Ceremony is an unique expression of national homage, devoted primarily to
remembrance of the dead of the two world wars. It is attended by the Sovereign
and all the principal representatives of Parliament, the governments of the
Commonwealth, the Armed Forces and the Churches. The Remembrance Ceremony takes
the form of a short Service of Dedication preceded by observation of the Two
Minutes' Silence and official wreath laying. For this purpose the Cenotaph is
enclosed in a square formed by detachments from branches of the Fighting
Services, by a contingent from civilian services vital in time of war and by a
large body of ex-Service men and women. The general public is invited to take
part in the Service, and the Ceremony is broadcast in sound and television.
The Household Cavalry and one of the Foot Guard Battalions provide a small dismounted matching contingent. The Household Cavalry leads the three Services on to parade.
The Cenotaph was first
prepared as a temporary wood and plaster structure for use as a saluting base in
Whitehall during the First World War Victory Parade, held on the 19th July 1919.
The immediate and overwhelming public acclaim for this hurriedly prepared design
of Edwin Lutyens afforded the Government a ready solution to the potential
problem of providing a suitable national memorial to the war dead. A swift
decision was taken to re-erect the Cenotaph in a permanent form on the same
site. The unveiling of the stone structure on the 11th November 1920 was
combined with a ceremony to mark the passing of the body of the Unknown Warrior
for re-burial in Westminster Abbey. The first of the annual ceremonies of
remembrance took place at the Cenotaph on the same date the following year.