The Queen was joined by several members of her family, including Prince William and Kate, as she unveiled a war memorial on Thursday (Mar. 9). Prince Philip, Princess Anne, Prince Harry, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, and Prince Edward and the Countess of Wessex all attended the event, which paid tribute to the Armed Forces and civilians who served during the Gulf War and conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Around 2,500 guests, including British Prime Minister Theresa May and senior figures from the Cabinet, were invited to the event, as were representatives of veterans, serving military, bereaved families, charity workers, civil servants and politicians. A military Drumhead Service on Horse Guards Parade in Whitehall took place, followed by the unveiling of the war memorial. Sculptor Paul Day created the memorial, erected in the Victoria Embankment Gardens in the shadow of the Ministry of Defence building. The sculpture, which is not intended to focus on the fallen, bears no names and instead commemorates the duty and service of those who have served for their country.
The Queen, dressed in a royal blue coat, was tasked with unveiling the war memorial as her family looked on. The royals have a long and close relationship with the Armed Forces, both in the UK and around the Commonwealth. Prince Philip, who turns 96 this year, visited The Queen's Royal Hussars Battlegroup in Basra in 2006. Prince Charles visited Basra, Iraq in 2004 and Camp Bastion in Afghanistan in March 2010. His son Prince Harry has undertaken two tours of Afghanistan, the first in 2007 as a Forward Air Controller and then in 2012 as an Apache Pilot.
Prince William, meanwhile, visited Camp Bastion in 2010, while the Queen's only daughter Princess Anne has visited Afghanistan three times. Her brother Prince Andrew has visited Afghanistan twice in 2005 and 2007 and Iraq three times in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
According to figures from the Ministry of Defence, the number of British forces personnel and MoD civilians who died while serving in Afghanistan is 456, for the Iraq conflict it was 179, and the Gulf War 47. Lord Stirrup, chairman of the memorial project's board of trustees, was head of the Armed Forces in his role as chief of defence staff from 2006 to 2010.
"Literally hundreds of thousands of British military personnel and UK civilian citizens served this country in all sorts of various ways in support of those campaigns and we felt that it was extremely important that the way they had conducted themselves, carried out their duties and the service they had given to the nation was honoured and commemorated," he said.
"So the memorial is exactly that, it's to commemorate duty and service, it's not about the campaigns themselves per se, it's about those principles which are important in any civilised society and have always been an integral part of who and what we regard ourselves to be as a nation. We wanted to acknowledge the contribution of the many who had served."