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'Important For Me To Come': In London, Remembrance Day Reflections On War And Sacrifice

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 11: Prince Charles, Prince of Wales stands at The Cenotaph with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier during the annual Remembrance Sunday memorial at the Cenotaph on Whitehall on November 11, 2018 in London, England. The armistice ending the First World War between the Allies and Germany was signed at Compiègne, France on eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month - 11am on the 11th November 1918. This day is commemorated as Remembrance Day with special attention being paid for this year?s centenary. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 11: Prince Charles, Prince of Wales stands at The Cenotaph with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier during the annual Remembrance Sunday memorial at the Cenotaph on Whitehall on November 11, 2018 in London, England. The armistice ending the First World War between the Allies and Germany was signed at Compiègne, France on eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month - 11am on the 11th November 1918. This day is commemorated as Remembrance Day with special attention being paid for this year?s centenary. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

There were ceremonies over the weekend to mark the 100 years since the end of World War I. President Trump attended events in France, which saw some of the worst fighting. There were also ceremonies in the United Kingdom, which lost hundreds of thousands of soldiers in the war. Here & Now‘s Alex Ashlock shares a report from London.


Sunday was a day of remembrance and reconciliation in London.

The United Kingdom marked 100 years since the end of World War I. Thousands gathered in London to honor the dead from that conflict, a number that stretches into the millions.

After two minutes of silence, Prince Charles placed a wreath at the Cenotaph, Great Britain’s war memorial, as Queen Elizabeth II watched from a balcony. Then the German president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, laid his own wreath before the monument — a remarkable gesture of the peace that exists today.

After that, thousands of military veterans and ordinary citizens marched past the Cenotaph. The crowd applauded and children waved the Union Jack.

People came from all over the world for this event. I met Marie-Christine Strynckx in the line that stretched for blocks to get into the ceremony.

After watching the Remembrance Day event for years on the BBC, Strynckx and her husband came from Belgium to experience the “goosebumps” of seeing it in person. She said she has always appreciated how “the British show lots of respect for the soldiers.”

David Farmer grew up in London but today lives in Tasmania. He came to honor his grandfather, who served with the Scottish Light Infantry. Farmer choked up as he remembered a man who was a miner and fought in the early part of the war.

“He took out a German machine [gun] post on his own,” he told me, “came back home, went back in the mines, never spoke of it. After it was over for him, it was over.”

Toby Bryce-Smith, 20, and his 19-year-old friend Alan Cross were attending the Remembrance Day Ceremony for the first time.

“I think it’s really important, especially in the younger generations, to show the support for it, especially as it’s such a special year with it being 100 years since 1918, it was important for me to come,” Smith said.

Cross said these events can create a “tricky situation,” as people want to be careful not to glorify war. But on the other hand, it’s important that young people remember what happened, he said.

“A lot of the freedoms that today’s society’s built upon had many millions of people sacrifice their lives for it,” Cross said.

Nearly everyone in London over the weekend had an artificial red poppy pinned to his or her shirt or jacket. The red poppy has become a symbol of remembrance. The tradition was inspired by a poem written by Lt. Col. John McCrae, a Canadian officer, after a friend was killed at Ypres, one of the bloodiest battles of World War I. Here’s the first stanza:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place: and in the sky

The larks still bravely singing fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

There were no guns to be heard on Sunday afternoon in London. Just the bell of Big Ben ringing.

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