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A Service to Mark the Passing of the World War One Generation

Wednesday, 11th November 2009

A Service to Mark the Passing of the World War One Generation

HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh attended a Service to Mark the Passing of the World War One Generation at Westminster Abbey on Wednesday 11th November 2009. HRH The Duchess of Gloucester and the Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Gordon Brown MP, also attended.

The service, which was conducted by the Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr John Hall, included the two minutes’ silence at 11 o’clock.

The Dean said in his bidding:

Exactly ninety-one years ago, at the eleventh hour, on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the guns fell silent. The Great War was over. Lives, friendships, families, societies, nations had been shattered. Everything had changed.
On this day two years later and at this hour, an Unknown Warrior, chosen at random to represent all those of these islands who had fought and died, accorded the highest honour of a state funeral, was buried here. His grave was to become the focus of our national remembrance and to have international significance.
Now that the last of his comrades in arms has gone to his eternal rest, we are here once more to remember. We remember, with grief, the gas and the mud, the barbed wire, the bombardment, the terror, the telegram; and, with gratitude, the courage and sacrifice. Never again, they said; the war to end all wars. With resolution we remember.

The Address was given by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend and Rt Hon Dr Rowan Williams.

Jeremy Irons read Last Post by the Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy.

Anne Davidson read Genesis 4: 8-16. She is the daughter of Chief Petty Officer William Stone RN who died in January 2009 aged 108 and who served in both world wars.

Andrew Orr Ewing read Revelation 21: 1-6. He is the son of Lt Col David Orr Ewing, the Black Watch, 3rd Battalion Royal Regiment of Scotland, currently serving in Afghanistan, and great-great-grandson of Capt David Orr Ewing DSO RN who served in the Battle of Jutland in 1916.

Prayers were said by The Rt Revd William Hewitt, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland; the Revd Martin Spain, President of the Free Churches Council of Wales; the Most Revd Alan Harper, Archbishop of Armagh, Primate of all Ireland; the Most Revd Vincent Nichols, RC Archbishop of Westminster, and the Revd Michael Macey, Minor Canon of Westminster.

At the end of the service HM The Queen laid a wreath at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior. The wreath was carried by two holders of the Victoria Cross: Trooper Mark Donaldson VC and Lance Corporal Johnson Beharry VC. The bell of HMS Verdun, which brought the coffin back from the battlefields of the Great War in 1920, was rung by Leading Seaman David Hutchinson RN.

The Revd Graeme Napier, Minor Canon of Westminster, read John 15: 10-17.

The service was sung by the Choir of Westminster Abbey conducted by the Organist and Master of the Choristers James O’Donnell. The Choir sang The Peace That Surpasseth Understanding by John Tavener which was commissioned for this service. The Choir with Ian Bostridge (tenor) also sang Agnus Dei from Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem. The organ was played by Robert Quinney, Sub Organist. James McVinnie, Assistant Organist, played before the service. The Royal Artillery Band, directed by Major Tim Arnold, also played and the Last Post and Reveille were sounded by a bugler from Her Majesty’s Royal Marines, HMS Collingwood.

The Queen’s Colour of Commander-in-Chief Fleet, the Union Flag and the Queen’s Colour for the Royal Air Force were placed in the Sacrarium for the duration of the service.

See also

The Order of Service (PDF, 153.3 KB)

The Archbishop of Canterbury's Address

The Dean of Westminster Abbey explains the significance of the Grave of the Unknown Warrior

The biggest challenge we face is actually time – getting all our work done alongside the daily routine of the Abbey as a working church, visitor attraction and home to 1,000 years of history.

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