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Europe commemorates end of World War I

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Poppy wreaths lie on the ground during a commemorative service on Armistice Day at the Cenotaph in central London.Photo: AFP
Poppy wreaths lie on the ground during a commemorative service on Armistice Day at the Cenotaph in central London.Photo: AFP

Europe was commemorating Monday the end of World War I, with tributes to the at least 20 million soldiers and civilians killed in the conflict taking place in many countries.

In Britain a two–minute silence was observed at schools, churches and military bases at 11 am the time at which the armistice took effect on November 11, 1918, after more than four years of war.

Traffic came to a complete standstill in Trafalgar Square, one of central London’s busiest thoroughfares, where thousands of people gathered to observe the silence.

Dorothy Ellis, the last surviving World War I widow, was among those attending a service at the national Armed Forces Memorial in Staffordshire, in the English Midlands.

A day earlier, Queen Elizabeth and Prime Minister David Cameron had laid poppy wreaths at the Cenotaph, an empty tomb, in central London, while 10,000 military veterans and civilians took part in a march in tribute to all those who have died in war.

Ceremonies also took place across France. It was there and in neighbouring Belgium that most World War I battles were fought.

President Francois Hollande was to visit the eastern town of Oyonnax, where around 200 members of the French Resistance in 1943 defied a ban by the collaborationist Vichy government on commemorating the end of World War 1.

Their march through Oyonnax, which was situated in territory occupied by Nazi Germany, was seen as an act of immense bravery.

Hollande’s visit is the first in a series of events planned to mark the centenary of World War I next year.

In Brussels, King Philippe took part in the traditional tribute to the Unknown Soldier and the victims of both world wars and other conflicts, at the Congress Column, the country’s national monument.

Britain’s Prince Philip was also to take part in the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate at Ypres, scene of some of World War I’s bloodiest battles.

Together with the Belgian king’s brother, Prince Laurent, Philip was to lay wreaths and collect soil from the battlefields, to be used in a memorial garden planned for the Guards Museum in central London.

Buglers from the Last Post Association have played the Last Post, the traditional final salute to fallen soldiers, at Ypres every day since 1928 when the society was founded to commemorate those killed in the war.DPA

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