GREAT Britain must remain steadfast in the face of tyranny with a proud military that has the backing of the people.
That was the message of a former head of the Royal Navy yesterday as the nation paid tribute to those in the armed forces who made the ultimate sacrifice for the UK.
Admiral Sir Jonathon Band said there has never been a more important time for the country to rally behind its military personnel, amid a world of terrorism and war.
His words came after thousands of people packed out Remembrance services across Portsmouth.
Speaking after the ceremony at Guildhall Square, Sir Jonathon said he was ‘incredibly proud of Portsmouth’ adding that the city’s respect for the military was a great example to others.
He said the need to recognise the sacrifices made by others in the fight for freedom was vital and one that must never be forgotten.
‘The world is an uncertain place so I think it is vital we recognise the contribution of the armed forces,’ he said.
‘I’m of a very firm view: one of the great things this country has done over the past century is to have brought, encouraged and fought for democracy against tyrants.
‘The world is full of tyrants at the moment, so I think it’s incredibly important that people who are prepared to serve this country are given the recognition they deserve.’
Hundreds of people packed into the city centre to watch Portsmouth’s main ceremony.
Rousing tunes from the Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Collingwood started the spectacle.
People cheered and clapped as serving members of the Royal Navy and army paraded into Guildhall Square, with a guard of honour from HMS Collingwood marching up to the steps of Guildhall.
Dozens of veterans, from conflicts spanning the Second World War to Iraq and Afghanistan soon followed.
Children from armed forces cadet groups, Scouts and schools were the last to filter in, receiving their own warm welcome from the crowds around the square and on the steps of the Civic Offices.
At the stroke of 11am the square fell silent as a gun from HMS Nelson fired to mark the start of a two-minute silence.
A lone Royal Marine bugler played the Last Post at the Cenotaph followed by Reveille to mark the end of the two-minute long tribute.
Led by the Very Rev David Brindley, Dean of St Thomas of Canterbury Cathedral and Canon Dominic Golding, of St John’s Cathedral, the service saw tributes being paid by veterans, councillors and religious leaders of all faiths.
Lieutenant Commander Tracy Macsephney, of HMS Collingwood, was the parade commander and was ‘impressed’ by Portsmouth.
She said: ‘The community came together. I did see a few tears in the eyes of the veterans. We’ve lost so many people who sacrificed themselves to make sure we have the freedom that we enjoy today.’
Portsmouth Military Wives’ Choir performed, backed by Hampshire Police Male Voice Choir and the Salvation Army.
Wreaths were laid at the Cenotaph, which on Saturday was the scene of the Armistice Day service.
Sir Jonathon added: ‘The reception in Portsmouth has been unbelievable. It’s always a good attendance but I thought today has been as big as I have ever seen it.’
Veteran Ronald Fitzsimmons, 56, of Gosport, served with 7 Para, He said: ‘Today is special. Whether you’re a civilian or a soldier, days like today bring us all together.’
Elsewhere, there were ceremonies across churches in the city. While at the Portsmouth Naval War Memorial, in Southsea, more than 100 Royal British Legion bikers attended a Remembrance event. They too laid wreaths at the imposing memorial.
At the Royal Marines Museum in Eastney, a separate service was held.