World War I recalled in poignant 90th anniversary tributes (Lead)

November 12th, 2008 - 12:05 am ICT by IANS  

Gordon BrownLondon/Paris, Nov 11 (DPA) Commemorations to mark the 90th anniversary of the end of World War I were held in Britain and France Tuesday, made particularly poignant by the participation of the last survivors in Britain from the conflict branded “the war to end all wars”.In London, Prime Minister Gordon Brown attended a solemn ceremony and two-minute silence at the Cenotaph memorial which were led by the three remaining World War I veterans in Britain whose lives have spanned the entire 20th century.

Veterans Henry Allingham, 112, Harry Patch, 110 and Bill Stone, 108, were pushed in wheelchairs to place their wreaths of red poppies - the flower to mark the war dead - in a moving ceremony almost certain to be the last significant anniversary that any of those who fought in the trenches will mark.

Only last week, 108-year-old Sydney Lucas, one of the five British survivors of World War I, died in Australia, where he emigrated in the 1930s. Another of the known British survivors, 107-year-old Claude Choules, is still alive in Australia.

“For them to get to the 90th anniversary is in itself tremendous… It’s a tribute to mankind in a way,” said Dennis Goodwin, chairman of the World War I Veterans’ Association.

In France, ceremonies held at Verdun, the major Franco-German battlefield, were led by President Nicolas Sarkozy and attended by Britain’s Prince Charles and his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, as guests of honour.

Sarkozy, accompanied by his wife Carla Bruni, and the British royal couple were joined by Lady Quentyn Bryce, the Governor-General of Australia, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, European parliament President Hans-Gert Pöttering and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

Prince Charles joined Sarkozy to inspect the Guard of Honour and then, together with Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg, laid wreaths in memory of the 300,000 dead.

British press reports said German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who Tuesday took part in independence commemorations in Poland, had cancelled plans to attend the Verdun event at the last minute, furious at Sarkozy’s decision to switch the venue from Paris to Verdun.

Merkel was represented at the ceremony by Peter Mueller, president of the German Bundesrat (upper house of parliament).

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