PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron marked Remembrance Day on Monday by relighting the flame at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier under Paris’ Arc de Triomphe, below a spectacular giant tricolour flag.
Greeted by Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, Macron laid a wreath and inspected troops during the otherwise low-key ceremony marking 101 years since the Armistice that ended the combat of World War I.
He also stopped by the nearby tomb of French wartime leader Georges Clemenceau.
The rousing sound of military band brass music was slightly muffled by persistent rain for the hundreds of spectators — including former French Presidents Francois Holland and Nicolas Sarkozy — thronging the Champs Elysees avenue, some of whom waved French flags.
Macron was lunching with guests at the Elysee Palace, who include flag bearers and presidents of veterans associations.
The French leader will later inaugurate a monument for the hundreds of soldiers who died in foreign operations since 1963, whom the military calls “the fourth generation of fire.”
Since the 1960s, 549 French soldiers have died in 17 theatres of conflict including 141 in Lebanon, 129 in Chad, 85 in Afghanistan and 78 in the former Yugoslavia.
Commemorations were also underway in France’s wartime ally, Britain.
The Royal British Legion urged the nation to remember the 100th anniversary of the first two-minute silence observed on Armistice Day by shutting out modern technology and all distractions.
“This year we’re asking the nation to pause — mute your phone, close your laptop, switch off the telly — for just two minutes and pay your respects to our Armed Forces community, past and present,” the legion said on its website. “Join us at 11 a.m. on 11 November for the two-minute silence.”
The HMS Queen Elizabeth held one of the many ceremonies taking place across Britain to mark the day. Posting a short video on Twitter, the ship’s crew honoured the fallen by spelling out “Lest we Forget” on the aircraft carrier’s massive deck.
Britain’s largest ceremony took place Sunday. The event in central London is traditionally held on the closest Sunday to the anniversary of the end of World War I at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918.
Queen Elizabeth II led the nation in remembering the war dead, as the political leaders paused campaigning for Britain’s Dec. 12 election to take part in a sombre service in London.
The queen, dressed in black, watched from a balcony as her son and heir Prince Charles laid a wreath of scarlet poppies on the Cenotaph war memorial near Parliament. The 93-year-old monarch, who served as an army mechanic during World War II, performed the wreath-laying herself for most of her 67-year reign, but has cut back on her public duties.