In solemn silence, Scotland pauses to remember fallen

Jimmy Skinner, formerly of the Queen's Own Highlanders, and five-year-old Macaulay Moyes in Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh. Picture: Jane Barlow/Getty/MoD
Jimmy Skinner, formerly of the Queen's Own Highlanders, and five-year-old Macaulay Moyes in Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh. Picture: Jane Barlow/Getty/MoD
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SCOTLAND fell silent for two minutes in memory of those who gave their lives for their country as events were held to mark the 93rd Armistice Day.

In Edinburgh’s Garden of Remembrance and Glasgow’s George Square yesterday, veterans and members of the public gathered to pay their respects.

A special service was also held in Glasgow’s Central Station.

Royal British Legion Scotland (RBLS) general secretary George Ross said: “I like to see this as the country coming together as a family to remember those in the national family that paid the ultimate sacrifice.

“This is an important year for us. Both the Royal British Legion Scotland and Scottish Poppy Appeal celebrate their 90th anniversaries, plus, of course, 2011 marks ten years of operations in Afghanistan.

“The call for a two-minute silence remains as powerful and relevant as ever.”

Across the country, servicemen and women killed in action during both World Wars and later conflicts were remembered, including the 385 British personnel who have died since operations in Afghanistan began.

The two-minute silence took place on the “11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month”, when peace agreement between Germany and the Allies was enacted in 1918 after four years of war.

A group of 11 hillwalkers also paid their respects on top of the 11th-highest Munro peak at 11am yesterday.

Tom Barnard was one of the group. He said: “The weather wasn’t particularly kind to us but we arrived on top just as Big Ben chimed for 11 on our radio.

“We held our two-minute silence and shared stories of relatives who had died in various conflicts across the world.”

It was the fourth time Mr Barnard has climbed Beinn a Bhuird and he came up with the idea of climbing on Armistice Day after discovering it was the 11th-highest Munro.

He said: “With it being 2011 and the significance of the number 11 in remembrance, I thought it would be a different way of marking the day.

“We had people of all ages and abilities, so it was good to get up and down safely and we can now relax with a well- deserved pint in the pub.”

Other tributes to mark the day included giant poppies displayed along the M8 motorway, with Andy Scott’s Heavy Horse sculpture at Easterhouse and the grass pyramids outside Livingston carrying the red flower.

Shoppers paid their respects with silences held in centres including Braehead, Silverburn and Jenners in Edinburgh.

Events at the Scottish Parliament also paused to mark the occasion.

New Defence Secretary Philip Hammond marked the 93rd Armistice Day with thousands of troops who took part in a special parade at the vigil site at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan.

Armistice Day was particularly poignant at the camp, whose soldiers are coping with the loss of the latest soldier to die on active service.

Private Matthew Thornton, 28, from the 4th Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment, was killed by an improvised explosive device (IED) while on patrol in Babaji on Wednesday.

His family paid tribute to him as a “dedicated soldier” who “loved life”.

Private Mark Stewart, 23, of 3 Scots, was last in Afghanistan during Operation Panther’s Claw, when he was injured by an IED which also killed a friend.

“It’s important to remember and to mourn those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice,” he said.

His patrol had been clearing a post ahead of elections in 2009 when one of the vehicles providing cover for the patrol approaching the compound on foot hit an IED.

Pte Stewart, from Oakley, outside Dunfermline, was thrown against a wall, suffering a broken ankle and shrapnel injuries to his leg.

“I could feel the pain, and was reaching for my legs because with all the dust and confusion of being blown into the compound I thought for a minute I had lost them.”

Two years on, Afghanistan is a different place, he added.

“I thought it was going to be exactly the same as last time with contacts all the time. But a lot of things have changed, and it’s been very quiet here where we are.

“The threat of IEDs is obviously still there, so I don’t want to become complacent and let my guard down, but I can definitely see the progress.”

Television stars also paid their own tribute to Britain’s war dead at an event in Trafalgar Square which featured musical performances and readings.

Among the performers were Downton Abbey actor Dan Stevens, whose role in the period drama saw him stuck in First World War trenches, Strictly Come Dancing’s Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace, and singing trio the Soldiers.

The Spitfire Kids Choir, aged five to 11, from RAF Northolt initiated the event, singing We’ll Stand Together with the Central Band of the RAF.

Laura Wright, the 21-year-old soprano whose debut solo album this year topped the classical charts for five weeks, sang I Vow To Thee, My Country.

Ms Wright cycled from London to Paris for the Royal British Legion earlier this year.

In a recorded message used at the Royal British Legion ceremony in Trafalgar Square, Prime Minister David Cameron said: “We stand together to honour the incredible courage and sacrifice of generations of British servicemen and women who have given their lives to protect the freedoms that we enjoy today.

“From the trenches of the First World War to the desert of Afghanistan, our armed forces have proved time and again that they are the bravest of the brave and the very best of what it means to be British.

“We can never fully repay the debt we owe them.”