Another view from Whitehall

While I was inside the Foriegn and Commonwealth Office unable to see anything going on outside my husband was on one of the balconies with a bird’s eye view of the proceedings – it seemed right on this occasion to share his thoughts too.

He writes, “From my vantage point on a balcony of the Foreign Office overlooking Whitehall I could see the whole panorama of the ceremony of Remembrance, from the massed bands at the south of the cenotaph to the ranks of the many veterans disappearing into the distance to the north along Whitehall, patiently waiting for their turn to pay their respects. I was impressed by the organisation and the precision of the whole event, from the timing of events, the marshalling of hundreds of forces personnel, veterans and associations right down to the exact positioning of the ranks of service people who lined each side of the road flanking the cenotaph.

One notices things that you don’t see on television – the preparations and last minute rehearsals – the officers checking the ranks, gently nudging the soldiers’ feet a few centimetres this way or that with their swagger sticks, or moving them back a few centimetres with a firm but gentle pull on the belt – the piper who had collapsed being stretchered out to the waiting medics – the armed police and security cameras on the roofs opposite.

But it is the sense of occasion and atmosphere that made the most impression. The march past of the veterans was a most moving experience – quietly and with great dignity marching past the memorial to their fallen colleagues. I was moved to tears by the sight of so many limbless, blind and disabled – young and old – and I reflected on what those armed personnel, in their immaculate dress uniforms, were thinking as the veterans, many of their own age, passed within but a few feet of them. Were there thoughts that they too could end up like this in the very near future, as our country’s interests across the globe continue to involve our forces in armed conflict, and the number of injured and dead increase? I’m not ashamed to say that I wept for them.”

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