MANCHESTER - 24th July | LONDON - 31st October
A soldier holding a poppy wreath

Remembrance Day in London for veterans

While Armistice Day is always marked on November 11th, Remembrance Day falls on the second Sunday of November. A number of events are held across the UK, with a particular focus on the cenotaph in London.

Among the ways that veterans can take part in London Remembrance Day is by joining the veterans parade on the Sunday. This is organised by the Royal British Legion and tickets are allocated in advance.

Remembrance weekend events in London

The National Service of Remembrance at the cenotaph is the central focus of commemorations, but is not the only event to take place across the weekend in London. Veterans can choose to mark Remembrance Sunday in whichever way is most appropriate to them.

This could include attending the large, formal events or paying their respects at one of the many war memorials across the capital. Remembrance is a very personal thing, with some veterans wishing to come together with their comrades and others preferring to opt for quiet moments of reflection alone.

What is the history of Remembrance Day in London?

The act of remembrance has been formally recognised since 1919, a year after the armistice that ended the First World War was signed. That year, the commemoration took place at Buckingham Palace on Armistice Day, but was criticised by the public for being too celebratory.

A year later, events moved to the cenotaph as part of the funeral of the unknown soldier. A two-minute silence was observed and everything from buses to the London Stock Exchange came to a standstill as a mark of respect.

It wasn’t until the Second World War that Remembrance Day was observed on the Sunday closest to Armistice Day. This measure was taken to ensure there was no disruption to essential war production as Britain fought in another conflict.

How is Remembrance Day commemorated in London?

Remembrance weekend features large events like the National Service of Remembrance in Whitehall and the Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall, as well as a service at Westminster Abbey. Events are also held at the Imperial War Museum, National Army Museum and Royal Air Force Museum throughout November.

While the cenotaph is the most well-known war memorial in Britain, there are others that may be particularly poignant for veterans to visit. Further down Whitehall is the Women of World War II Monument and in Hyde Park Corner, former military personnel can find the Royal Artillery Memorial and Machine Gun Corps Memorial. Head to the City of London for the London Troops War Memorial.

The National Service of Remembrance

The National Service of Remembrance commemorates the contribution of British and Commonwealth military and civilian servicemen and women who fought in the two world wars and subsequent conflicts. This includes personnel from the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Army, Territorial Army and Royal Air Force.

Where are the Remembrance Day ceremonies held in London?

London’s main national service is held at the cenotaph in Whitehall, although there are other services held in locations such as Westminster Abbey. Some 10,000 veterans take part in the parade at the end of the cenotaph service, but it’s also possible to attend as a member of the public without a ticket.

A large screen is set up on the corner of King Charles Street to ensure as many people can view the events as possible. A dedicated wheelchair area can be found on the west side of Parliament Street, close to the junction with King Charles Street.

What is the order of service for Remembrance Day in London?

The National Service of Remembrance starts at 11am when guns are fired by the King’s Troop on Horse Guards Parade to mark the beginning of a two-minute silence. This is followed by the Last Post bugle call and the laying of the wreaths.

His Majesty the King traditionally lays the first wreath on behalf of the nation, followed by other members of the royal family, the prime minister, politicians and representatives from the Royal Navy, Army, Royal Air Force, Merchant Navy and the emergency services.

Prayers and songs then follow, culminating in the national anthem. King Charles salutes the cenotaph, along with the royal family, who depart and the veterans parade begins. Against a backdrop of World War One and Second World War era songs, veterans from World War II, Korea, the Falklands, the Persian Gulf, Kosovo, Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Iraq, Afghanistan and other past conflicts file past the cenotaph.

How can I take part in the cenotaph parade?

Veterans wondering how they can take part in the cenotaph parade in London need to be registered with the Royal British Legion, which organises tickets. Numbers of participants are strictly restricted and the first allocation of spaces is completed via service and unit associations. All remaining tickets are then offered on a first come first served basis to qualifying veterans.

What is the role of veterans in Remembrance Day events in London?

The main role of veterans on Remembrance Sunday is to march past the cenotaph in this organised parade. Seeing 10,000 veterans en masse, representing all areas of the armed forces and a variety of ages and genders is an emotional experience and an impressive thing to be a part of.

Be sure to dress in your service uniform and display all of the medals you’ve received, as well as your poppy on your lapel. Veterans can travel to Remembrance weekend events in London by rail for free. Carrying your Veteran ID Card will prove your eligibility.

What time will the London cenotaph Remembrance Sunday parade start?

The veterans parade past the cenotaph commences at around 11.25am, immediately after the official remembrance service has finished. Be sure to arrive in plenty of time to pass the security checks on Horse Guards Parade, bringing photo ID and a proof of address with you, if you have a ticket to take part.
Who can take part in the veterans parade?

Veterans from the Royal Navy, Army, Royal Air Force and the Merchant Navy are eligible to take part in the cenotaph parade, as well as wives, husbands or civil partners of those who have died as a result of their service in the Armed Forces.  As it’s a veterans parade, serving military personnel are excluded from joining the march past.

Photo credits

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Unsplash / Brian Aitkenhead