Royal Naval Association officials and members gathered at Westminster Abbey for the official opening of the Royal British Legion’s 90th Field of Remembrance in London.
Prince Harry, representing his grandmother the Queen, arrived at the Abbey’s North Green just before 11am on Thursday 8 November and was greeted by the Dean of Westminster, the Very Rev Dr John Hall, who led prayers.
Sara Jones, President of the RBL Poppy Factory, then invited the Duke of Sussex to lay a cross of remembrance in front of two wooden crosses from the graves of unknown British soldiers from both world wars.
The Last Post was sounded from the parapet of St Margaret’s Church, next door to the Abbey, by a bandsman of the Scots Guards.
After the observance of two minutes' silence, Prince Harry toured the plots of poppy crosses meeting veterans, representatives of organisations involved in conflict, and members of the public, who had planted a cross in memory of their fallen comrades and loved ones.
Those he met included RNA National President S/M John McAnally, who led a group of more than 30 shipmates and Central Office staff.
The Field, a sea of remembrance crosses with scarlet poppies honouring the memory of ex-Servicemen and women, first appeared in 1928 when a group of disabled veterans from the Poppy Factory set out for St Margaret’s with their trays of poppies and a collecting tin.
They began ‘planting’ poppies in the ground around an original wooden cross which came from the battlefield grave of an unknown British soldier.
Passers-by stopped to watch – then followed suit.
In 1931 one of the Poppy Factory team had the idea of creating small wooden crosses with a poppy on the front, the type of cross still sold today.
RNA General Secretary S/M Paul said it was the best show of poppy crosses he had seen for many years, and this year the RNA plot, within the Royal Navy section, was graced by the presence of a maquette of the sailor at the Naval Service Memorial, head bowed and cap behind his back.
Chaplain of the Fleet the Ven Martyn Gough led a small service for the RNA before Prince Harry arrived to meet representatives of the various organisations involved.
Photography by RNA Assistant General Secretary S/M Nigel Huxtable