THE DUKE of York laid a wreath at the Cenotaph on behalf of the Queen as the nation fell silent on the 70th anniversary of VE Day to remember the sacrifices made to win the Second World War.
In a packed Whitehall, scores of people watched as more than 100 veterans joined the Duke - a former Royal Navy helicopter pilot - senior politicians and military figures for the ceremony of thanksgiving and remembrance.
Among them was David Cameron, who laid a wreath at the foot of the Cenotaph with Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg in their last major roles as party leaders following their post-election resignations.
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon also laid a wreath, and defence secretary Philip Hammond and newly elected MP Boris Johnson also attended.
Among the veterans, who sat huddled with their families under umbrellas as rain pattered gently down, were six Chelsea Pensioners, their bright red overcoats a splash of colour under the leaden sky.
The Band of the Welsh Guards got events under way, playing music by Handel and Cresswell with The Buglers of the Royal Marines and Trumpeters of the Royal Air Force.
Veterans stood to attention as standard bearers from the Royal British Legion paraded around the Cenotaph.
Then, at 3pm - the moment Prime Minister Winston Churchill broadcast the news of the German surrender to the nation - saluting guns from The King’s Troop Royal Horse at Wellington Barracks Parade Square and The Honourable Artillery Company at the Tower of London rang out to mark the beginning of the two-minute silence.
As the wreaths were laid The Band of the Welsh Guards played Solemn Melody, and following the sounding of The Last Post and the two-minute silence the Bishop to the Armed Forces, the Right Reverend Nigel Stock, led a service that included readings, hymns and a blessing, with music from the Choir of St Martin-in-the-Fields.
Randolph Churchill, the war-time prime minister’s great-grandson, also read an excerpt of Churchill’s famous radio broadcast announcing the end of the war in Europe.
He said: “Yesterday morning at 2.41am at headquarters, General Jodl, the representative of the German High Command, and Grand Admiral Doenitz, the designated head of the German State, signed the act of unconditional surrender of all German land, sea, and air forces in Europe to the Allied Expeditionary Force, and simultaneously to the Soviet High Command. The German war is therefore at an end.”
He continued: “We may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing; but let us not forget for a moment the toil and efforts that lie ahead. We must now devote all our strength and resources to the completion of our task, both at home and abroad. Advance, Britannia! Long live the cause of freedom! God save the King!”
The Trumpeters of the Royal Air Force sounded The Rouse before the national anthem ended the service.
As the veterans and standard bearers from the Royal British Legion left to make their way up Whitehall for a reception at the Foreign Office, the flag-waving crowds - six deep in some places - broke out into a chorus of three cheers and applause, thanking them for their service so many years ago.
The veterans, seemingly fewer this year than at previous anniversaries, smiled and waved back.
The Queen did not attend the event. A Buckingham Palace spokesman said: “Members of the Royal Family often represent the Queen at national events and this is an example of that.”