Personal tributes to the fallen of two world wars and every conflict since have been placed at the Field of Remembrance in the grounds of Belfast City Hall.
Officially opened yesterday, the annual Royal British Legion (RBL) commemoration marks the supreme sacrifice made by countless men and women in every branch of the services.
Apart from the original Field of Remembrance at Westminster in London, Belfast is one of only five others along with those opened in Cardiff, Edinburgh, Gateshead and Lydiard near Royal Wootton Bassett.
The Queen was represented at yesterday’s service in Belfast by her Lord Lieutenant Dame Mary Peters.
An RBL spokesman said a number of the charity’s volunteers had planted almost 2,000 crosses on Sunday, describing each as a “testament to the respect and gratitude felt by so many”.
One section of the garden is set aside for the 445 service personnel from across the UK and Commonwealth who have lost their lives in Afghanistan. Each small cross is decorated with a picture of the soldier, sailor or RAF member to have died in the conflict since it began in 2001.
The RBL spokesman said: “Most of the other crosses, approximately 1,200 this year, were sent in directly, some with very personal messages on them from next of kin.
“Others have requested the Legion to plant a cross on their behalf.
“Then there are around 46 regimental plots where a small number of crosses will be planted on the day, but mainly those plots will be filled over the next two weeks when people come along in their own time.”
Representatives of all the main services and regimental associations attended the opening.
Chief Superintendent George Clarke, the district commander for north and west Belfast, was there on behalf of the PSNI.
The first Field of Remembrance was created in the grounds of Westminster Abbey in November 1928.
Amanda Binnie from east Belfast plants a cross each year in memory of her husband Sean, who died while serving in Afghanistan.
She finds the annual ritual of remembrance a vital part of the healing process.
“They bring home how many people have lost their lives and how important it is that we never forget what they have done for this country,” said Mrs Binnie.
More than 40 million poppies, 500,000 poppies of other types, five million remembrance petals, 100,000 wreaths and sprays, 750,000 crosses and other remembrance items are made at the poppy factory each year.
Last year the RBL appeal raised £35 million.