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12 November 2009 

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Britain Remembers WWI, Looks at War in Afghanistan


11 November 2009

Armistice day in Britain this year comes at a time when Britain is focused on another war - Afghanistan. This week, the bodies of six servicemen killed in Afghanistan were returned home, leaving some Britons questioning the wisdom of the mission.  

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II looks on as a wreath is placed on the tomb of the unknown soldier in London's Westminster Abbey, 11 Nov 2009
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II looks on as a wreath is placed on the tomb of the unknown soldier in London's Westminster Abbey, 11 Nov 2009
At London's Westminster Abbey, the Queen, Prime Minister and military leaders attended a remembrance service, the first one without a British World War I veteran in attendance. The last British veteran from the so-called "Great War" died earlier this year.  


Reverend John Hall the Dean of Westminster, began the ceremony

"We remember with grief the gas and the mud, the barbed wire, the bombardment, the terror, the telegram, and with gratitude the courage and sacrifice. Never again they said, the war to end all wars, with resolution we remember," he said.

Soldiers of The King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery fire a WWI artillery piece at Horse Guards Parade in London, 11 Nov 2009
Soldiers of The King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery fire a WWI artillery piece at Horse Guards Parade in London, 11 Nov 2009
And the Chimes of Big Ben marked the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month - the moment when the guns of World War I fell silent.


Today, 6,500 kilometers away in Afghanistan, British forces are fighting and dying. At home the fallen from that war are remembered.

The church bells of the English village of Wootton Bassett toll for Britain's recent fallen. Their caskets come through this village and hundreds line the street as a sign of respect. This week, six bodies returned, five of them shot and killed by an Afghan policeman they were supposed to be training. Their deaths have shocked Britons like village mayor Steve Bucknell.

"They need always to be on their guard. They are very very professional troops, and I am sure they are always on their guard, but to be killed in such a treacherous way is particularly galling," he said.

David and Sally Bell traveled 80 kilometers to pay their respects to men they say should not have died.

DAVID BELL, MOURNER: "We were unarmed."
SALLY BELL, MOURNER: "It is just murder."
DAVID BELL, MOURNER: "It is nothing else, it is murder."
SALLY BELL, MOURNER: "Treachery and murder."

Training Afghanistan's army and police force is a central tenet of Britain and NATO's mission in Afghanistan and considered crucial to any exit strategy. British and NATO officials say troops can not leave until Afghans can protect themselves.

Military veteran Roland Simmons, rode his motorcycle through the rain to pay his respects in Wootton Basset. He questions whether the British forces' training mission in Afghanistan needs to change.

"So do we continue training them, or do we say, 'No, well we are not going to do it, no more, you have got to train your own guys," he said.

British Prime minister Gordon Brown has reaffirmed Britain's commitment in Afghanistan. He says fighting the Taliban and al-Qaida there is crucial to security in Britain.


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