At 11 am the guns sound the start of the two minutes silence.
It is 8.15 am and I am standing in Whitehall, London facing the Cenotaph, the symbol of remembrance. I am not marching this year as I am entitled to do. Rather, I wish to see the Queen and other dignitaries, so I have found the nearest place, just to the left of the door to the Foreign Office. I am surprised to find this so easy as there are only two people here. As the services does not begin until 11 am we have quite a while to wait, but we have our memories.
Gradually, the crowd starts building up. We stand silently, watching the council workers sweeping up the leaves as they fall in the stiff breeze. The surface of the road is wet after heavy overnight rain. Then, the soldiers start arriving in groups. Each group representing their own regiments and marching so proudly to the music being played by the band of the Royal Marines.
Just before 11 o’clock, the dignitaries emerge from the Foreign Office. I don’t know the foreign visitor, but some of our own politicians are in attendance such as Gordon Brown, Jack Straw, David Cameron the leader of the opposition, as is Ian Paisley and of course Lady Thatcher helped along by John Major. When everyone is in place the Queen and Prince Phillip followed by the Royal Family take their places. I am delighted to see Prince William taking his place representing the younger generation.
At 11 am the guns sound, the start of the two minutes silence. It is as though the whole world has stopped; the only sound I can hear is the jingle of the horses’ reins as they move their heads up and down as horses do. Then, the guns signal the end of the two minutes silence, which is followed by a short service conducted by representatives from all faiths.
After the service, the Queen and Prince Phillip lead the dignitaries back into the Foreign Office. After this, it was the turn of the veterans to pay their tributes which they do every year marching so proudly to make sure their comrades who died so long ago are never forgotten. Now it is the turn of the young soldiers to be brought to attention and march back to their barracks.
What do we take away from this ceremony? Personally, I take away the feeling I have had all my adult life, a sense of sadness for lost friends. The loss of such talent which would have been such an asset to the world and its people. Above all, a sense of pride and gratitude to have been part of it and to have had the honour to be able to call some of them my friends.