The Duke of Sussex has paid tribute to those killed while fighting for their country by planting a poppy at the Field of Remembrance in London. Prince Harry’s visit marked the official opening of this year’s memorial in the capital, a commemoration which has now been running for nine decades.
This year’s event took place just days before the centenary of the end of World War One, the conflict which inspired the first such memorial back in 1928. Then just a handful of tributes were planted. This year, tens of thousands of crosses have been left, each one in memory of those who died in war.
Among the poppies now is that planted by the Duke of Sussex. In a poignant ceremony outside Westminster Abbey, Harry stepped forward to place his own wooden Cross of Remembrance in front of crosses from the Graves of Unknown Soldiers who died during World War One and World War Two. The prince saluted before the Last Post was played. The President of the Poppy Factory, Sara Jones, then read the famous poem by Laurence Binyon, ”For the Fallen”.
The Duke of Sussex met many of those who had come to pay their own, personal tributes at the Field of Remembrance and heard about the work that has gone into setting up this year’s memorial. Hundreds of volunteers and veterans have spent hours planting out the crosses which are placed in the grounds around Westminster Abbey to remember those who have been lost.
The Field of Remembrance was first held ninety years ago when the Poppy Factory, set up with support from the Royal British Legion to offer employment opportunities to wounded veterans, organised a small memorial outside St. Margaret’s Church in the precincts of Westminster Abbey. Then, a group of disabled former military personnel sold poppies to passers by who planted them around a simple cross in the ground. From that sprang a tradition which now includes Fields of Remembrance across the UK – this year, they are being held at the National Arboretum in Staffordshire, at Lydiard Park near Royal Wootton Basset and in Cardiff, Belfast and Gateshead as well as at Westminster Abbey. Over 120,000 crosses will be planted at these six venues.
The Duke of Sussex’s visit continues a long royal tradition of support for the Field of Remembrance. Harry’s great grandmother, the Queen Mother, regularly paid tribute at the event at Westminster Abbey while the Duke of Sussex first attended this event several years ago in the company of his grandfather, the Duke of Edinburgh, who made regular visits to the commemoration.
As Prince Harry left this year’s event, the bells of the Abbey were rung half muffled as a mark of respect to those who have died. The Field of Remembrance is now open to the public and admission is free. Those attending are able to make their own tribute while they are there as the field of poppies continues to grow.