All photos and video from Armistice Day ceremony at Westminster Abbey

11 November 2009

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Jeremy Irons to read Last Post by Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy at Westminster Abbey

Service marks lost WWI generation

Westminster Abbey is to hold a special Armistice Day service following the deaths this year of the three remaining World War I veterans living in the UK.

The Queen will lead the country in observing a two-minute silence at 1100 GMT for the “passing of a generation”.

Bill Stone died at 108 in January followed by both Henry Allingham, 113, and Harry Patch, 111, in July.

The monarch will lay a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior and Mr Stone’s daughter will give a reading.

Gordon Brown will also attend along with former prime ministers John Major and Margaret Thatcher, although Tony Blair will be in the Middle East in his capacity as a special envoy.

Actor Jeremy Irons will read Last Post by the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, during the service to recognise military and civilian contributions to the conflict.


The silence, to be observed around the UK at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, marks the moment four years of war ended with the signing of the Armistice Treaty by Germany and the Allies.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2009/11/11 01:06:04 GMT


Last Post by Carol Ann Duffy

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,

He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If poetry could tell it backwards, true, begin

that moment shrapnel scythed you to the stinking mud …

but you get up, amazed, watch bled bad blood

run upwards from the slime into its wounds;

see lines and lines of British boys rewind

back to their trenches, kiss the photographs from home –

mothers, sweethearts, sisters, younger brothers

not entering the story now

to die and die and die.

Dulce – No – Decorum – No – Pro patria mori.

You walk away.

You walk away; drop your gun (fixed bayonet)

like all your mates do too –

Harry, Tommy, Wilfred, Edward, Bert –

and light a cigarette.

There’s coffee in the square,

warm French bread

and all those thousands dead

are shaking dried mud from their hair

and queuing up for home. Freshly alive,

a lad plays Tipperary to the crowd, released

from History; the glistening, healthy horses fit for heroes, kings.

You lean against a wall,

your several million lives still possible

and crammed with love, work, children, talent, English beer, good food.

You see the poet tuck away his pocket-book and smile.

If poetry could truly tell it backwards,

then it would.