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Royal tears at remembrance festival

There were tears in the royal box at the Royal Albert Hall as the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh joined thousands of people in commemorating the nation's war dead at the Festival of Remembrance.

Last night's festival, organised by the Royal British Legion, featured stories of those who had served in conflicts past and present.

One particularly emotional moment came when the bereaved families of servicemen and women who had lost their loved ones marched silently into the hall.

It followed a short video that was played to the 4,000-strong audience, showing the mother of Lance Corporal James Ashworth, 23, speaking of her loss. The soldier, from Corby, Northamptonshire, was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross in recognition of his courage while serving with the 1st Battalion The Grenadier Guards in Helmand province last year.

The citation mentioned his "total disregard for his own safety" in ensuring a grenade was posted accurately in the battle against an insurgent.

His mother Kerry, who led the bereaved along with her son Coran, also a serving soldier, said in the clip: "He was just such a good lad. He did such a good job."

As the widows, parents and siblings walked in, many members of the audience wept - with the Countess of Wessex among those shedding a tear. Samantha Cameron, the wife of Prime Minister David Cameron, also looked close to tears, while Labour leader Ed Miliband's wife Justine Thornton appeared emotional at the sight of the bereaved relatives.

The event was attended by the party leaders as well as other senior members of the Royal Family, including the Princess Royal and Earl of Wessex, and featured performances from tenor Alfie Boe, singer Katie Melua and former Army officer James Blunt.

Another moment of high emotion came when one of the young members of the Poppy Girls, a group made up of daughters of servicemen who were chosen to perform this year's Poppy Appeal single The Call (No Need to Say Goodbye), was reunited with her father.

Megan Adams, 10, from Stirling, was not expecting to see her father, Lieutenant Commander Billy Adams, for another three months as he has been serving with the Royal Navy in the Seychelles as part of an anti-piracy task force.

However Megan, who had previously said how sad she was that her father would not see her singing at the festival, was told by host Huw Edwards that he had a special guest for her.

As her father walked down the steps towards his daughter, she burst into tears and shouted: "Daddy!" as she ran towards him.

The audience loudly applauded the special moment, with the Queen smiling broadly and looking pleasantly surprised as she exchanged comments with Philip and Anne. Mr Clegg's wife Miriam could be seen wiping away a tear as the father and daughter left the stage together.

Performances by the singers were interspersed with appearances on stage from bereaved families and survivors of past conflicts, including the last Dambuster, Squadron Leader Johnny Johnson, as the 70th anniversary of the raid was marked.

He was given a standing ovation and applauded for more than a minute as he stood with the Torch of Remembrance.

There was also a standing ovation for the Chelsea Pensioners, with the Queen and Philip rising to their feet as the men marched into the hall.

The festival also paid tribute to those who took part in the Battle of the Atlantic, the 70th anniversary of which is this year.

Philip seemed especially keen to watch the muster of members of the Royal Navy, the Army, Royal Air Force, Royal British Legion and civilian services, and leaned forward in the Royal Box for a closer look at the troops.

Other members of the Royal Family present included the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Duke of Kent, Prince and Princess Michael of Kent and Princess Alexandra.

The audience fell silent for two minutes as poppy petals fell from the roof, each representing a life lost in conflict, as the festival drew to a close.

Chris Simpkins, director-general of the Royal British Legion, said the festival "helps us to reach out to wider audiences and offer the public an opportunity to pay their respects and remember those who, in past and present conflicts, have made sacrifices in the course of duty".

Before the festival, which is staged by the Royal British Legion as a tribute to the fallen, the Queen and Philip viewed the Royal Albert Hall's Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Steps, which have been renamed in her honour.

They inspected the inlaid stonework that marks the renaming, the plaque having been hand carved by craftsman Fergus Wessel, and met representatives from the Royal Albert Hall.

The Queen will lay a wreath at the Cenotaph today in memory of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in what is the focal point of the Remembrance Sunday events.


From Belfast Telegraph