Millions of Britons stay home on Remembrance Sunday as commemorations move online


Millions of people across the UK will be privately paying their respects as they mark Remembrance Sunday at home this year after the coronavirus pandemic forced 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 11am two-minute silence at home.

Ahead of today’s Remembrance Sunday service, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said ‘no virus can stop us’ from commemorating the country’s war dead as he paid his respects at Uxbridge War Memorial in west London at a low-key event on Saturday.

Millions of people across the UK will be privately paying their respects as they mark Remembrance Sunday at home this year after the coronavirus pandemic forced many commemorations to be scaled back. Pictured: The Cenotaph in London on Saturday

Although the public are unable to attend today's ceremony, the event will be broadcast live on multiple channels, with people encouraged to take part in the two-minute silence at home. Pictured: Scottish Second World War veterans Ronnie Wilson

Woman's Auxiliary Air Force veteran Cathy Drummond at her home in  Scotland

Although the public are unable to attend today’s ceremony, the event will be broadcast live on multiple channels, with people encouraged to take part in the two-minute silence at home. Pictured: Scottish Second World War veterans Ronnie Wilson (left) and Cathy Drummond pose with their war medals outside their homes ahead of Sunday’s commemorations

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.’

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.’

Ahead of today's Remembrance Sunday service, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said 'no virus can stop us' from commemorating the country's war dead as he paid his respects at Uxbridge War Memorial in west London at a low-key event on Saturday

Ahead of today’s Remembrance Sunday service, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said ‘no virus can stop us’ from commemorating the country’s war dead as he paid his respects at Uxbridge War Memorial in west London at a low-key event on Saturday 

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

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

Paying her respects: The Dean of Westminster Abbey David Hoyle (right) watches as The Queen's Equerry, Lieutenant Colonel Nana Kofi Twumasi-Ankrah, places a bouquet of flowers at the grave of the Unknown Warrior in front of the Queen in Westminster Abbey

Paying her respects: The Dean of Westminster Abbey David Hoyle (right) watches as The Queen’s Equerry, Lieutenant Colonel Nana Kofi Twumasi-Ankrah, places a bouquet of flowers at the grave of the Unknown Warrior in front of the Queen in Westminster Abbey

How to get involved in Remembrance Sunday

Even though this year’s Remembrance Sunday service at the Cenotaph is closed to the public, the Government says there are many ways you can get involved. 

People have been invited to share their personal stories and family histories on social media using the hashtag #WeWillRememberThem. 

They are also invited to post a tribute to the Royal British Legion’s virtual Field of Remembrance or on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Wall of Remembrance.

Britons can also watch Sunday’s Cenotaph service on television and online 

Other ways to get involved include: 

  • Supporting the Poppy appeal by donating through the post and displaying your own poppy or Remembrance window display.
  • Hold a small Remembrance service in your garden or write letters of remembrance to veterans or serving personnel.
  • Look up your own family history on Ancestry. The firm has made them free to access to mark this year’s commemorations. 
  • The Royal Air Force Museum is asking people to write poems to go on its online gallery.     

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.’

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.

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. 

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. 

Prince Harry visiting West Point Military Academy, America, in 2010

Prince Harry scrambling his Apache during his 12 hour shift at the British controlled flight-line in Camp Bastion, southern Afghanistan, in 2012

Prince Harry, who spent 10 years in the armed forces, described the day as ‘a moment for respect and for hope’, in an interview with the Declassified podcast

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.’ 

To mark Remembrance Sunday, members of the public have been encouraged to share their family histories and commemorative messages online using the hashtag #WeWillRememberThem.

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.’ 

The commemorations come after the former head of the Royal Navy Lord West of Spithead led a backlash against a ban on services inside churches and warned veterans faced catching pneumonia by being forced to stand outside. 

As a result of winter coronavirus lockdown restrictions, most religious services are banned and anyone caught attending one could face a £200 fine.   

John ‘Paddy’ Hemingway, the 101-year-old last survivor of the Battle of Britain, is said to be upset by the move.

His son Brian Hemingway said the veteran ‘feels sad,’ people will not be able to come together on Sunday.

But growing uproar from former senior members of the armed forces, and former defence secretary Michael Fallon, has seen calls for an exemption so the day can be properly commemorated.

Former First Sea Lord Lord West has warned veterans face catching pneumonia if they are forced to hold Remembrance Services outdoors on Sunday

Former First Sea Lord Lord West has warned veterans face catching pneumonia if they are forced to hold Remembrance Services outdoors on Sunday

Lord West of Spithead, the former First Sea Lord, told The Telegraph: ‘If you look at the average size of a church there must be a way of letting veterans in with social distancing. 

‘It seems very silly to have them standing outside in the freezing cold. This puts them more at risk. They will die of pneumonia rather than Covid.’ 

The Royal British Legion earlier confirmed there will not be the annual March Past the Cenotaph.

On its website the charity said it recognised the decision was ‘deeply disappointing,’ adding it was taken following Government advice. 

Guidance from the Government allows local authorities in England to organise events at a ‘public war memorial or cenotaph’ so long as they are held outdoors, they are short and those in attendance observe social distancing measures. 

The Queen wears a face mask for the first time in public as she marks centenary of the burial of the Unknown Warrior at Westminster Abbey

By Bridie Pearson-Jones and Jack Wright for MailOnline 

The Queen wore a face mask for the first time in public last week as she marked the centenary of the burial of the Unknown Warrior in a small private ceremony in Westminster Abbey. 

Her Majesty, 94, honoured the British serviceman, whose identity remains a mystery, and the Royal Family’s own associations with World War One at the London abbey ahead of Remembrance Sunday.

The head of state, who was dressed all in black as she placed an orchid and myrtle bouquet on the grave, was required to cover her face during the act of worship under government restrictions. 

It reflected the custom of Royal bridal bouquets being placed on the grave, a tradition which began in 1923 when Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the future Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, laid her bouquet as she entered the Abbey in memory of her brother Fergus, who was killed at the Battle of Loos in 1915.

Many Royal brides since have sent their bouquets to the grave at Westminster Abbey. 

Before her death in 2002, The Queen Mother also requested her funeral wreath be placed on the grave of the Unknown Warrior – a wish honoured at the Abbey the day after her funeral.

Tribute: The Queen commemmorates the centenary of the burial of the Unknown Warrior, an unidentified British serviceman who died in WW1, in Westminster Abbey on Wednesday

Tribute: The Queen commemmorates the centenary of the burial of the Unknown Warrior, an unidentified British serviceman who died in WW1, in Westminster Abbey on Wednesday

Paying her respects: The Dean of Westminster Abbey David Hoyle (right) watches as The Queen's Equerry, Lieutenant Colonel Nana Kofi Twumasi-Ankrah, places a bouquet of flowers at the grave of the Unknown Warrior in front of the Queen in Westminster Abbey

Paying her respects: The Dean of Westminster Abbey David Hoyle (right) watches as The Queen’s Equerry, Lieutenant Colonel Nana Kofi Twumasi-Ankrah, places a bouquet of flowers at the grave of the Unknown Warrior in front of the Queen in Westminster Abbey

Commemoration: The Queen inspects a bouquet of flowers to be placed at the grave of the Unknown Warrior by her Equerry, Lieutenant Colonel Nana Kofi Twumasi-Ankrah

Commemoration: The Queen inspects a bouquet of flowers to be placed at the grave of the Unknown Warrior by her Equerry, Lieutenant Colonel Nana Kofi Twumasi-Ankrah

Paying her respects: The Queen, 94, travelled by car from Windsor Castle to London to commemorate the centenary of the burial of the Unknown Warrior, according to the Court Circular. The Queen was photographed leaving Windsor Castle yesterday (pictured) before returning two hours later but the reason for the outing was not announced

Paying her respects: The Queen, 94, travelled by car from Windsor Castle to London to commemorate the centenary of the burial of the Unknown Warrior, according to the Court Circular. The Queen was photographed leaving Windsor Castle yesterday (pictured) before returning two hours later but the reason for the outing was not announced

Tribute: Lieutenant Colonel Nana Kofi Twumasi-Ankrah places a bouquet of flowers at the grave of the Unknown Warrior during a ceremony in Westminster Abbey

Tribute: Lieutenant Colonel Nana Kofi Twumasi-Ankrah places a bouquet of flowers at the grave of the Unknown Warrior during a ceremony in Westminster Abbey

Paying respects: The Queen's Equerry, Lieutenant Colonel Nana Kofi Twumasi-Ankrah, places a bouquet of flowers at the grave of the Unknown Warrior on behalf of the Queen during a ceremony at Westminster Abbey

Paying respects: The Queen’s Equerry, Lieutenant Colonel Nana Kofi Twumasi-Ankrah, places a bouquet of flowers at the grave of the Unknown Warrior on behalf of the Queen during a ceremony at Westminster Abbey

Tribute: The Queen inspects a bouquet of flowers placed on her behalf at the grave of the Unknown Warrior by her Equerry

Tribute: The Queen inspects a bouquet of flowers placed on her behalf at the grave of the Unknown Warrior by her Equerry

Which Royal bridal bouquets were laid on the grave of the Unknown Warrior? 

  • The Queen Mother, 1923
  • The Queen, 1947
  • Princess Margaret, 1960
  • Princess Alexandra, 1963
  • The Princess Royal, 1973
  • Diana, Princess of Wales, 1981
  • Sarah, Duchess of York, 1986
  • The Countess of Wessex, 1999
  • The Duchess of Cornwall, 2005
  • The Duchess of Cambridge, 2011
  • The Duchess of Sussex, 2018
  • Princess Eugenie, 2018
  • Princess Beatrice, 2020

During the ceremony this week, Her Majesty also joined the Dean of Westminster in prayers and a moment of reflection after the bouquet was laid on the grave, before The Queen’s Piper played a lament, The Flowers of the Forest.

The grave of the Unknown Warrior is the final resting place of an unidentified British serviceman who died on the battlefields during the First World War. The serviceman’s body was brought from Northern France and buried at Westminster Abbey on 11th November 1920 after a procession through Whitehall. 

The Queen’s grandfather, King George V, placed a wreath on the coffin at the Cenotaph, which was unveiled on the processional route. 

His Majesty later dropped a handful of earth from France onto the serviceman’s coffin as it was lowered into the grave at the Abbey. 

He was joined at the burial by his son, the future King George VI.

The Unknown Warrior became an important symbol of mourning for bereaved families, representing all those who lost their lives in the First World War but whose place of death was not known, or whose bodies remained unidentified. It remains a solemn tribute to all service personnel who have lost their lives in combat. 

The Queen was photographed leaving Windsor Castle on Wednesday before returning two hours later, where it is understood she is now self-isolating with husband Prince Philip, 99.

She looked sombre in a black ensemble, typically only worn while in mourning, attending a funeral, or for Remembrance Day and Remembrance Sunday services. 

The Court Circular for November 4 reads: ‘The Queen this morning commemorated the Centenary of the burial of the Unknown Warrior at Westminster Abbey, London SW1, and was received at the Great West Door by the Dean of Westminster (the Very Reverend Dr David Hoyle).’ 

The Queen

The Queen's Equerry, Lieutenant Colonel Nana Kofi Twumasi-Ankrah

Tribute: The Queen pays tribute to the Unknown Warrior while her Equerry, Lieutenant Colonel Nana Kofi Twumasi-Ankrah, carries a bouquet of flowers to place at his grave

Tribute: The Unknown Soldier was buried at Westminster Abbey on 11 November 1920 but lockdown restrictions mean commemorations had to take place in advance. File image

Tribute: The Unknown Soldier was buried at Westminster Abbey on 11 November 1920 but lockdown restrictions mean commemorations had to take place in advance. File image

The Queen's Piper plays during a ceremony in London's Westminster Abbey attended by the Queen last week

The Queen’s Piper plays during a ceremony in London’s Westminster Abbey attended by the Queen last week

Royal commemorations: The Duchess of Cornwall also carried out an engagement at Westminster Abbey yesterday, standing in for Prince Harry to visit the Field of Remembrance

Royal commemorations: The Duchess of Cornwall also carried out an engagement at Westminster Abbey yesterday, standing in for Prince Harry to visit the Field of Remembrance 

Sporting a poppy facemask,  Camilla, 73, honoured the servicemen and women who sacrificed their lives for their country and stood in solemn silence as the Last Post was played

Sporting a poppy facemask,  Camilla, 73, honoured the servicemen and women who sacrificed their lives for their country and stood in solemn silence as the Last Post was played

This tradition was first completed by the Queen Mother when she married King George VI in 1923. Pictured is Princess Beatrice's wedding bouquet on the grave earlier this year

This tradition was first completed by the Queen Mother when she married King George VI in 1923. Pictured is Princess Beatrice’s wedding bouquet on the grave earlier this year

King George V paying his tribute to the Unknown Warrior as he placed a wreath on the coffin, mounted on a gun carriage, at the Cenotaph in London's Whitehall in 1920

King George V paying his tribute to the Unknown Warrior as he placed a wreath on the coffin, mounted on a gun carriage, at the Cenotaph in London’s Whitehall in 1920

The Unknown Warrior's coffin resting in Westminster Abbey, in London, before the burial ceremony in 1920

The Unknown Warrior’s coffin resting in Westminster Abbey, in London, before the burial ceremony in 1920

The Queen has carried out only a handful of engagements since March and is expected to keep a low profile over the next month as she and the Duke of Edinburgh, 99, spend lockdown together at Windsor Castle.  

The Duchess of Cornwall also carried out an engagement at Westminster Abbey yesterday, standing in for Prince Harry to visit the Field of Remembrance.

She then stood in front of crosses from the Graves of the Unknown as the Dean offered prayers, before solemnly laying her own cross of remembrance and bowing her head in reflection.

A bugler played the Last Post, followed by a two-minute silence, and then Exhortation to Remembrance, as Big Ben chimed at 2pm.

 Afterwards the duchess toured the 308 plots filled with more than 60,000 crosses and symbols of all faiths, laid by staff and volunteers, with Surgeon Rear Admiral Lionel Jarvis, President of The Poppy Factory.

Remembrance Sunday services, which are traditionally part of communal worship, cannot go ahead as planned on November 8 due to lockdown restrictions 

However, rather than being banned entirely the Government has set out a series of guidelines for local authorities and faith leaders hoping to hold the services.  

The coffin was laid in the ancient abbey ahead of its burial, two years after the end of the First World War

The coffin was laid in the ancient abbey ahead of its burial, two years after the end of the First World War

The burial ceremony of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey was attended by prominent politicians and members of the public

The burial ceremony of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey was attended by prominent politicians and members of the public

The warrior's coffin was carried into the Abbey by soldiers who were flanked by fellow military personnel ahead of the burial ceremony

The warrior’s coffin was carried into the Abbey by soldiers who were flanked by fellow military personnel ahead of the burial ceremony 

In 1981, the Princess of Wales's bridal bouquet was laid on to the grave of the Unknown warrior after her wedding to Prince Charles

In 1981, the Princess of Wales’s bridal bouquet was laid on to the grave of the Unknown warrior after her wedding to Prince Charles

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