their grandfather, Private John Waters of the 23rd Battalion Middlesex Regiment. He received a serious head wound at the Somme in October 1916 which left him missing part of his skull.
Eighteen people were killed, 11 were missing and 29 wounded from his battalion in the same action. As girls, it was an unspoken rule not to ask granddad about the war, they said. “They did not expect him to survive so they left him outside the medical tent and we think it’s the cold that probably saved him,” Heslop said.
Events are taking place across Belgium starting with a ceremony at the Belgian monument in Brussels attended by King Philippe who will later attend a last post ceremony in Ypres at 8pm.
The size of the crowds in Ypres for the last post ceremony on Friday night and the special ceremony on Saturday morning – “at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month” – were said by Benoit Mottrie, chairman of the last post association, the 24-strong voluntary organisation whose buglers have remembered the fallen at the setting of the sun every day at the gate for 90 years, to have been the largest he could recall.
A parade in the morning through the town included the band of the Devon and Somerset fire brigade, who will be performing at a concert in the main square this afternoon. Meanwhile in Mons, south-west Belgium, George Barkhouse, the great-nephew of Pte George Lawrence Price, a Canadian believed to have been the last British empire soldier killed in the war, is attending a liberation parade involving troops from Canada.
It was there that the 25-year-old was shot in the heart by a sniper, as he tried to move civilians out of a group of houses occupied by a German troops.
He was tended to by a Belgian nurse but died a minute later in her care. It was 10.58am. “He was engaged to be married. It is so important I am here,” Barkshouse, 89, told the Guardian. “Important to mark how my great-uncle has been honoured as the last man. We talk about him a lot in the family. We remember him.”
As Leigh Todd walks in the People’s Procession she will remember her great-aunt Nancy Allen, one of countless women who lost their fiancés and the future they had planned to the Great War.
“She was 21 and she had just got engaged. And then he was called up,” said Leigh, from Scarborough, walking with her husband Richard.
“The effect it had on her. After he was killed she never married. She never had children. Her life was spent looking after her parents.
“She never stopped wearing black and she kept the letters that he wrote to her in a chocolate tin.
“You don’t really think of these women. All the men were away. She lived in a pit village, Wheatley Hill, so I imagine there was nothing for her. There was no future.”
The couple, who have three children – the youngest aged 14 – always commemorate Remembrance Sunday. “We’ve brought the children up to think it is a very important day,” she said.
“I think it is brilliant that the descendants can be part of this centenary. I’m feeling really emotional being part of it.”
Away from the big commemorations, today has a particular resonance in places like the Australian town of Gundagai in New South Wales, which suffered unimaginable losses in the first world war.
Naaman Zhou has filed this piece on how the grief – and names of those killed – live on.
Under a light-grey sky, eight buglers in greatcoats sounded the Last post. Silence fell among the many thousands gathered at Ypres’ Menin Gate, as Europe remembered the 100th anniversary of the end of the first world war “at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month”.
At the Gate’s inauguration after the war, a long line of ashen-faced mothers struggling to hold back the anguish, and fathers marching sternly with trembling lips, had snaked through this flattened town up to and under the gate.
Blinded veterans had run their fingers over the newly carved bone-white Portland stone to feel out some of the names of fellow soldiers who had lost their lives, and whose bodies had never been found.
“A more sacred place for the British does not exist in the world,” the then secretary of state for war, Winston Churchill, had intoned.
Today, at what will surely be the last great act of remembrance of the great war here, at least for the sons, daughters, nieces and nephews of those who served and sacrificed in Ypres, a commitment was renewed to learn the lessons of the past in defiance at the fading in living memory of what happened on Flanders’ fields. (read on)
In his armistice speech to world leaders including America’s Trump and Russia’s Putin at the Arc de Triomphe, Emmanuel Macron warned against the rise of nationalism.
He said he was a patriot but “patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism”.
Suggesting that that nationalism and egotism was once again on the rise, he said: “Old demons are resurfacing. History sometimes threatens to take its tragic course again and compromise our hope of peace. Let us vow to prioritise peace over everything.”
He said the traces of the first world war had never been erased from Europe nor the Middle East and called on countries to stand together in “good will” – to “join our hopes together” rather than face-off because of our “fears”.
He said countries needed to join to fight new challenges such as climate change, poverty, famine and inequality.
The focus of this blog for the last little while has been on London and Paris, but it’s worth remembering that there are homes across the globe where families have been touched by the conflicts being marked by today’s events.
Kate Nicholl’s great-grandfather John Waugh was killed in action aged 28 in Flanders just two weeks before the armistice.
“Which makes it seem doubly senseless,” she said. He had been shell-shocked and was very traumatised but still had to fight.
As she joined the People’s Procession she was also remembering her great-grandfather’s brother Tommy, who survived the war. By remarkable coincidence Tommy and John met at a field hospital shortly before John was killed. Even more of a coincidence, their sister Violet was working there as a nurse.
“Tommy had been injured at the Somme. He spent three days in no man’s land hiding under dead bodies in order to survive,” she said. “Then he continued to Flanders.
“By 1918, both John and Tommy were serving in Flanders.” The meeting at the field hospital was only brief before John was on his way back to the front, never to return.
The family were from Nettlesworth in Co Durham, said Nicholls who lives in Ealing, west London. “It was one of countless villages where they would lose a whole generation.”
The People’s Procession was important, she said. “Because the generation who had first-hand knowledge are dying out, not just those who served but those they told.
“I think it would be a lovely thing to allow descendants to continue to hold true to those memories.”
As the wreath laying comes to an end and the service by the Bishop of London, Dame Sarah Mullally, has started at the Cenotaph.
A wreath has been laid at the cenotaph by the German president, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the first time a German leader has done so at the site.
Prince Charles has also done so. Both are being followed by the political figures present.
Armistice remembered in London
Big Ben, which has been silent since renovations to the Elizabeth Tower began in August last year, has been striking 11 o’clock to mark the hour the armistice was signed.
Two minutes of silence is now being observed.
The last notes of Elgar’s Nimrod has drifted off into the air down Whitehall as the ceremony at the Cenotaph gets underway.
Political leaders including Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn and former prime ministers are lining up with wreaths now as senior armed forces officers also come forward.
From the royal family, Prince Charles will lay a wreath on behalf of his mother for the second year in a row while an equerry will lay a wreath on behalf of the Duke of Edinburgh.
For the first time, a German leader will lay a wreath, with President Frank-Walter Steinmeier performing the duty on behalf of his nation in an historic act of reconciliation between the two countries.
The Prince of Wales is now arriving with the German president.
In French, English and Chinese, young people have been reading out letters from combatants at the commemoration in Paris as dignitaries and others listen.
Aside from the representatives of what were the major powers at the time of the war, those gathered include leaders of states which had yet to come into existence.
They include Taoiseach Leo Varadkar of Ireland. Irish government archives indicate that almost 80,000 men enlisted into the British army during the first 12 months of the conflict, joining 50,000 Irishmen who were already serving in the army.
Armistice commemorations underway in Paris
In Paris, around 70 heads of state, prime ministers and foreign dignitaries are gathered with Emmanuel Macron, at the start of armistice commemorations at the Arc de Triomphe.
Russia’s Vladimir Putin was the last to arrive at the Arc de Triomphe, shaking hands with Macron and Angela Merkel. Putin then stopped to shake hands with the US president Donald Trump and gave Trump a thumbs up.
In the pouring rain, most heads of state arrived with Macron in coaches driven up the Champs Elysées from the presidential palace. They then walked slowly together under black umbrellas to the Arc de Triomphe, with Angela Merkel beside Macron.
This image of leaders walking together through the rain was described by French commentators described as a moving gesture about peace.
Some leaders were absent from this slow march, including the US president Donald Trump and the Russian leader Vladimir Putin, who both arrived at the Arc de Triomphe separately in their own security detail. Macron is to deliver a speech and then light a flame in honour of an unknown soldier.
Testimonies written by soldiers on 11 November 1918, as the ceasefire took hold, will be read later by high school students in French, English and German.
In London, the 10,000 people taking part in the People’s Procession are gathering on The Mall to take part in this unique march past the Cenotaph to mark the centenary.
Jackie Sheridan is marching for her great-great-uncle Oliver Davies who was killed in Palestine by a stray bullet while taking the horses to water. From Leicester, he was just 21 when he died on 2 December 1917 and was serving with the Royal Engineers. He was youngest of 13 children.
“He was a driver but I think he was also the captain’s groom,” said Jackie, also from Leicester, who is marching with her husband Steven.
She has the letter, now very fragile, sent by his captain on Oliver’s death, praising him as a “cheery” lad who was “loved by all” and “one of the best”. The captain had erected a cross for him at his grave 15 miles from Jerusalem. On her phone Jackie has picture of a sketch that was drawn of his grave.
“I’ve grown up with the story,” said Jackie, a scout leader marching in her uniform.
“I shall salute when we get to the Cenotaph.
“It’s important to show your respect. We are passionate that the younger generation know and learn that peace is so much more important than war.”
With first world war veterans long passed and second world war veterans fading, it was important to keep the commemoration going, she said. “I have a grandson who is only nine months old and I hope when he is old enough we will still carry on.”
Seventy world leaders are gathering in Paris, where they have walked side by side to commemorate the war in a somber, rain-soaked line as bells finished tolling.
Arriving a few minutes late and in some cases struggling with umbrellas in the wind, they missed the exact moment to commemorate the armistice however. Fighter jets passed overhead as the leaders walked to the Arc de Triomphe.
Macron is now making his way across to begin the official commemorations at this site.
The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month
At Ypres, the Last Post has bee sounded at eleven minutes past eleven (local time), the moment when the armistice effect.
It’s worth noting that the armistice was signed much earlier in the morning and that many lost their lives in the hours afterwards.
Nora Anderson lost four sons to the Great War – Charlie, Ronnie, Teddie and Bertie.
“I grew up with this story of the four boys who went to war and never came back,” said Robin Scott-Elliot, Bertie’s great-grandson. “The impact of their loss filtered down through generations.
“As I watch my children grow up, and I think that Bertie never had that, I feel quite emotional.” Bertie – Lieutenant Colonel William Herbert Anderson – was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.
Away from the battlefields, the sacrifices at home and those who cared for the returning survivors of the carnage are also being remembered:
Trump criticised over no-show
There has been some criticism of US president Donald Trump for missing a military memorial event on Saturday due to the rain.
The UK veterans minister and former soldier Tobias Ellwood was among those chastising Trump after the cancellation of a visit to a US cemetery in Belleau, northern France, where American soldiers killed in the first world war are buried.
Attending in Trump’s place were the White House chief of staff, retired marine general John Kelly; the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, marine general Joe Dunford and several members of the White House staff.
Meanwhile, others have been noting how the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, handled the rain in 2017 at an event to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the raid on Dieppe in France during the second world war:
France’s president Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, clasped hands on Saturday at a solemn ceremony at Compiègne as they marked the centenary of the armistice signing.
The Guardian’s Kim Willsher was there and writes that it was the first time since 1940 that leaders from the two countries had met at the historic site, where Marshal Ferdinand Foch, supreme commander of the western front, signed the ceasefire agreement with Germany in a railway carriage.
“We owe it to our soldiers,” said Macron afterwards. Symbolically, he and Merkel sat side by side and not face to face as the French and German representatives had in 1918 and 1940.
They then signed the visitors’ book in a replica of Foch’s railway carriage, known as the Compiègne Wagon, where in an act of revenge Adolf Hitler forced France to sign its capitulation in June 1940.
We have pieces exploring a range of facets about the conflict on our website today. They include this fascinating one by David Olusoga, the historian and broadcaster, on the black and Asian troops who fought beside white comrades but who experienced the return of racial subjugation after the armistice.
When the guns fell silent in 1918, both victors and vanquished turned against the black and brown men who had fought in what the victory medals then being struck for each allied soldier called “The Great War for Civilisation”.
Among the forces sent to occupy the German Rhineland, under a clause of the armistice, were African American and French African troops.
Whereas German complaints about the deployment of black soldiers in the trenches of the western front had largely failed to arouse international sympathy, now the war was over the propaganda campaign that was launched against the black soldiers of the army of occupation was a profound success, eliciting sympathy from the press and the trade union movement in Britain, and within sections of the public in the US.
Read it in full here.
Danny Boyle’s Pages of the Sea begins
One of the most innovative commemorative events is already also underway on more than 30 beaches around the UK as part of filmmaker Danny Boyle’s UK-wide Pages of the Sea project for marking the centenary of the end of war.
On the beaches, a large-scale portrait of a casualty from the conflict will be drawn in the sand and washed away as the tide comes in. Full details are the Pages of the Sea website.
The high tide is due at around 10 o’clock in Folkestone, where an image of Wilfred Owen has been drawn in the sand. Hundreds of members of the public are also etching out silhouettes of fallen soldiers.
Here is a schedule of the most high profile events taking place on a global day of commemorations.
• 11am: two-minute silence followed by church bells ringing in unison across Britain.
• Pages of the Sea event devised by Danny Boyle. The faces of first world war heroes will be sculpted in sand on 32 beaches.
• 11am: service at the Cenotaph in Whitehall; veterans’ march-past co-ordinated by Royal British Legion.
• 12.30-1.30pm: the ‘People’s Procession’ – 10,000 people who secured tickets in a public ballot to parade past the Cenotaph.
• 5-10pm: 10,000 flames light up the moat around the Tower of London.
• 6.55pm: buglers sound the Last Post at more than 1,000 locations across Britain, and in Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Bermuda, France, Belgium, Canada, the United States and Germany.
• 7pm: first world war beacons of light will burn across the country to signify the light of peace.
• 7.05pm: church and cathedral bells to ring out. 100 town-criers call for peace around the world.
• 10.30am: ceremony at the Australian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux, Somme.
• 10.40am: parade at the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing in Somme.
• 11am: remembrance ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, attended by French president Emmanuel Macron, US president Donald Trump, Russia president Vladimir Putin, German chancellor Angela Merkel and Irish taoiseach Leo Varadkar.
• 11am: ceremony at Newfoundland Memorial Park, near Beaumont-Hamel, Somme.
• 10.30am: remembrance ceremony at the municipal cemetery of Mons.
• 11am: Last Post service at the Menin Gate in Ypres, Flanders..
Commemorations have also already started in the UK, where more than 100 people gathered before dawn on Sunday in Enniskillen, the first town to hear of the armistice through a radio operator scanning the airwaves.
Those gathered this morning were accompanied by the sound of a lone piper playing ‘When The Battle’s O’er’, a traditional tune played after battle.
The Wilfred Owen poem Anthem For Doomed Youth was read before ministers from the four main churches in the town led prayers of reflection.
The Last Post was played on the bugle that sounded the charge of the 36th Ulster Division at the Battle of the Somme in 1916, before a two-minute silence was observed.
The Queen’s representative, the Lord-Lieutenant for County Fermanagh, Viscount Brookborough gave the oration.
“All of our communities served willingly and suffered equally throughout the long years of that war and I am delighted to see so many people here this morning,” he said.
“The Armistice was signed a few minutes after 5am on that 11th day, and we are in Enniskillen, the western most point of this celebration this year.”
Commemorations in Australia and New Zealand
Ceremonies have already been taking place in Australia and New Zealand, where crowds have fallen silent to commemorate the of thousands of those from both countries who gave their lives in the First World War.
Thousands gathered for a national service of remembrance at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, where Prime Minister Scott Morrison led a minute’s silence at 11am (midnight Saturday GMT).
In Sydney, crowds gathered at the Anzac Memorial, an extension of which was unveiled by the Duke of Sussex during his recent trip with the Duchess of Sussex, while there was also a service at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne.
Some 331,000 Australians served overseas during the first world war, the vast majority of whom fought on the Western Front alongside British soldiers and their allies.
Over 60,000 died in the conflict, more than two-thirds on the battlefields of Europe.
Earlier, large crowds attended the Pukeahu National War Memorial Park in Wellington for New Zealand’s main remembrance ceremony, where a minute’s silence was observed at 11am (10pm GMT Saturday).
Nearly 100,000 served in New Zealand units overseas, with around a fifth never returning home.
Good morning and welcome to the Guardian’s liveblog coverage of the armistice commemorations.
Events today will mark the culmination of four years of events to commemorate the first world war and those who lost their lives in that conflict.
It’s going to a day of remembrance around Europe, with high-level events concentrated particularly in France, Britain and Belgium, but with countless smaller ceremonies and simple acts of commemoration in towns, villages, and homes.
International Armistice Day commemorations will be led by President Macron in Paris at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which lies at the foot of the Arc de Triomphe monument.
After that ceremony, Chancellor Angela Merkel will join Presidents Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, along with leaders and representatives of most of the countries that fought in the conflict at a reception in Versailles to celebrate the opening of the Paris Peace Forum.
In London, a procession of 10,000 people to the Cenotaph later today will remember those who laid down their lives in world war one. The Queen and German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier will be among those at Westminster Abbey for a service.
I’ll post a fuller schedule shortly, but in the meantime here is a piece from Esther Addley on how communities have been preparing for the armistice centenary.
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