The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge joined the Queen and the members of the British Royal Family to lead the nation during the period of remembrance, The Royal Family attended the annual Festival of Remembrance hosted by the Royal British Legion at the Royal Albert Hall.
The royals joined the family members of army men and women to remember the sacrifice of the Armed Forces community from Britain and the Commonwealth from so many different nations, cultures, religions and communities who came together and stood shoulder to shoulder to defend our freedom and way of life.
This years’ Festival of Remembrance is marking 75th anniversaries of the great battles of Monte Cassino, Kohima & Imphal and D-Day in 1944 (end of the Second World War) and remembring the collaboration and friendship of the British, Commonwealth and Allied armies who fought these battles.
Today we celebrate our 100th anniversary. Over the past century we’ve helped shorten wars, saved lives & tackled the most serious cyber, terrorist, criminal & state threats. We remain committed to helping keep the UK safe for the next century
— GCHQ (@GCHQ) November 1, 2019
The festival also marks the 100 anniversary of GCHQ and the role of the secret services whose courage and work is so often unknown. Government Communications Headquarters, commonly known as GCHQ, is an intelligence and security organisation responsible for providing signals intelligence (SIGINT) and information assurance to the government and armed forces of the United Kingdom. There was a unique tribute to the some of the last surviving veterans who fought and served in 1944.
Tonight was the 92nd Festival of Remembrance since its birth in 1927. Every year since 1927, The Royal British Legion’s annual festival commemorates the British soldiers who laid their lives for nation during World War at Royal Albert Hall on the eve of the Remembrance Sunday – the second Sunday of November.
It includes a matinee open to members of the public and an evening event for members of the Legion, their families, officials and royals.
The very first Festival of Remembrance was called ‘In Memory 1914-1918 – A Cenotaph In Sound’, in aid of The British Legion on Field Marshal Earl Haig’s Appeal for Ex-Service Men of all Ranks, and was held on 11 November 1923. A royal delegate including HRH The Prince of Wales was in attendance to hear John Foulds’ new composition, A World Requiem: A Cenotaph in Sound, performed by a chorus and orchestra.
In 1927 the concert was simply renamed the ‘Remembrance Festival’ and featured community songs including Pack up Your Troubles, Take Me Back to Dear Old Blighty, and Tipperary. The event ended with a service that has now become familiar, featuring The Last Post and ending in God Save the King/Queen.
Her Majesty who took the patronage of Royal British Legion in 1952, made her first visit to the Hall aged 26, following her accession to the throne, on 8 November 1952 for the British Legion Festival of Remembrance. Since then she has missed only 2 events.
It was not until 1971 that the British Legion were permitted to use the prefix ‘royal’, following a Royal Charter bestowed to the organisation on 29 May 1971. The festival was promptly renamed Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance, which it has proudly held every year since then. Although the festival was originally only intended to honour those who died in the First World War, it now includes tributes to the war dead from more recent conflicts.
The Monarch and the members of the Royal Family watch the festival from the royal box of the hall. A very interesting fact about the royal box is that whenever the reigning monarch visits the Hall, the hammer cloth – a beautiful and very heavy velvet curtain bearing the Royal Coat of Arms and the initials of the reigning monarch of Great Britain and the Commonwealth, is hung from the balcony in the Royal Box and taken down immediately after the visit. The currently used hammer cloth was made by the Royal School of Needlework(RSN) in 1876- the date is embroidered on the lower left of its hem. Learn more about the hammer cloth here. You can find out more about the historical event at the official website of the Royal Albert Hall here.
During the remembrance period, the members of the royal family wear a red poppy. The red poppy is a sign of both Remembrance and hope for a peaceful future. The Poppy Appeal is the Royal British Legion’s biggest fundraising campaign held every year in November, the period of Remembrance. Click here to support the appeal.
The event began once the Queen took her seat in the royal box with her family. The British Royal Family has a very strong relationship with the country’s Military – The Duke of Edinburgh served in Navy for a long time, The Duke of Cambridge was a helicopter pilot serving the rescue team, Prince Harry served during the Afghanistan war 2 times, Prince Andrew served during the Falkland Wars.
Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in the royal box. The three brothers of Duchess of Cambridge ‘s great-grandmother fought and died in the first world war. Catherine visited the Imperial War Museum last year to learn more about them. Her grandmother Valerie Glassborow and Great Aunt Mary worked at the Bletchley Park during the Second World War. She visited Bletchley Park earlier this year to mark the D-Day.
Huw Edwards – a Welsh journalist, presenter, and newsreader, was the host of the evening. He welcomed the gathering with the opening remark, “At this year’s Festival, we’ll be pay tribute tonight to the WW2 generation… and we’ll be marking some of the notable campaigns of 1944, which changed the course of the war.”
The performances included Louise Dearman who opened the event with a performance of ‘The Impossible Dream’ with the Tri-Service Band after which the Personnel from RFA Mounts Bay – who delivered essential aid to people in the Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian, enter the Royal Albert Hall.
The Torch of Remembrance was carried by 3rd Officer Sarah Stevens. The citation was read by Captain Rob Anders, Commanding Officer of RFA Mounts Bay, “We honour the Commonwealth nations and our allies who joined Britain in defending its freedoms, values and way of life.”
Next, the Band of HM Royal Marines performed Norwegian Pirate.
Colin Thackery & Chelsea Pensioners Choir performed The Old Brigade for the entrance of the Chelsea Pensioners. Introducing the commemorations of the battles that took place towards the end of the war in 1944, Hue Edwards said, “It’s been three-quarters of a century since 1944 – the pivotal year in the allied effort of WW2.”
Sharing their experiences and recollections of the Italian campaign, the Monte Cassino veterans James Knox and Otton Hulacki said, “Churchill made the mistake of calling it the soft belly of Europe.” Daniel Mays read the Red Poppies at Monte Cassino poem as a newsreel of the battle plays.
44 veterans representing the battles and campaigns fought during 1944, from Arnhem to Warsaw, were joined on the floor by currently serving personnel to rousing and emotional applause.
Next, Jeff Goldblum took to the stage to perform a very beautifully choreographed rendition of ‘Let’s Face the Music and Dance’.
After the artistically stunning performance, Blake Kubena and Jessica Aizlewood read the stories of Berlin Blockade. Then the candy bomber 99-years old Gail Halvorsen and Berliner Vera Mitschrich, who were on either side of the blockade as a young child in Berlin during the war, met each other on stage.
They were welcomed with emotional but happy applause from the gathering and the royal family. From the British Legion’s website,
The Berlin Blockade was the firing pistol that began the Cold War. The Second World War allies occupying a divided Germany, and a divided Berlin, were no longer able to bridge the ideological divide of the democratic and capitalist West and the totalitarian and communist East. This divide was to have far-reaching consequences both for the people of West Berlin and for the rest of Europe.
In June 1948 Britain, France and the USA announced they would unite western Germany, creating a new free and democratic country, with a new currency, the Deutschemark. The Soviet Union fearing a united democratic western Germany announced that the joint administration of Berlin would end and on 24 June began a blockade of West Berlin, cutting off all land routes and waterways in and out of the city.
To break the blockade and to deter future Soviet aggression on 26 June Britain, the US and France began flying in supplies to the over 2,000,000 citizens of West Berlin. It was to be the largest airlift in history and the first recognisable humanitarian operation carried out by the Armed Forces.
After the performance of the Central Band of the Royal Air Force, the families of the men and women who gave their lives while serving in the war entered the hall.
JJ Doherty had wanted to be a Paratrooper from a young age. He was killed by a Taliban attack just 2 days after his 20th birthday. His brother Fin leads the bereaved families. James Blunt, who once served in the army alongside Prince Harry, performed a very emotional song ‘Monsters’.
As the flags of the Commonwealth Countries entered the hall and the drums were laid, Leona Lewis performed ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’. Royal Brisith Legion President Lt General James Bashall gave the exhortation at the festival.
The event ended with the sound of the Last post. A two minutes silence was observed as the poppies fell on everyone.
Duchess of Cambridge opted for a navy dress. The calf-length dress, that is a new addition to her wardrobe was topped with a black velvet belt. The dress could be a bespoke piece but the label is still unidentified. I personally believe it could be a Jenny Packham number as the silhouette of the dress matches with her Jenny Packham Black Fern Dress.
Catherine debuted a new black headband tonight. She chose Zara Sparkly Padded Headband. Thanks to Kristen and Katie on Twitter for the id. The Padded headband with tonal sparkly appliqué is available online for US$29.90
Catherine carried a new black Alexander McQueen Clutch. Thanks to Gabi on twitter for the id. The clutch looks like the bespoke piece that has the same clasp as the Alexander Mcqueen Beetle Box Clutch.
Duchess of Cambridge finished her look with Queen’s Diamond and Pearl Small Earrings that she first wore in September 2016 during Canada tour.
Catherine paid the tribute to the fallen with three poppies pinned on what looked like her Oak Leaf Acorn Brooch.
The events like this festival just not honour the fallen and their families but also important to make sure the coming generations know what was the cost of the lives they are having today. Tomorrow the Royal Family will attend the annual Remembrance Sunday Cenotaph service on Whitehall along with more than 10,000 veterans and serving members of the Armed Forces.