July 15th 2014


A ceremonial Service of Remembrance for the hundreds of thousands of men and women who volunteered to serve in the First World War was held at the Royal Hospital Chelsea in the gracious presence of Her Majesty The Queen on Saturday 28th June.

The solemn Drumhead Service of Remembrance was taken by the Bishop of London, The Right Reverend and Right Honourable Richard Chartres, in the presence of Her Majesty The Queen, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, three Royal Honorary Colonels, HRH The Earl of Wessex, HRH Princess Alexandra and HRH Prince Michael of Kent, as well as military and civic dignitaries from across Greater London and a group of Chelsea Pensioners. Members of the Habsburg Imperial Family also attended.

On 28th June 1914, His Imperial Royal Highness The Archduke Franz Ferdinand of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and his wife Sophie, Duchess of Hohenburg, were assassinated in Sarajevo. This event was the trigger which, 37 days later, saw the outbreak of hostilities that came to be known as ‘The Great War’. Over the subsequent four years, more than 60 million military personnel were mobilised in Europe. Sixteen million military and civilian personnel were killed and a further 20 million were wounded.

Many of those who served and paid the ultimate sacrifice were volunteers.

Courtesy of the Governor of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, General Sir Redmond Watt KCB KCBE CBE DL, Sir David Brewer CMG JP, President of the Reserve Forces’ and Cadets’ Association for Greater London, hosted the event at the Royal Hospital. It included marching contingents of Reservists from HMS PRESIDENT, The Royal Yeomanry, The London Regiment and First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (Princess Royal’s Volunteer Corps), led by the Honourable Artillery Company Band. Many of those personnel on parade have recently served on frontline operations or are training for future operations, continuing the history of loyal and professional service in support of the Regular Armed Forces so ably delivered by their forebears.

Vice-President, Sir Michael Craig-Cooper CBE TD DL, said “The Reserve Forces’ and Cadets’ Association for Greater London is proud and privileged to have co-ordinated the organisation and delivery of the solemn Drumhead Service to remember those personnel of the Royal Navy, the Army and the Royal Flying Corps (the Royal Air Force from 1918) who volunteered to serve Crown and Country one hundred years ago.”

Lieutenant Governor of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, Major General Peter Currie CB CBE added “We are honoured and delighted to hold this service in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea. There is no more fitting site for this event in London than the home of the Chelsea Pensioners which for over 300 years has stood as a symbol of the nation’s gratitude.”

Following the service, Her Majesty The Queen will move to the Chapel where Field Marshal Sir John Chapple GCB CBE DL will present her with “Stepping Forward”, a tribute to the Volunteer Military Reservists and Supporting Auxiliaries from Greater London 1908-2014.

A hard copy of the book will be sent to each London Borough, Livery Company and every library in London. It will also be published as a website providing a lasting legacy available to all.

After the departure of Her Majesty, a short reception was held before guests were invited to meet the volunteers of the future in Burton Court. Over 500 young people from nine different Youth Organisations in Uniform (YOU) manned First World War themed stands and displays and experience their own taste of Edwardian era rations with a lunch of Bully Beef.