Remembrance

Remembrance Sunday: Veterans Pay Tribute To Fallen At Scaled-Down Service

The ceremony at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire was streamed online for those unable to attend.

Veterans have stood in silence at the National Memorial Arboretum (NMA) to pay their respects as the COVID-19 pandemic forced a scaled-down act of remembrance this year.

About 200 pre-booked guests gathered for a socially-distanced service at the foot of the outdoor arboretum’s main Armed Forces Memorial, in Alrewas, Staffordshire, on Remembrance Sunday.

Usually, the service would draw crowds of thousands but instead this year it was live-streamed on Facebook and YouTube for those unable to attend due to the pandemic.

Lee Hyland, a veteran of the Royal Corps of Signals, said the service had become the only option for a lot of ex-service members. 

He told Forces News: "[It’s] very important, every year.

"We were due to be in the parade in London, and when that got cancelled we were very upset about it, really, again with it being the anniversary of the Royal Corps of Signals. 

"It’s the centenary of the Royal Corps of Signals and we were looking forward to meeting up again from 30 years ago when we served, and marching down Whitehall together.

"So this year with everything that’s going on with COVID, [it] has basically left us with only here to come to, which I think is a bit sad with everything else that’s going on."

Addressing those assembled, Philippa Rawlinson, the arboretum’s managing director, paid tribute to all the fallen, including from the Commonwealth and other nations, who had joined Britain "in the fight for peace" during the Second World War.

WATCH: The Last Post is played at the National Memorial Arboretum. 

Among those in the crowd was veteran Chris Dyke, who told Forces News: "I was in the Army for 16 years. We live round the corner, so it’s just nice to bring the kids here on Remembrance and remember the lads that we lost.

"Normally you can go to the Arboretum, just around now you can’t do it really, so when they said they were going to open this today, it was quite nice we that we could actually come and remember everyone."

He added: "Speaking to quite a lot of the lads, and they can’t do anything... they’ve got out and no-one can actually do anything in the local towns. It’s quite nice that I got the opportunity to come here and do that."

Captain Dawn Connor, a training officer with Cheshire Army Cadet Force and veteran of the Royal Logistics Corps, also told Forces News of how her plans had to change due to the pandemic.

"Well, normally I would be parading with the cadets and we’re not doing face-to-face training, and coming to the NMA is really important for anybody who can get here," she said. 

"[I] was due to come for the 'Ride to the Wall' because I’m a biker as well, and obviously that was cancelled, so getting the chance to come and pay your respects to the people that gave the ultimate sacrifice is very important. 

"When loads of veterans get together we all have that camaraderie and it’s important for people to remember the reasons why we all served, why we all joined up and went and did what we did, and why we’re here today to remember those people on the wall and those people that didn’t come back," she added.

On Sunday morning, the Queen led the nation in commemorating the fallen during a service at the Cenotaph in central London.

The ceremony was closed to the public for the first time because of coronavirus, with only around 150 military personnel taking part.