Extinction Rebellion activists hijack the Cenotaph on Remembrance Day in climate change protest

Extinction Rebellion activists sparked outrage today after hijacking the Cenotaph on Remembrance Day in a ‘truly shameful’ climate change stunt that went unchallenged by police.

The eco-warriors trampled over wreaths and unveiled a banner reading ‘Honour Their Sacrifice, Climate Change Means War’ on the 100th anniversary of the memorial on Whitehall, central London.

Former soldier Donald Bell led the protest at 8am and held a two-minute silence before hanging his own wreath with the words ‘climate change means war, act now’.

But it took the Metropolitan Police two hours to take it down despite one of their cars being parked within sight of the monument.

This was in stark contrast to Sunday when officers pushed Scots Guard veteran bagpiper Ben Buckland to the ground when he marched at the police barricade guarding the memorial.

It comes as homes across the UK fell silent in remembrance of the nation’s war dead on Armistice Day, as the coronavirus pandemic limited public commemorations.

People were asked not to gather at the Cenotaph for Remembrance Day – to stop the spread of Covid-19 – but the brazen XR demonstrators ignored the request.

The move was branded ‘cowardly’, ‘truly shameful’ and showing ‘no respect’ by veterans and social media users who stuck to the government’s restrictions.

Extinction Rebellion activists have hijacked the Cenotaph on Remembrance Day in a 'truly shameful' climate change stunt

Extinction Rebellion activists have hijacked the Cenotaph on Remembrance Day in a 'truly shameful' climate change stunt

Extinction Rebellion activists have hijacked the Cenotaph on Remembrance Day in a ‘truly shameful’ climate change stunt 

Eco-warriors unveiled a banner reading 'Honour Their Sacrifice, Climate Change Means War' at the memorial on Whitehall, central London, at 8am

Eco-warriors unveiled a banner reading 'Honour Their Sacrifice, Climate Change Means War' at the memorial on Whitehall, central London, at 8am

Eco-warriors unveiled a banner reading ‘Honour Their Sacrifice, Climate Change Means War’ at the memorial on Whitehall, central London, at 8am

The 64-year-old said he wanted to highlight how climate change could cause more wars'

The 64-year-old said he wanted to highlight how climate change could cause more wars'

The 64-year-old said he wanted to highlight how climate change could cause more wars’

Mr Bell (right) said: 'I took action today knowing that I would be criticised. I knew that I would be accused of being disrespectful and hated by many for speaking out in this way'

Mr Bell (right) said: 'I took action today knowing that I would be criticised. I knew that I would be accused of being disrespectful and hated by many for speaking out in this way'

Mr Bell (right) said: ‘I took action today knowing that I would be criticised. I knew that I would be accused of being disrespectful and hated by many for speaking out in this way’

Metropolitan Police later swooped in and removed the protest from the monument in Whitehall

Metropolitan Police later swooped in and removed the protest from the monument in Whitehall

Metropolitan Police later swooped in and removed the protest from the monument in Whitehall

Veteran who survived IRA car bomb in 1974: The XR activist behind controversial protest at the Cenotaph 

Former infantryman Donald Bell

Former infantryman Donald Bell

Former infantryman Donald Bell

As a young infantryman in the British Army, he was hit by shrapnel from an IRA car bomb that killed two other soldiers in Stewartstown in 1974.

Mr Bell completed four tours of duty with the Royal Anglican Regiment.

These days, he is fighting climate change.

In February, he was seen digging up the lawn at Cambridge’s Trinity College and was later arrested after gluing himself to a police van, telling reporters he had been writing letters to the Government for nearly 50 years but was always ignored.

He said: ‘We had to be more disruptive. I just felt compelled to do something for my children and grandchildren.’

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Mr Bell, 64, said he wanted to highlight how climate change could cause more wars.

He said: ‘I took action today knowing that I would be criticised. I knew that I would be accused of being disrespectful and hated by many for speaking out in this way.

‘Remembrance Day is never an easy time for veterans and this was not an easy decision for me to make.

‘But I served this country, I served the people of this country and the action I took today is about just that.

‘Unchecked climate change means a return to a world at war. I cannot stand by and let that happen. It is my duty to act.

‘This government’s own climate advisors, the committee on climate change, said last year that they have a ‘Dad’s Army’ approach to protecting British people from the impacts of climate change.

‘Their report in June this year showed that the government has failed to meet all but two of the 31 milestones it set itself for reducing emissions.

‘This government is criminally negligent and young people today will pay the price for their failure.

‘I did four tours in Northern Ireland. I have been in conflict. I saw good friends – my comrades, who I served with – die.

‘Many of the people who attend the Remembrance Day Service have never seen the horrors of war. I hope they never have to.

‘However you feel about the action today, I want people to take this message – if we don’t deal with this climate emergency, now, it will lead to war.’

XR said in a post on its website: ‘The action aims to highlight the connection between rising global temperatures and an increase in the incidence of conflict and war.

‘Research commissioned by the Ministry of Defence published in June this year points to a ”growing recognition that climate change may aggravate existing threats to international peace and security”.’

XR said in a post on its website: 'The action aims to highlight the connection between rising global temperatures and an increase in the incidence of conflict and war'

XR said in a post on its website: 'The action aims to highlight the connection between rising global temperatures and an increase in the incidence of conflict and war'

Pictured: The protest today

Pictured: The protest today

XR said in a post on its website: ‘The action aims to highlight the connection between rising global temperatures and an increase in the incidence of conflict and war’

The three-strong protesters bow their heads during their demonstration at the Cenotaph today

The three-strong protesters bow their heads during their demonstration at the Cenotaph today

The three-strong protesters bow their heads during their demonstration at the Cenotaph today

A troop of the Household Cavalry pay their respects in the early morning at the Cenotaph

A troop of the Household Cavalry pay their respects in the early morning at the Cenotaph

A troop of the Household Cavalry pay their respects in the early morning at the Cenotaph

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: 'The centenary of the unveiling of the Cenotaph and the burial of the Unknown Warrior are a poignant reminder of the scale of loss suffered in the First World War and the continued importance of coming together as a nation to remember all those who have sacrificed their lives for this country'

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: 'The centenary of the unveiling of the Cenotaph and the burial of the Unknown Warrior are a poignant reminder of the scale of loss suffered in the First World War and the continued importance of coming together as a nation to remember all those who have sacrificed their lives for this country'

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: ‘The centenary of the unveiling of the Cenotaph and the burial of the Unknown Warrior are a poignant reminder of the scale of loss suffered in the First World War and the continued importance of coming together as a nation to remember all those who have sacrificed their lives for this country’

Elsewhere on Wednesday, more than 100 poppy wreaths will be placed on board early-morning train services heading to London

Elsewhere on Wednesday, more than 100 poppy wreaths will be placed on board early-morning train services heading to London

Elsewhere on Wednesday, more than 100 poppy wreaths will be placed on board early-morning train services heading to London

Wednesday also marks 100 years since the inauguration of the permanent version of Cenotaph memorial on Whitehall in central London

Wednesday also marks 100 years since the inauguration of the permanent version of Cenotaph memorial on Whitehall in central London

Wednesday also marks 100 years since the inauguration of the permanent version of Cenotaph memorial on Whitehall in central London

Mounted police officers pass the Cenotaph with wreaths on it in Whitehall, in central London, today

Mounted police officers pass the Cenotaph with wreaths on it in Whitehall, in central London, today

Mounted police officers pass the Cenotaph with wreaths on it in Whitehall, in central London, today

A troop of the Household Cavalry pay their respects in the early morning today at the Cenotaph

A troop of the Household Cavalry pay their respects in the early morning today at the Cenotaph

A troop of the Household Cavalry pay their respects in the early morning today at the Cenotaph

It added: ‘The action today calls on the government to act to avert the increase in unrest, conflict and war anticipated by the Ministry of Defence report.

‘The Committee on Climate Change – which advises the government on emissions reduction and reports on their progress – revealed in June this year that the government had reached only two of it’s 31 milestones and was on track with only four of the 21 indicators identified on the path to zero emissions.

‘The action makes the point that, in this context, speaking up about consequences of unchecked warning is an act of remembrance.’

How DID climate anarchists cost the taxpayer £15 million in a year?

APRIL 1

Around 12 protesters were arrested after undressing and gluing themselves to the glass in the House of Commons viewing gallery during a debate on Brexit. 

APRIL 15

Thousands gathered in Oxford Circus, Marble Arch, Waterloo Bridge and the area around Parliament Square.

Five activists, including XR co-founder Simon Bramwell, were arrested for criminal damage when they targeted Shell’s headquarters, near Waterloo.

APRIL 16 

On the second day of actions on Waterloo Bridge police started arresting people at 12.40 pm, but stopped a few hours later when the force ran out of holding cells.

By the end of the day an estimated 500,000 people had been affected by the disruptions and 290 activists had been arrested in London.

APRIL 17

Two activists climbed onto the roof of a Docklands Light Railway train at Canary Wharf station whilst another glued himself to the side, spreading disruption to railway services. 

A large force of police marched on the camp at Parliament Square, arresting people and partially removing roadblocks before it was retaken later the same night by protesters.

APRIL 18

Some 428 people had been arrested at this point. 

APRIL 19

A dozen teenagers, some aged 13 and 14, walked to the Healthrow access road holding a banner which read ‘Are we the last generation?’ They were surrounded by police.

By late that evening 682 people had so far been arrested in London during the course of the demonstrations.

APRIL 25    

London Stock Exchange is blockaded by protestors who glued themselved to the entrance while wearing LED signs.

Four protesters climbed on to a Docklands Light Railway train at Canary Wharf.

Activists gathered at Hyde Park to mark an end to the 11-day protest.

JULY 13 – 14

A weekend of protest in east London included a mass bike ride, traffic blockades and talks at London Fields.

SEPTEMBER 14

London Fashion Week was targetted with Victoria Beckham’s show interupted by a swarm of demonstrators. 

SEPTEMBER 15 

200 people gathered for a ‘funeral march’ from a H&M in Trafalgar Square to a fashion week venue in The Strand.

SEPTEMBER 21

Tried to blockade the Port of Dover by marching on the A20. 

OCTOBER 3

Fire engine was used to spray fake blood around HM Treasury in central London.

OCTOBER 6

Opening ceremony held at Marble Arch was attended by a thousand protesters.

OCTOBER 7

Thousands of people blocked central London with various demonstrations.

DECEMBER 4

Half a dozen activists dressed in yellow-and-black bee outfits held an action during the Liberal Democrats election campaign in Streatham, south London.

DECEMBER 9 

Activists blockaded a central London road to demand the next government tackles air pollution in London. 

FEBRUARY 17

Extinction Rebellion members of the University of Cambridge assembled to dig up a patch of lawn outside of Trinity College.

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The XR protesters put up the banner and wreath without being challenged by police.

It was in stark contrast to Remembrance Sunday when Scots Guard veteran bagpiper Ben Buckland, 47, a veteran from Romford, East London, was filmed being pushed to the ground when he marched at the police barricade guarding the Cenotaph.

He was seen stumbling backwards before falling to the ground and provoking uproar among other members of the public who were in front of the police line with him.

But a separate video has since emerged showing the piper bragging, ‘sometimes you have to sometimes create to get what you want’ as he admits that ‘I actually did it. I provoked them.’

Met Police confirmed Mr Buckland, who has worked in security and runs an anti-poaching unit, was arrested on suspicion of common assault on an emergency worker.

XR’s latest stunt came as homes across the UK fell silent in remembrance of the nation’s war dead on Armistice Day, as the coronavirus pandemic limits public commemorations.

People were encouraged to pause on their doorsteps or by windows for the traditional two minutes silence at 11am on Wednesday.

Covid-19 related-restrictions on gatherings and travel have disrupted remembrance events this year, forcing last weekend’s Remembrance Sunday service at the Cenotaph to be scaled back.

XR’s stunt was met with fury among veterans and online as social media users branded the group ‘truly shameful’.

Victoria Cross holder Johnson Beharry told the Sun: ‘Today of all days? It is the 11th of the 11th. It is Remembrance Day. They are really disrespecting our fallen.

‘If we hadn’t sacrificed our lives they would not be able to go and protest today. They should remember that.’

MP Tobias Ellwood, who served with Royal Green Jackets told the Telegraph: ‘They will alienate the very people they want to persuade by choosing to target the Cenotaph on today of all days.

‘While many will support their cause, their tactics deployed here could easily backfire, which is a shame, given it is something that all nations including Britain will turn their attention to with us hosting COP26 [the climate forum].

‘The importance of what the Cenotaph stands for is that pivotal and iconic representation of the sacrifice that has been given for the freedoms we enjoy today.’

Brexit campaigner Darren Grimes wrote: ‘Truly shameful: Extinction Rebellion have placed a ‘climate change means war’ wreath upon the Cenotaph.

‘These privileged prats seem to be doing all they can to turn public opinion against them.’

Another person wrote: ‘Truly shameful: Extinction Rebellion have placed a ‘climate change means war’ wreath upon the Cenotaph.

‘These privileged prats seem to be doing all they can to turn public opinion against them.’

Another person added: ‘There is a place and a time….and THIS ISN’T IT.

‘Were it not for those who fought & died….these self righteous ‘woke’ extinction rebellion lot wouldn’t even see light or day!

‘IT’S THAT SIMPLE! Hence….’NO RESPECT’.’

Another person wrote: ‘Extinction Rebellion really know how to lose support for their cause.

‘Their members are now designated to the rank of scum. They need a new PR representative.’

Jake Wright posted: ‘I bet London police will do nothing at all about the disgusting behaviour extinction rebellion are doing today with there protest at the cenotaph in London, London protests.’

One woman put: ‘Extinction Rebellion activists hijack the Cenotaph on Remembrance Day in climate change protest. Are you serious. No Remembrance Day for the rest of us but this is allowed?? You disgust me, shame on you.’

Another said: ‘Can’t believe that bourgeois Extinction Rebellion group hung this ‘Climate Change is War’ banner on the Cenotaph on Remembrance Day. No respect at all. They should be ashamed.’

One account commented: ‘Cowardly Scum. Extinction Rebellion activists hijack the Cenotaph on Remembrance Day in climate change protest.’

Another said online: ‘Can you think of more insult to the nation & to the sacrifices of the dead than the action by those spoilt brats?))Extinction Rebellion activists hijack the Cenotaph on Remembrance Day in climate change protest.’

Brian Higginson added: ‘Truly shameful: Extinction Rebellion have placed a ‘climate change means war’ wreath upon the Cenotaph. Pure scum.’

Veterans were reduce to spending Armistice Day at home today due to the coronavirus restrictions.

An invitation-only service due to be held at London’s Westminster Abbey on Wednesday marked the centenary of the burial of the Unknown Warrior.

Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall were among a slimmed-down congregation at Westminster Abbey this morning who marked the 100th anniversary of the burial of the Unknown Warrior on Armistice Day. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer were also seen arriving at the service before the country fell silent at 11am to pay their respects to Britain’s war dead.  

The Household Cavalry had earlier paid their respects to the fallen at the Cenotaph.

Because of the threat posed by Covid-19, ordinary Britons were encouraged to pause on their doorsteps or by windows to observe the traditional two-minute silence.    

The restrictions on gatherings and travel have disrupted remembrance events this year, forcing last weekend’s Remembrance Sunday service at the Cenotaph to be scaled back. 

Today’s televised service is being held to commemorate the funeral of an unknown British serviceman whose body was brought back from Northern France.  

Laurence Binyon’s poem ‘For the Fallen’, which was first published in 1914, remembers soldiers who lost their lives in the First World War and includes the much-quoted line, ‘They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old.’  

The Prime Minister and Prince Charles were among those pictured arriving at Westminster Abbey this morning to observe a two-minute silence as Britain marked Armistice Day

The Prime Minister and Prince Charles were among those pictured arriving at Westminster Abbey this morning to observe a two-minute silence as Britain marked Armistice Day

Prince Charles wore a purple face mask as he arrived at the Abbey

Prince Charles wore a purple face mask as he arrived at the Abbey

The Prime Minister and Prince Charles were among those pictured arriving at Westminster Abbey this morning to observe a two-minute silence as Britain marked Armistice Day

Homes across the UK will fall silent in remembrance of the nation's war dead on Armistice Day, as the coronavirus pandemic limits public commemorations. An invitation-only service due to be held at London's Westminster Abbey on Wednesday will mark the centenary of the burial of the Unknown Warrior. Pictured: Laurel is arranged around the warrior's tomb ahead of today's service

Homes across the UK will fall silent in remembrance of the nation's war dead on Armistice Day, as the coronavirus pandemic limits public commemorations. An invitation-only service due to be held at London's Westminster Abbey on Wednesday will mark the centenary of the burial of the Unknown Warrior. Pictured: Laurel is arranged around the warrior's tomb ahead of today's service

Homes across the UK will fall silent in remembrance of the nation’s war dead on Armistice Day, as the coronavirus pandemic limits public commemorations. An invitation-only service due to be held at London’s Westminster Abbey on Wednesday will mark the centenary of the burial of the Unknown Warrior. Pictured: Laurel is arranged around the warrior’s tomb ahead of today’s service

The Unknown Warrior was buried at the west end of the abbey’s nave on November 11 1920 to represent all those who lost their lives in the First World War but whose place of death was unknown or body never found.

The First World War killed around 745,000 British soldiers, around 12 per cent of those who enlisted.

The Unknown Warrior, laid among kings and heroes

The Queen's wedding bouquet of orchids laying on The Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in November 1947

The Queen's wedding bouquet of orchids laying on The Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in November 1947

The Queen’s wedding bouquet of orchids laying on The Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in November 1947

The Grave of the Unknown Warrior was inspired by the Reverend David Railton, who, while serving as a chaplain on the Western Front during the First World War, saw a grave marked by a rough cross and a pencil-written note saying: ‘An Unknown British Soldier.’

After that devastating conflict, he wrote to the then Dean of Westminster, Herbert Ryle, with a proposal for a memorial to the fallen with no known grave to lie among the kings and national heroes in the Abbey. 

His idea drew support from King George V and the Prime Minister David Lloyd George.

The body was chosen from four unknown British servicemen who had been exhumed from four battle areas and transported back to Britain.

On November 11, 1920, the coffin was draped with a Union Flag and taken on a gun carriage to the Cenotaph (from the Greek ‘kenos’ and ‘taphos’, meaning empty tomb), where the Queen’s grandfather, George V, placed a wreath upon it.

The King, who was there with his son, the future King George VI, watched as the warrior was buried at the Abbey and he dropped a handful of earth from France on to his coffin. 

It was then topped with an engraved tombstone in black Belgian marble.

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The Daily Mail’s 1920 coverage of the day of the Unknown Warrior’s burial describes how King George V first unveiled the Cenotaph in Whitehall and ‘placed a wreath on it’. 

The coverage adds that the ‘ritual was ‘thrilling in its solemnity.’ 

The laying to rest of the soldier was ‘the fist time in history that such homage had been rendered to the humble fighting man.’ 

It then continues, ‘and none present at the ceremony will ever forget its mingled note of sorrow and triumph’ and describes how ‘thousands of bereaved mothers and wives’ lined the route to the Abbey. 

The grave was inspired by Reverend David Railton who served as a chaplain on the Western Front during the First World War.

During that time he saw a grave marked by a rough cross which bore a note reading, ‘An Unknown British Soldier’. 

He then proposed to the Dean of Westminster, Robert Ryle, that a memorial be created to the fallen who had no known grave.

His idea was supported by King George V and the then Prime Minister David Lloyd George.  

The inscription on the warrior’s tomb reads:

‘Beneath this stone rests the body 

Of a British warrior 

Unknown by name or rank 

Brought from France to lie among 

The most illustrious of the land 

And buried here on Armistice Day 

11 Nov: 1920, in the presence of 

His Majesty King George V 

His Ministers of State 

The Chiefs of his forces 

And a vast concourse of the nation 

Thus are commemorated the many 

Multitudes who during the Great 

War of 1914 – 1918 gave the most that 

Man can give life itself 

For God For King and country 

For loved ones home and empire 

Victoria Cross recipient Johnson Beharry arrives at Westminster Abbey in London, to attend a service to mark Armistice Day and the centenary of the burial of the unknown warrior

Victoria Cross recipient Johnson Beharry arrives at Westminster Abbey in London, to attend a service to mark Armistice Day and the centenary of the burial of the unknown warrior

Victoria Cross recipient Johnson Beharry arrives at Westminster Abbey in London, to attend a service to mark Armistice Day and the centenary of the burial of the unknown warrior

United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom Woody Johnson arrives at the Abbey for today's service

United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom Woody Johnson arrives at the Abbey for today's service

United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom Woody Johnson arrives at the Abbey for today’s service

Each year the two minutes Armistice Day silence marks the end of the First World War, after an agreement between Germany and the Allies took effect at the '11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month' of 1918. Pictured: King George V (shown front), arriving for the burial ceremony of the Unknown Warrior

Each year the two minutes Armistice Day silence marks the end of the First World War, after an agreement between Germany and the Allies took effect at the '11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month' of 1918. Pictured: King George V (shown front), arriving for the burial ceremony of the Unknown Warrior

Each year the two minutes Armistice Day silence marks the end of the First World War, after an agreement between Germany and the Allies took effect at the ’11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month’ of 1918. Pictured: King George V (shown front), arriving for the burial ceremony of the Unknown Warrior

For the sacred cause of justice and 

The freedom of the world 

They buried him among the kings because he 

Had done good toward God and toward His house.’ 

Each year the two minutes Armistice Day silence marks the end of that four-year conflict, after an agreement between Germany and the Allies took effect at the ’11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month’ of 1918.

The service and silence is being broadcast live on BBC One from 10:30am and will be lead by the Dean of Westminster, The Very Reverend Dr David Hoyle. 

It will also feature an address from the Archbishop of Canterbury, The Most Reverend and Rt Hon Justin Welby.

Chief of the defence staff, the professional head of the armed forces, General Sir Nick Carter said: ‘The burial one hundred years ago of the Unknown Warrior was a seminal moment for the British people.

‘To many of those who stood in silence or who made the pilgrimage to Westminster, he was not unknown at all.

‘His very anonymity meant that he was the father, husband, son or brother who never came home from the war.

Floral tributes were pictured being arranged around the warrior's grave on Tuesday ahead of Wednesday's solemn service

Floral tributes were pictured being arranged around the warrior's grave on Tuesday ahead of Wednesday's solemn service

Floral tributes were pictured being arranged around the warrior’s grave on Tuesday ahead of Wednesday’s solemn service

The inscription on the warrior's grave reads: 'Beneath this stone rests the body Of a British warrior Unknown by name or rank Brought from France to lie among The most illustrious of the land And buried here on Armistice Day 11 Nov: 1920, in the presence of His Majesty King George V His Ministers of State The Chiefs of his forces And a vast concourse of the nation Thus are commemorated the many Multitudes who during the Great War of 1914 – 1918 gave the most that Man can give life itself For God For King and country For loved ones home and empire For the sacred cause of justice and The freedom of the world They buried him among the kings because he Had done good toward God and toward His house

The inscription on the warrior's grave reads: 'Beneath this stone rests the body Of a British warrior Unknown by name or rank Brought from France to lie among The most illustrious of the land And buried here on Armistice Day 11 Nov: 1920, in the presence of His Majesty King George V His Ministers of State The Chiefs of his forces And a vast concourse of the nation Thus are commemorated the many Multitudes who during the Great War of 1914 – 1918 gave the most that Man can give life itself For God For King and country For loved ones home and empire For the sacred cause of justice and The freedom of the world They buried him among the kings because he Had done good toward God and toward His house

The inscription on the warrior’s grave reads: ‘Beneath this stone rests the body Of a British warrior Unknown by name or rank Brought from France to lie among The most illustrious of the land And buried here on Armistice Day 11 Nov: 1920, in the presence of His Majesty King George V His Ministers of State The Chiefs of his forces And a vast concourse of the nation Thus are commemorated the many Multitudes who during the Great War of 1914 – 1918 gave the most that Man can give life itself For God For King and country For loved ones home and empire For the sacred cause of justice and The freedom of the world They buried him among the kings because he Had done good toward God and toward His house

Poet Laureate Simon Armitage has written a moving tribute to mark the 100th anniversary of the burial of the Unknown Warrior. He will read the poem at today's service

Poet Laureate Simon Armitage has written a moving tribute to mark the 100th anniversary of the burial of the Unknown Warrior. He will read the poem at today's service

Poet Laureate Simon Armitage has written a moving tribute to mark the 100th anniversary of the burial of the Unknown Warrior. He will read the poem at today’s service 

‘Today the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior reminds us all that war has a cost and that we should never forget those who sacrificed their lives for our free and open way of life.’

Wednesday also marks 100 years since the inauguration of the permanent version of Cenotaph memorial on Whitehall in central London.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: ‘The centenary of the unveiling of the Cenotaph and the burial of the Unknown Warrior are a poignant reminder of the scale of loss suffered in the First World War and the continued importance of coming together as a nation to remember all those who have sacrificed their lives for this country.’

Poet laureate Simon Armitage unveils his poignant tribute to the Unknown Warrior 

Poet Laureate Simon Armitage has written a moving tribute to mark the 100th anniversary of the burial of the Unknown Warrior.

He will read his poem The Bed – the title is a metaphor for the anonymous soldier’s grave – at a televised Armistice Day service at Westminster Abbey today.

Mr Armitage, 57, said yesterday: ‘The poem tells the story of the retrieval and repatriation of the body of the Unknown Warrior from the battlefields of World War I to his grave in Westminster Abbey.

‘I was very struck by the ritualistic detail that had gone into the making of the coffin and the tomb, and thought of it as a bed, somewhere to rest in peace.

‘His anonymity makes him everyone’s son, everyone’s responsibility, and the poem concludes that we owe him his rest, because our restfulness was paid for with his life.’

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Elsewhere on Wednesday, more than 100 poppy wreaths will be placed on board early-morning train services heading to London.

Great Western Railway has joined forces with military charities, local authorities and military bases for the ‘Poppies to Paddington’ operation which will involve nine train services and more than 60 stations on its network.

On arrival to Paddington station, the wreaths will be placed at its war memorial on platform one in time for 11am.

Towards the end of the day, people are also being encouraged to look to the night sky from their homes in another collective moment of remembrance.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), which cares for war memorials and cemeteries around the world, is calling on the public to take a moment to look up at the stars at 7pm.

CWGC has launched a free online tool on its website allowing people to ‘name a star’ in tribute to someone who died or served during the two world wars.

Powerful searchlights will also be shone into the night sky at 7pm as a symbolic lights of remembrance beamed from the CWGC’s Plymouth Naval Memorial, the Brookwood Military Cemetery in Surrey, as well as war grave plots at Cardiff Cathays Cemetery and Edinburgh Rosebank Cemetery.

To mark Armistice Day, more than 130 war memorials honouring fallen soldiers are being given listed status. 

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has added 132 memorials to the National Heritage List on the advice of Historic England.

Among the memorials is one marking 25 local men in Basingstoke, including two brothers who died on the same day.

Another on the Isle of Wight was raised in memory of the air raid wardens and ambulance workers who worked to protect the island during the Second World War. 

Wednesday’s service comes after the Queen, Prince Charles and Prime Minister Boris Johnson led politicians and royals who paid their respects to Britain’s war dead at the Cenotaph on Sunday. 

Strict social distancing was in place to allow the ceremony to go ahead as the country remains under a blanket second lockdown amid a second wave of coronavirus.   

Millions of people across the UK instead privately paid their respects from home, while others did head to their local war memorials for socially-distanced ceremonies.

Eric Howden BEM, 76, chairman of the Redcar British Legion who served with the Royal Ordnance Corps, in front of a commemorative war mural in Redcar, North Yorkshire, ahead of Wednesday's two-minute silence

Eric Howden BEM, 76, chairman of the Redcar British Legion who served with the Royal Ordnance Corps, in front of a commemorative war mural in Redcar, North Yorkshire, ahead of Wednesday's two-minute silence

Eric Howden BEM, 76, chairman of the Redcar British Legion who served with the Royal Ordnance Corps, in front of a commemorative war mural in Redcar, North Yorkshire, ahead of Wednesday’s two-minute silence

On Tuesday, florists were hard at work to ensure the Unknown Warrior's tomb was adorned with flowers ahead of today's service

On Tuesday, florists were hard at work to ensure the Unknown Warrior's tomb was adorned with flowers ahead of today's service

On Tuesday, florists were hard at work to ensure the Unknown Warrior’s tomb was adorned with flowers ahead of today’s service

The solemn burial ceremony was held two years after the Armistice was signed in 1918. Members of the public were able to file past the tomb

The solemn burial ceremony was held two years after the Armistice was signed in 1918. Members of the public were able to file past the tomb

The solemn burial ceremony was held two years after the Armistice was signed in 1918. Members of the public were able to file past the tomb

The Unknown Warrior's coffin resting in Westminster Abbey, in London, before the burial ceremony

The Unknown Warrior's coffin resting in Westminster Abbey, in London, before the burial ceremony

The Unknown Warrior’s coffin resting in Westminster Abbey, in London, before the burial ceremony

The Daily Mail's coverage the day after the Unknown Warrior's burial described how 'thousands of bereaved mothers and wives' lined the tomb's route to Westminster Abbey

The Daily Mail's coverage the day after the Unknown Warrior's burial described how 'thousands of bereaved mothers and wives' lined the tomb's route to Westminster Abbey

The Daily Mail’s coverage the day after the Unknown Warrior’s burial described how ‘thousands of bereaved mothers and wives’ lined the tomb’s route to Westminster Abbey

Laurence Binyon’s poem, ‘For the Fallen’ 

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,

England mourns for her dead across the sea.

Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,

Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal

Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,

There is music in the midst of desolation

And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,

Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.

They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;

They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;

They sit no more at familiar tables of home;

They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;

They sleep beyond England’s foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,

Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,

To the innermost heart of their own land they are known

As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,

Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;

As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,

To the end, to the end, they remain.

 

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At the Cenotaph, around 10,000 veterans would normally pay their respects, but this year there were just 26 because of the risks presented by Covid-19.  

As well as Mr Johnson and Labour leader Sir Keir, former Prime Ministers David Cameron, Tony Blair and Theresa May, Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Home Secretary Priti Patel and Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey were among the politicians in attendance.  

As the clock struck 11am, Mr Johnson, Prince Charles, Prince William and other members of Britain’s elite marked the two-minute silence before laying their wreaths. 

The Queen watched on from the royal box at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office as Prince Charles laid a wreath on her behalf. 

The Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Edward and his wife the Countess of Wessex, along with Princess Anne, the Princess Royale, were also in attendance. 

Last week, the Queen made an unannounced visit to Westminster Abbey to commemorate the the centenary of the burial of the Unknown Warrior   

According to the Court Circular, she was greeted by the Dean of Westminster Abbey, The Very Reverend David Hoyle. 

The monarch looked sombre in a black ensemble, typically only worn while in mourning, attending a funeral, or for Remembrance Day and Remembrance Sunday services. 

The Court Circular for November 4 read: ‘The Queen this morning commemorated the Centenary of the burial of the Unknown Warrior at Westminster Abbey, London SW1, and was received at the Great West Door by the Dean of Westminster (the Very Reverend Dr David Hoyle).’ 

The Queen has carried out only a handful of engagements since March and is expected to keep a low profile over the next month as she and the Duke of Edinburgh, 99, spend lockdown together at Windsor Castle.  

The Duchess of Cornwall also carried out an engagement at Westminster Abbey before the Queen, standing in for Prince Harry to visit the Field of Remembrance.

She then stood in front of crosses from the Graves of the Unknown as the Dean offered prayers, before solemnly laying her own cross of remembrance and bowing her head in reflection.

A bugler played the Last Post, followed by a two-minute silence, and then Exhortation to Remembrance, as Big Ben chimed at 2pm.

Afterwards the duchess toured the 308 plots filled with more than 60,000 crosses and symbols of all faiths, laid by staff and volunteers, with Surgeon Rear Admiral Lionel Jarvis, President of The Poppy Factory.

Remembrance Sunday services, which are traditionally part of communal worship, cannot go ahead as planned on November 8 due to lockdown restrictions 

However, rather than being banned entirely the Government has set out a series of guidelines for local authorities and faith leaders hoping to hold the services.

Last month XR were blasted for going to Sir David Attenborough’s home before being turned away by his daughter who said they were shielding from Covid-19.

Eco-warriors delivered a letter and 'gifts' including an olive tree to the naturalist's home in Richmond yesterday after he warned protesters not to break the law

Eco-warriors delivered a letter and 'gifts' including an olive tree to the naturalist's home in Richmond yesterday after he warned protesters not to break the law

Eco-warriors delivered a letter and ‘gifts’ including an olive tree to the naturalist’s home in Richmond yesterday after he warned protesters not to break the law

Extinction Rebellion protestors block access of a printing house in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, leaving some newsagents' shelves empty on Saturday morning

Extinction Rebellion protestors block access of a printing house in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, leaving some newsagents' shelves empty on Saturday morning

Extinction Rebellion protestors block access of a printing house in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, leaving some newsagents’ shelves empty on Saturday morning

They delivered a ‘starter pack on how to engage in civil disobedience’ to his house in Richmond, west London, after he warned them not to break the law.

They said the 94-year-old’s influence and comments ‘are contributing to the erasure of the voices and sacrifices of front-line earth protectors around the world’.

The four women and two men said they hoped to drop off the delivery in person so it came across ‘like a friend to a friend wanting to reach him where he lives’.

But they were told by Sir David’s daughter Susan he would not open the door amid the coronavirus pandemic.  

In September protesters blockaded printworks for national newspapers, with one of the demonstrators claiming the British media was worse than the Nazis.

More than 100 protesters targeted Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, and Knowsley, near Liverpool, blocking newspapers from leaving.

Donnachadh McCarthy, 61, emerged as one of the leading figures in the group, and justified the attack by saying: ‘This is like World War Two and you guys [the newspapers] are on the other side. That is how we see it.

‘It puts you on the side of the existential threat. It is a different existential threat but it is a bigger one than the Nazis.’   

What is Extinction Rebellion and what do they want?

‘Extinction Rebellion is an international movement that uses non-violent civil disobedience in an attempt to halt mass extinction and the risk of social collapse,’ according to its website’s ‘about’ page.

The environmentalist protest group held its first demonstration in Parliament Square on October 31, 2018.

The worldwide group want to change the structure of power to take authority away from central governments. 

Its website reads: ‘We understand that we must self-organise to meet our own needs, which in the context of Extinction Rebellion means that we are working to equalise power by disrupting the usual pillars of power that govern our lives.’

The environmentalist protest group held its first demonstration in Parliament Square on October 31, 2018

The environmentalist protest group held its first demonstration in Parliament Square on October 31, 2018

The environmentalist protest group held its first demonstration in Parliament Square on October 31, 2018

Since 2018 members of the group have gathered at London Fashion Week, the House of Commons and various other locations around central London.

On the morning of Wednesday, April 17, 2019, two activists climbed onto the roof of a Docklands Light Railway train at Canary Wharf station whilst another glued himself to the side, spreading disruption to railway services.

The following day the three activists were charged with obstructing trains. After pleading not guilty they were sent to jail for four weeks, with no bail, whilst awaiting their next hearing.

On February 17 2020, Extinction Rebellion members of the University of Cambridge dug up a patch of lawn outside Trinity College, as a protest against its investment in oil and gas companies. The mud dug up was later taken to a local branch of Halifax.    

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