My youngest teenager had the honour of participating in the Cenotaph Parade for Remembrance Sunday. A once in a lifetime opportunity, here are her memories of the day, in her own words.
- What did it mean to you to take part in the Cenotaph Parade?
It was so humbling to be there with so many different people paying our respects and to be doing the March Past. I hadn’t realised until I arrived just how big the whole occasion is.
- Describe what happens when you arrive
We all had to gather in Horse Guards Parade for security checks and then after that we had to stand in a set column in ranks of 6 so that we were in the right order for the parade. There were so many people, Army veterans, people in wheelchairs and then groups like us. The Army people wandered around shouting instructions and there were police everywhere with guns. We were behind the Scouts and there was a lot of banter between us. They helped us to redo our scarves and toggles so that they were hanging properly. I think they were teasing us actually as they had done it so many times before whereas none of us had.
- What was the atmosphere like?
Everyone was quite excited. It was like a celebratory atmosphere, I mean even though it is a solemn occasion, you feel really buzzy.
- How did you feel whilst you were waiting?
I was really nervous in case I did something wrong because there are lots of things you can’t do, like smile or talk and I was really worried about tripping up. We were told that we couldn’t look around or up towards the balconies where the Royal Family were but we just had to keep looking ahead at all times. Also you have to look the officer in the eye on the command “Eyes Right” . I didn’t want to do anything wrong.
- What was it like during the 2 minute silence?
I have been to our local Remembrance Services before but even with all those people it was just so quiet, there really was not a single sound. I was thinking of keeping very still and remembering the people who had fought for us and thinking how different the world would be for us all today if they hadn’t.
- Did you remember anyone in particular during the day?
I always think of my Great Grandfather and the stories Grandpa has told me about him and how he lost his life and the effect it had on him as a young boy and his family. I also thought this year about all the people involved in wars today.
- What was it like when you started marching?
It was great because everyone shouts and cheers as you walk past them and you can overhear everyone’s conversation. I can remember hearing someone say “Oh look it is the Girl Guides, don’t they all look so smart in their uniform!” It made me feel proud.
- What was the most exciting part of your day?
Oh gosh seeing Prince Charles. He was doing the salute at the March Past. We were told we could not smile at him but when I turned to look at him all I could think was “Oh my god, it’s Prince Charles, I mustn’t smile” and then I panicked that I had maybe stared at him for too long and I think I fell out of sync with the steps for a bit. It was so cool.
- What is your biggest memory?
I can’t pick one. The silence. Then the noise of the guns during the salute – they were so loud, they really made me jump and then there was the noise of the crowd as you marched down Whitehall. Oh and the Coldstream Guards. I hadn’t realised just how low their hats are. I mean they are literally over their eyes so all you see is their nose and mouth which when they are speaking to you is totally weird as it is just like the beerskin hat is talking.
- Would you want to do it again?
It was an amazing experience, it was pretty cool actually and one I will never forget but I don’t think if I did it again it would be the same, but of course I wouldn’t say no.
- Do you have any top tips for anyone if they are asked to do it?
Don’t stare at the Royal Family, march in time and wear 4 pairs of socks – there is alot of standing around.
Editor’s Note: The Remembrance Sunday Cenotaph Parade is organised by the Royal British Legion who this year asked the nation to Rethink Remembrance by recognising the sacrifices made not just by the Armed Forces of the past but by today’s generation too.