Remembrance Sunday had special significance yesterday, marking the 90th anniversary of the end of the First World War.
The Armistice between the Allies and Germany was signed in a railway carriage in Compiègne Forest on November 11, 1918, finally bringing a halt to fighting in what politicians optimistically called ‘the war to end all wars’.
Sadly, the Great War did not pave the way for everlasting peace.
Current and former members of the armed services gathered outside the Hall of Memory in Centenary Square, Birmingham, for the annual civic act of remembrance provided a stark reminder of almost a century of bloody wars.
From the beaches of Normandy to the killing fields of Anzio and the jungles of Burma.
From the post-war conflicts in Korea, Aden, Cyprus, Malaya, Borneo, Northern Ireland, the Falklands, the two Gulf Wars, Iraq and Afghanistan, the fallen were remembered.
There are only three known survivors of the First World War and a dwindling number of veterans from the Second World War.
Men and women, now well into their 80s, huddled together for warmth on a bitterly cold and windy day.
Some sought nourishment from large cartons of Starbuck’s coffee, others relied on something stronger from hip flasks.
Matters were not helped by poor timing by those organising the ceremony, with a 10-minute gap between the reading of the poem For the Fallen and the two minutes silence – during which time everyone present was expected to stand to attention.
The march past by old comrades, medals glinting in the wintry sun, brought special applause and cheers from a crowd estimated to be about 1,000-strong.
Old soldiers like Bill Davies, 82, who was called up in 1944 days after D-Day.
Not long after his 18th birthday he was fighting his way through Northern France and on into Belgium and then across the Rhine into Germany itself”.
“We thought it would be a wonderful adventure, and in a way I suppose it was,” he recalled.
“But I was one of the lucky ones. I came back in one piece.”
Bill, from Sutton Coldfield, said hardly a day goes by when he does not recall friends who were killed.
Trevor Phillips, 86, from Kings Heath, Birmingham, was in the royal Artillery in Burma – part of Viscount Slim’s ‘Forgotten Army’.
He remembers a “hot, sticky and dangerous” jungle, where death was constantly lurking around the corner in the form of a fanatical Japanese army.
“No, it wasn’t fun. We were scared, but we knew we just had to keep going. We just had a job to do, and we did it.”
The Service of Remembrance was conducted by the Reverend Van Den Bergh, who asked for those who “lived and died in the service of humanity” to be remembered.
The Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Coun Chaudry Rashid, read Laurence Binyon’s evocative words, ‘They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old’, the bugler sounded the Last Post, and the two minutes silence was studiously observed.