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Queen lights beacon to mark VE Day

Veterans, military top brass and politicians gather in London to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe.

The Queen has lit the first of hundreds of beacons on display around Britain to mark the 70th anniversary of VE Day.

Joined by the Duke of Edinburgh, the monarch started a countrywide recreation of jubilant scenes following the news of the German surrender.

As evening fell on May 8 1945, people up and down the country lit hundreds of bonfires and beacons as the celebrations following news that the Second World War was over went on into the night.

Tonight, the Queen, accompanied by the Household Cavalry and trumpeters, lit a beacon at the top of the Long Walk in Windsor Great Park. She and Philip greeted crowds gathered to watch the spectacle.

Minutes later a series of beacons were due to be lit at events throughout the country, including one at the Tower of London.

Others will be lit at Britain's Overseas Territories, including on Bermuda, Saint Helena, the Falkland Islands and the Cayman Islands.

The chain of beacons has been co-ordinated by pageantmaster Bruno Peek, who also organised beacons for the 50th anniversary and for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in 2012.

Earlier, t he Duke of York laid a wreath at the Cenotaph on behalf of the Queen as the nation fell silent 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.

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.

The VE Day events will continue across the weekend.

At 11am tomorrow cathedrals and churches across the UK will ring their bells in a sign of victory, signifying the end to the years the bells had hung in silence during the Second World War.

In the evening a star-studded concert will take place at Horse Guards Parade in London, hosted by The Royal British Legion, with performances influenced by the era from Katherine Jenkins, Pixie Lott, Status Quo and couples from Strictly Come Dancing.

On Sunday, around 1,000 veterans and their families will join members of the Royal Family, politicians, members of the Armed Forces and representatives of the Allied nations and Commonwealth countries that fought alongside Britain for a service of thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey.

A parade of bands, veterans and current servicemen and women will then make their way from the abbey along Whitehall - past the balcony where Churchill made a historic speech before vast crowds - before a reception for veterans in St James's Park hosted by the Legion, where there will also be vehicles from the 1940s.

The public can watch the ceremony at the abbey from Horse Guards Parade, where they will also be able to see the veterans parade and the changing of The Queen's Life Guard by the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment.

In the afternoon, there will be a fly-past over central London by the Red Arrows, following a fly-by of aircraft that helped Britain and her Allies win the war - the Lancaster bomber and Spitfire and Hurricane fighters.

Trafalgar Square will also be decked out with bunting and the ensigns of each of the Armed Forces on Sunday, and the Band of the Grenadier Guards will perform music from the era opposite Nelson's Column.

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