HUNDREDS of people have signed up to join a 24-hour guard of honour at a war memorial in a stunning tribute to those killed during the First World War.
At least 200 people, from schoolchildren, to veterans and serving members of the nation’s armed forces have pledged to keep guard at Portsmouth’s First World War Cenotaph in Guildhall Square.
The move comes ahead of this year’s Remembrance Sunday commemorations, which will be marking 100 years since the end of the First World War.
Organised by the Pompey Pals Charity and Portsmouth City Council’s events team, the first volunteers will take their position at the vigil from 10am on Saturday.
Then, working in 15-minute slots, at least four guards will stand by the monument until 10am the next day, ahead of the city’s major Remembrance Sunday service and parade.
It’s the first time the city has staged a vigil of this type in the run-up to the Armistice Day commemorations.
Gareth Lewis, chairman of the Pompey Pals Charity, has been blown away by the response from Portsmouth to the vigil.
He said: ‘When it comes to respecting Britain’s military history, Portsmouth is standing out there proudly in front. We are leading the country as a city.’
Volunteers from the charity will be supporting the event for the full 24 hours, either joining the guard or providing warm drinks and biscuits for those taking part in the vigil.
Most of those signed up to the vigil are civilians or veterans. However, from 8am on Remembrance Sunday, the guard of honour will comprise of serving members of the armed forces.
Mr Lewis said he was immensely proud of all those who vowed to give their time to mark the city’s fallen war heroes.
‘To have people recognise the sacrifice that these guys made not just by turning out for Armistice Day but by doing that little bit extra - joining the vigil at 4am when it might be wet and cold - says a lot about Portsmouth,’ he said.
He added the toll on Portsmouth during the war had been horrific, with thousands of men known to have been killed on the battlefields and many more dying as a result of the wounds after the conflict.
‘It was slaughter on an horrific scale and we should never, ever forget the sacrifice these men made,’ Mr Lewis said.‘We lost nearly 7,500 men.
‘That had a tremendous impact on Portsmouth. Out of the 1,000 men in the 15th Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment, by the time it was disbanded only 80 men remained.’
At 6am on Remembrance Sunday, a lone piper will perform in Guildhall Square to mark the moment the Armistice agreement was signed 100 years ago.
The Armistice Day service and parade is due to take place from 10am until midday.