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Britons pay tribute to war dead

Britons at home and abroad paused in silence today to remember the nation's war dead and reflect on the sacrifices made by servicemen and women.

Some of the most poignant Armistice Day services included the Duke of Edinburgh leading tributes to fallen troops in Ypres in Belgium and a wreath-laying ceremony at the National Armed Forces Memorial attended by the last surviving widow of the First World War.

Although it was 99-year-old veteran Harold Jellicoe Pervical who became the sombre day's human face after his funeral started, fittingly, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

The touching service, attended by many who did not even know Mr Percival, came about after he died without close friends of relatives at hand at a nursing home, where staff worried no one would be at his funeral.

But as millions marked Armistice Day across the world, members of the public, old soldiers and serving servicemen and women, stood in silence for the arrival of Mr Percival's funeral cortege at the crematorium in Lytham St Annes, Lancashire.

"It's just staggering," his nephew, Andre Collyer-Worsell, said after attending the service.

"It just shows how great the British public are.

"He was not a hero, he was just someone who did his duty in World War Two, just as his brother and sister did and his father before him in World War One."

It was a sentiment shared by 93-year-old Dorothy Ellis, whose husband Wilfred Ellis survived the First World War despite being shot, gassed and left for dead.

Mrs Ellis, who had since become the last surviving widow of the Great War, was a guest of honour at a service held at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.

"My husband felt very strongly about Armistice Day and it was a day that was set aside as a solemn remembrance day," she said before the service.

"I noticed, he was always usually a very jolly person but on Armistice Day he would just go very quiet and at first I couldn't understand it but then I got to realise why he was being so quiet and silent.

"He said to me 'you've got to remember this is the day that thousands of poor chaps died for us to keep us alive'."

The National Armed Forces Memorial, is renowned for its design, which allows a shaft of sunlight to dissect its walls and hit the bronze wreath sculpture when the two minutes of silence takes place.

The memorial, which hosted the service in pouring rain, bears the name of more than 16,000 fallen service personnel.

The Duke of Edinburgh also chose a fitting site to honour those killed during war, leading tributes at Ypres in Belgium, where some of the First World War's most deadly battles took place.

Philip attended the Last Post ceremony and viewed the collection of soil from Flanders Fields for a new memorial garden at the Guards Museum in London, which will mark next year's 100th anniversary of the Great War.

It was the 92-year-old Duke's first foreign visit since undergoing abdominal surgery in June, when he spent almost two weeks in hospital.

A minute's silence was held before the Duke - who is a Second World War veteran - and Prince Laurent of Belgium each laid a poppy wreath to commemorate members of the armed forces who died fighting in all conflicts since the First World War.

Meanwhile, the Archbishop of Canterbury visited the Ministry of Defence and The Cenotaph in Whitehall to mark the solemn occasion, where he met service chaplains and was updated on military operations.

The Most Rev Justin Welby said: "At this time of year it's essential that we remember and give thanks for all those who gave their lives for the sake of freedom in the two World Wars, and also remember those who still risk their lives as servicemen and women in our Armed Forces.

"It's a time to recommit ourselves to the cause of peace and to seek to play our own small part as agents of reconciliation."

As estimated 4,000 people, including many city workers, stopped to reflect in Trafalgar Square for the Silence in the Square service organised by the Royal British Legion.

Traffic lights around the square turned red for four minutes while soldiers from the Nijmegen Company of the Grenadier Guards volunteered to hold up signs explaining the stop to drivers.

The silence was preceded by music from the Poppy Girls, James Blunt, former X Factor contestants Next of Kin, and Britain's Got Talent winner Paul Potts, presented by former GMTV presenter Ben Shephard.

A major service was also held one of the Lloyd's of London market in the City attended by the Chelsea Pensioners.

English and Australian cricketers put their rivalries aside one week out from the Ashes series as well, uniting to remember fallen soldiers at a service in central Sydney.

The teams' respective captains Alastair Cook and Michael Clark both laid reads at the cenotaph in the city.

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