Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall will pay special tribute to UK veterans and the Armed Forces at the Royal British Legion’s annual Festival of Remembrance being broadcast tonight.
BBC journalist Huw Edwards is presenting the pre-recorded socially distanced event from the Royal Albert Hall in London from 9.10pm on BBC1 on the 75th anniversary of the end of World War Two.
Captain Sir Tom Moore, the centenarian knighted this year after raising £32million for the NHS from his garden in Bedfordshire early in the pandemic, is expected to talk to Edwards about what remembrance means to him.
To mark the anniversary, wartime testimonies describing the experiences of veterans in Europe and Asia during the world war will be read by British actors including Oscar nominee Samantha Morton.
Thousands of poppies will then cascade down from the roof into an almost empty Royal Albert Hall during the poignant finale of this year’s socially distanced Festival.
Normally, the 5,550 capacity venue would be packed with audience members, veterans and parades of servicemen and women for the annual event hosted by the Royal British Legion.
But this year, due to the pandemic, all that has changed. There could be no audience, the number of participants had to be reduced and everything was pre-recorded in sections to ensure social distancing was observed and not too many people were all in the venue at the same time.
Royal Marines at The Royal British Legion’s Festival of Remembrance at The Royal Albert Hall, which will be broadcast tonight
State Trumpeters from the Mounted Band of the Household Cavalry at The Royal British Legion’s Festival of Remembrance
Captain Sir Tom Moore backstage at The Royal British Legion’s Festival of Remembrance at The Royal Albert Hall
The moving first-hand accounts will also be read by Eastenders actor Kara-Leah Fernandes and West End star Julian Ovenden for guests at the iconic musical hall and for millions of viewers.
Mica Paris, Freya Ridings, Marisha Wallace, Laura Main, Ramin Karimloo and Sophie Ellis-Bextor perform alongside the military musicians from the Armed Forces.
And musical stars Michael Ball and Alfie Boe pay a surprise visit to some well-loved veterans at the Royal Hospital Chelsea before the event culminates in the act of Remembrance.
There are usually two live performances – a matinee open to the public, and an evening event open only to members of the Legion and their families which is attended by senior members of the Royal Family.
A tribute to the World War Two generation at The Royal British Legion’s Festival of Remembrance at The Royal Albert Hall
The poppy drop at The Royal British Legion’s Festival of Remembrance at The Royal Albert Hall in London
Sophie Ellis-Bextor performs at The Royal British Legion’s Festival of Remembrance at The Royal Albert Hall
Images were released by the Legion yesterday showing how it will look. Despite the changes, organisers expect the event to be as a moving as ever when it is shown on television tonight.
Boris Johnson lays a wreath in deserted London ahead of Remembrance Sunday – as Laurence Fox joins backlash at restrictions and says war veterans ‘should be able to make their own risk assessment’
Boris Johnson today laid a wreath at a war memorial in west London as he continued to face furious backlash over a ban on Remembrance Sunday services being held inside churches.
The Government has faced mounting criticism after it emerged new Covid-19 rules banning mass worship would stop veterans from attending Remembrance Sunday services inside churches.
Instead, those in England will be required to stand outside during events tomorrow – raising fears elderly war heroes could be exposed to pneumonia.
The Prime Minister was today seen laying a wreath at the Uxbridge War Memorial as he paid his respects to those who lost their lives fighting for Britain during the two World Wars.
Mr Johnson was joined by Ian Ritchie from the Hillingdon and District Royal British Legion for the low-key ceremony in his constituency.
Actor and politician Laurence Fox today slammed the move to keep veterans outside of churches as ‘ridiculous’, adding they ‘have more than enough nouse to make their own risk assessment and take precautions.’
He said: ‘They are veterans of war, for heavens sake, I think they have more than enough nouse to make their own risk assessment and take precautions.
‘Stop infantilising those much smarter than you and let them remember in church, if they wish.’
It comes as the Legion has warned it is set to fall millions of pounds short of its annual fundraising target because the coronavirus has hit its Poppy Appeal after government restrictions prevented the selling of poppies and collection of donations on the streets.
The appeal raises about £50million a year, most of it in cash, but the legion is urging Britons to give by electronic means. Never before in the charity’s history, even throughout World War Two, have all face to face collections been cancelled.
Last year the appeal accounted for more than 30 per cent of the charity’s income.
Other changes at the Festival of Remembrance include the number of musicians.
David Cole, the Legion’s director of music since 2006, said the orchestra had to be reduced from around 80 to 53 so they could fit on stage in carefully measured 2m-apart spaces. But Mr Cole, who was formerly musical director on the Queen’s Yacht Britannia, said that actually made for ‘a cleaner sound’.
The choir also had to be reduced – from 112 to 35 members. But the extra space in the venue meant it was visually transformed in a way never seen before, with the choir members lit up and singing from a box each across three levels where audience members would normally be, which, Mr Cole said.
There was greater scope for images to be projected during parts of the festival – including on the arena floor – as ‘the whole visual shape of the Albert Hall was changed’, Mr Cole added.
The poppy drop happens every year and is followed by a two minute silence to commemorate and honour all those who made the ultimate sacrifice in defending our freedoms and way of life.
It is usually immediately preceded by a parade of servicemen and women, alongside representatives from youth uniformed organizations down the aisles and onto the floor of the hall.
This year, all three Armed Forces take part but the numbers in the muster had to be reduced.
Mr Cole said: ‘There was no public there and no large body of troops all at once, but it was the same feeling for us. The poppy drop is very emotional and very powerful, as it always is, and the festival is still hugely uplifting.’
It will, as ever, be a combination of performance, spectacle and religious service.
In a statement ahead of tonight’s event, Director-General Tim Davie said: ‘I am proud of the role the BBC plays every year in marking Remembrance.
‘This year is particularly significant, as we gather remotely to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice and pay tribute to their lives.’
Charlotte Moore, Chief Content Officer, said: ‘Every year the BBC brings the nation together to mark Remembrance, to reflect and honour those who sacrificed their lives.
‘This year our role has never been more important as we bring the country together with programming across TV and Radio, and the annual Festival Of Remembrance, which will pay tribute to all victims of war.’