Media Archive


Commonwealth Day Commemoration at the Memorial Gates
Monday 10 March 2014

On a warm and sunny morning in London, in sharp contrast to the driving snow of last year, the ride past of the Queen's Escort of the Life Guards down Constitution Hill to mount guard at Buckingham Palace signalled the start of the annual Commemoration service at the Memorial Gates. The Band of the Irish Guards played throughout the ceremony.

The ceremony, attended by High Commissioners from many Commonwealth together with diplomatic, armed forces, Metropolitan police and civilian dignitaries, was introduced by Field Marshal Sir John Chapple, representing HRH The Prince of Wales. He highlighted that the Memorial Gates inaugurated by Her Majesty the Queen in 2002 represented the sacrifice and service of soldiers from the Indian subcontinent, Africa and the Caribbean who had volunteered to serve the British Empire in battlefields far away from their homes and families.

Sir John Major then gave a stirring address "Millions, quite literally millions, from new Commonwealth countries left their homes, families and friends for a wider cause. Many thousands were killed on the battlefields of Gallipoli, Persia, Egypt, Palestine and France and many thousands more were wounded and often handicapped for the rest of their lives. This was a remarkable triumph of human capacity doing the right thing. It was idealism in action. They were, and are, part of our society and they helped preserve and protect our freedom. They will always be honoured and new generations will always be welcome. I trust that this will be a place of Remembrance in 100 years to honour the highest ideals. I am very proud to honour their memory today."

Baroness Shreela Flather, Chair of the Memorial Gates Council, spoke movingly of the four million soldiers in two World Wars who had given their voluntary service from the Colonies of an Empire. She said how important it was to recognise that the Memorial Gates were much more than "a pile of stones". They were a living thing. She then thanked all those organisations and individuals who support the annual commemoration, noting especially the co-ordinating work of Lieutenant Colonel Tim Coles.

The Rt Revd Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London, gave the address highlighting the eternal principles of courage, discipline and loyalty displayed so heroically by those honoured today. He led the prayers of peace after which Last Post and Reveille were sounded by buglers from the Gurkha Rifles. Wreaths were laid by representatives of:

  • HRH The Prince of Wales
  • Lieutenancy of London
  • India
  • Bangladesh
  • Pakistan
  • Sri Lanka
  • Nepal
  • Jamaica
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Nigeria
  • Ministry of Defence
  • 1st Sea Lord
  • Royal Hospital Chelsea
  • British Sikh Association
  • Mayor of London
  • Metropolitan Police
  • English Speaking Union
  • Royal Overseas League
  • Punjab Frontier Force
  • Burma Star Association
  • King's African Rifles
  • Not Forgotten Association
  • Royal British Legion
  • South Africa Legion
  • West Indian Association of Service Personnel
  • Mill Hill County School
  • Commonwealth Secretariat
  • Confederation of Indian Industry
  • RAF Association South Harrow
  • 7th Gurkha Rifles
  • Brigade of Gurkhas

Following the laying of wreaths guests enjoyed tea and Indian food generously provided in a marquee by Dr Rami Ranger.

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HM The Queen at the inaugurationCommonwealth Day Commemoration at the Memorial Gates

More photographs from the day will soon be available to view in the Gallery section of the website.