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Philip and Harry pay tribute to war dead

The Duke of Edinburgh and Prince Harry have paid tribute to Britain's fallen soldiers by opening Westminster Abbey's Field of Remembrance.

Both Philip and Harry laid their crosses of remembrance in front of two wooden crosses from the graves of unknown British soldiers from the First and Second World Wars.

The Last Post was played before a two-minute silence. The prince and his grandfather then walked around plots containing more than 100,000 crosses and chatted to veterans and families of those who had lost loved ones.

The Duke wore his Royal Navy day ceremonial uniform and an overcoat, while Harry wore his Blues and Royals frock coat.

Harry posed for pictures with veterans and families of ex-servicemen, while the Duke received a special bow from bull terrier Sergeant Watchman - the mascot of the Staffordshire Regimental Association.

The pair met Bill Speakman, from Cheshire, who received a Victoria Cross for his bravery in action during the Korean War 64 years ago.

When asked what he had done to receive the award, he simply said: "I just fought, fought, fought."

The 88-year-old, who was attached to the 1st Battalion, King's Own Scottish Borderers, said of the Duke and his grandson: "They are just lovely people. It is a beautiful thing to do.

"It is wonderful being here and it is wonderful to see all the old comrades here today. We really are proud of them."

Harry reminisced about his time serving in Afghanistan while speaking to Liam Young, who was a corporal in the Light Dragoons.

Mr Young said the regiment, whose Colonel-in-Chief used to be Diana, Princess of Wales, "will always hold a special place in our hearts" for Harry.

He said the Prince, whom he had met previously during a training course, "immediately recognised" him, and added that it was "really important" that royals who had done military service attended remembrance events.

He said: "It shows they are involved. They are on the same path as we are - they know exactly what we are talking about - it's that camaraderie we build up, regardless of rank."

"Everybody suffers from war," he added.

The 29-year-old served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now works as a support worker at Norwich General Hospital.

He planted a cross for six of his comrades who were killed in Afghanistan in 2009 and another who recently died in a civilian accident.

Of his losses, he said: "It's all still fresh, and I don't think it will ever go away."

The Prince also met nine-year-old Rhiannon Lewis, who was with her family remembering her late uncle.

She said Harry told her she looked very pretty and complimented the poppy she had placed in her hair.

Rhiannon, from Rochford, Essex, was wearing three medals belonging to her uncle, Lieutenant Aaron Lewis, who was just 26 when he lost his life in Afghanistan in 2008.

He served in the 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery and it was his first operational deployment.

She said: "I keep him in my heart. I'm feeling a bit upset but very proud."

Earlier in the ceremony, Harry and his grandfather were welcomed by the Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend John Hall, Canon Treasurer the Reverend David Stanton, and the president of the Royal British Legion Poppy Factory, Sara Jones.

It is the third occasion that Harry has visited the Field of Remembrance. The Duke has been attending since 2003.

Before they left they were invited into St Margaret's Church to sign the "distinguished visitors" book.

The first Field of Remembrance was held in the grounds of Westminster Abbey in November 1928. That year only two remembrance tribute crosses were planted. But it began a tradition which took root and has grown over the decades.

Each remembrance tribute carries a personal message to someone who lost his or her life.


From Belfast Telegraph