REMEMBRANCE IN 2015
2015 was a year of anniversaries. As Remembrance approaches, we look back at the milestone commemorations for the Armed Forces.
Final Operation Herrick (Afghanistan) Parade to the Palace of Westminster
On 26 January, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon welcomed the last military personnel to serve in Afghanistan on Operation Herrick to the Palace of Westminster, in London. Troops from the Army's 20th Armoured Infantry Brigade and 102 Logistic Brigade marched from Wellington Barracks to the Houses of Parliament. The personnel served as part of Joint Force Support (Afghanistan) as well as the International Security Assistance Force Regional Command (Southwest) during the last tour of Afghanistan from June to November 2014.
A Service of Commemoration – Afghanistan 2001-2014
On 13 March, a Service of Commemoration was held at St Paul's Cathedral to mark the end of combat operations in Afghanistan. The Queen joined the families of those who lost their lives during the conflict together with personnel who served in Afghanistan, politicians and other members of the Royal Family.
On 25 April, 3,000 descendants, troops and members of the public attended a service at the Cenotaph on Whitehall to pay homage to those who fought in the Gallipoli campaign of the First World War 100 years ago. The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh and The Duke of Cambridge attended the event, which also marked the 99th anniversary of Anzac Day.
On the same day, a ceremony took place in Turkey to mark the anniversary on the Gallipoli Peninsula. The Prince of Wales and Prince Harry plus senior dignitaries attended the event. HMS Bulwark was there to represent the Royal Navy in remembrance of the many Royal Navy personnel who took part in the conflict. Later that week she was re-deployed to the Mediterranean to assist with migrant rescue operations.
Click through the timeline below to read the story of Gallipoli soldier, Private James Kerr.
Victory in Europe Day
Three days of events over 8-10 May marked the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE) Day. On Friday 8 May there was a special service at the Cenotaph and more than 200 beacons were lit across the country to mark the occasion. Cathedrals and churches across the nation then rang their bells on the Saturday morning for the national moment of noise – echoing the church bells and ship horns that sounded out in celebration 70 years ago.
Celebrations that followed included a parade of hundreds of VE Day veterans and current personnel, a Service of Thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey and a star-studded concert on Horse Guards Parade.
On 9 June, The Queen and other members of the Royal Family joined hundreds of Gurkhas at the Royal Hospital Chelsea to mark the regiment's 200 years of Service to the British Crown.
Bastion Memorial Rededication Ceremony
On 11 June, Prince Harry along with families and current personnel led tributes to British personnel who died on operations in Afghanistan 2001-2014 at the official inauguration of the Bastion Memorial, National Memorial Arboretum). The memorial, designed to look similar to the famous memorial in Camp Bastion, originally constructed by troops, incorporated elements of the previous structure within its walls.
18 June marked the 200th anniversary of the start of the Battle of Waterloo. His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales joined soldiers from across the Army, including many from the historic Household Division – who famously fought at the battle – at a Service of Commemoration at St Paul’s Cathedral. The Battle of Waterloo eventually ended Napoleon Bonaparte’s attempt to try to re-establish himself as the Emperor of France and a major force in European affairs.
As well as UK based commemorations, the biggest battle re-enactment ever was held in Belgium to mark the bicentenary.
Battle of Britain 75 Flypast
On 10 July the extraordinary feats of the RAF's Battle of Britain heroes, who fought to save Britain from Nazi invasion 75 years ago, were marked with a special Change of the Guard by the RAF’s Queen’s Colour Squadron and a flypast in front of The Queen and six veterans in the Forecourt of Buckingham Palace. Afterwards, Her Majesty and other members of the Royal Family watched a flypast from the balcony of Buckingham Palace of four Spitfires, two Hurricanes and four Typhoon jets, displaying the RAF aircraft past and present.
Victory Over Japan Day 70
On 15 August, veterans and civilian internees, along with their descendants and families attended commemorative events in London to mark the 70th anniversary of Victory over Japan (VJ Day 70). In the morning, there was a church service at St Martin-in-the-Fields, attended by Far East prisoners of war, The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh, who had himself served in the Far East and is a holder of the Burma Star.
A Drumhead Service followed on Horse Guards Parade during which actor Charles Dance read Rudyard Kipling's poem 'The Road to Mandalay', a favourite of the hundreds of veterans that attended the Service as it was a song they used to sing as they marched through the jungle in Burma. The event also featured a spectacular flypast of two historic aircraft, a Dakota and Hurricane from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, together with a current RAF Typhoon.
Following the service, hundreds of veterans and their families proudly marched along Whitehall, cheered on by huge crowds, to a reception at Westminster Abbey.
Battle of Britain: A Service of Thanksgiving and Rededication
On Sunday 20 September, celebrations for Battle of Britain 75 continued as those who served were honoured during a special service at Westminster Abbey. His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales was among guests paying respects to those who fought – including seven of the surviving veterans present – along with political and military dignitaries, RAF personnel and members of the public. Afterwards, The Prince of Wales, veterans, their families and others were treated to displays by the Band of the RAF Regiment and the Queen's Colour Squadron, as well as a six-aircraft flypast by four Spitfires and two Hurricanes.
Bomb Disposal 75
On 27 October, a service was held at St Paul's Cathedral to mark 75 years since the formation of the Army's Royal Engineer bomb disposal unit. The service also honoured all those – Navy, Army and RAF – who served and continue to serve in bomb disposal roles and training teams across the world.
Paying homage to the bravery and life-saving contribution by all in bomb disposal, current and former members of the Engineer Regiment (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) gave accounts of the parts played by (EOD) units throughout the Second World War through the conflicts of Northern Ireland and on to recent deployments in Afghanistan.
EOD units are also responsible for solving the recent discoveries of unexploded Second World War bombs, like the one in Bermondsey.
Following the service, Prince Harry met families of some of those killed in action from the EOD community, as well as personnel who have suffered life-changing injuries in service.
On 8 and 11 November the nation will come together once more to remember all those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country.