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Last surviving Great War widow reiterates the importance of national Remembrance

By Nathan Paull

Britons at home and abroad paused in silence yesterday 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. However, it was veteran Harold Jellicoe Percival (99) who became the sombre day's human face after his funeral started on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

The touching service, attended by many who did not know him, came about after he died without close friends or relatives at hand at a nursing home. Staff worried no one would be at his funeral.

But 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.

Dorothy Ellis (93) was a guest of honour at a service held at the National Memorial Aboretum in Staffordshire. Her husband Wilfred Ellis survived the First World War despite being shot, gassed and left for dead.

She is the last surviving widow of the Great War.

"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 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 laid a wreath.

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

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.

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 wreaths at the cenotaph.

Belfast Telegraph


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