The Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland, took part in a ceremony at London’s Memorial Gates this morning to honour the five million men and women from Commonwealth nations who served with the armed forces during the first and second world wars.
The commemoration has been held annually since the gates were inaugurated in 2002. In recent years the ceremony has taken place on Commonwealth Day. Today, the focus was on Caribbean soldiers who served during World War 1 as the centenary of the 1918 Armistice draws near.
Speaking at this morning’s ceremony, the Secretary-General said: “This is an amazingly important memorial because these gates stand to celebrate what men and women did throughout the Commonwealth: coming together to give their lives so that the rest of us could be free and I think we should never forget that.”
Inderjeet Singh Nijhar, the Chairman of the Memorial Gates Council, welcomed guests to this morning’s event. Guest speakers included the Secretary-General and Seth George Ramocan, High Commissioner of Jamaica. The Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin, Chaplain to the Speaker of the United Kingdom House of Commons, gave the closing address before guests left the relative comfort of the marquee and walked into the rain to hear the Last Post.
Around 150 dignitaries braved the grey skies above London to join the Secretary-General to place wreaths at the memorial, among them High Commissioners as well as current and former members of the Commonwealth armed forces. The oldest veteran attending this morning’s event was 98-year’s old. He was helped to lay a wreath in memory of his fallen comrades. The Secretary-General laid a purple and gold floral wreath in the colours of the Secretariat on behalf of the Commonwealth.
A band from the Royal Gurkha Rifles provided music for the event.
Looking ahead to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London next month, Secretary-General Scotland remarked:
“This Memorial brings home with striking solemnity the ties of kinship and affinity that bind us together as a global family. Cooperation between the member states of the Commonwealth, and among Commonwealth citizens at many levels and in countless practical ways, continues to open up new and wider opportunities in which all can share. Together in the Commonwealth we work to build a future that is fairer, more prosperous, more sustainable and more secure.”