First Minister pays respects to fallen

First Minister Peter Robinson pictured at the Remembrance Service in St Annes Cathedral with members of the Living History Group
First Minister Peter Robinson pictured at the Remembrance Service in St Annes Cathedral with members of the Living History Group

First Minister Peter Robinson attended First World War centenary commemoration services in Glasgow and Belfast yesterday, where he paid his respects to those who gave their lives.

Mr Robinson joined HRH the Prince of Wales and other dignitaries for a service at Glasgow Cathedral followed by a wreath laying ceremony. The First Minister also took part in a commemoration service at St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast.

He said: “2014 marks the centenary of the First World War and I am deeply honoured to attend today’s very poignant commemoration services and to pay tribute to the brave servicemen and women who served and died for our freedom.

“The key themes of remembrance and reconciliation are relevant to all of us in Northern Ireland as we continue to build a peaceful and shared society. It has often been said, but we must never forget the supreme sacrifice of so many to build a better future for us all.”

Also in Glasgow yesterday, Britain’s military personnel spoke of their pride at commemorating the sacrifices of their predecessors.

Members of the Armed Forces took part in events to mark the centenary of the start of the First World War, joining in services in Glasgow, Folkestone, Belgium and London.

Members of all three Armed Forces attended the service in Glasgow, including two Army Reserves from 6th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, Captain Edward Howell and Private Dillon Rae.

Last night royalty, political leaders and relatives of the fallen united to remember the sacrifices of those who died.

A moving twilight ceremony at St Symphorien military cemetery near Mons last night was the highlight of a day of events in the UK and Belgium marking 100 years since the Great War’s start.

Stark first-hand accounts of life on the front line were heard as darkness fell in the hushed woodland cemetery.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry and Prime Minister David Cameron stood shoulder to shoulder with counterparts from countries including France and Germany.

Mr Cameron said the Great War, which claimed millions of lives, including 750,000 from the British and Commonwealth, was “unlike any other”.

In front of 500 guests, including German president Joachim Gauck, Irish President Michael D Higgins and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Mr Cameron said: “Every war is cruel.

“But this war was unlike any other. The unspeakable carnage, the unbearable loss, the almost unbelievable bravery.”

Prince Harry read a letter from Private Michael Lennon, of 1st Battalion the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, dated May 30 1915, who wrote to his brother Frank the day before he was due to land in Gallipoli.

He was killed in action on June 28 1915 - exactly a year after Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo, sparking the war.

In the letter, Pte Lennon wrote: “Well Frank, I suppose we are for it tomorrow, if we don’t get shelled on the way.”

A touching letter to the War Office from the mother of John Parr, believed to be the first British soldier to die on the Western Front, was read by his great-niece Iris Hunt.

It included the lines: “I have not heard from him at all and the War Office can tell me nothing.”