The weather fitted the sadness of the atmosphere as hundreds gathered at the Cenotaph war memorial in Central last Sunday for the Remembrance Day Ceremony in remembrance of the fallen soldiers in the two World Wars.
The Cenotaph, situated between Statue Square and the City Hall, was constructed in 1923 as being almost an exact replica of the Cenotaph on Whitehall in London to commemorate the dead in First World War. After 1945, the stone monument also bears the symbolism of commemorating the Second World War.
The top of the skyscrapers around the green square were surrounded by clouds, with rain threatening. The Cenotaph square was not only filled with the usual visitors like domestic workers sitting on the floor, chatting or having lunch, but also with a large audience who came specially to pay tribute to the dead.
The rain waited until 10.45am, which was the beginning of the ceremony, to pour the first drops over the square. The three flags hanging on the monument—representing China, Hong Kong, and the Hong Kong Ex-Servicemen’s Association respectively—were fluttering in the wind as the police band started to play a military march to let the members of the three youth uniform groups— Hong Kong Air Cadet in dark blue military uniforms, Hong Kong Adventure Corps in black and white uniforms and Hong Kong Sea Cadet Corps in all white uniforms—to march into the square.
An important number of female members were present amongst the marching contingent—20 out of 60 in total.
A brief speech was then given to explained to the public why all were here—to commemorate the victims of the First World War, the Second World War, as well as all the other wars.
The rain stopped as the bugle began to play “Last Post” to start the two minutes of silence.
During this silent time, parents were trying to keep their children quiet. The repetitive noise of the pedestrian crossing lights suddenly became invasive and even unpalatable.
The contemplation was eventually broken with the band playing the soft music “Reveille.”
Veterans, various government officials as well as representatives from various organisations and religious groups such as the Anglican Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Buddhist community, the Taoist community, the Muslim community and the Sikh community then went in front of the Cenotaph to lay wreaths of flowers. Meanwhile, the band kept on playing, with the presence of bagpipes giving to the scene a surrealistic appearance. The rain had stopped but the soil was still moist and the atmosphere highly humid.
The presence of the red poppies was especially noticeable in this dark day. Not only the officials and veterans, but also a large part of the public were wearing poppies on their chest. As a matter of fact, poppies’ brilliant red colour is a symbol for the blood spilled in the wars.
The representatives from the seven religious groups then led the prayers for the fallen souls owing to the varying nationalities of the soldiers fought in the war. As a matter of fact, the Battle of Hong Kong alone was fought by soldiers from all over the world, including local Chinese, Indian and Canadian Army Regiments in addition to the regular British troops stationing in Hong Kong.
After the prayers, the Chinese national anthem was sounded to mark the end of the ceremony, despite the fact that no People’s Liberation Army representative was present at the ceremony.
The uniform contingent marched away in the melody of “On the Beat” and “Happy Wanderer” as the host announced, “See you next year!”
The Remembrance Day Ceremony is held on the second Sunday of every November by the Ex-Servicemen’s Association and the Hong Kong and China Branch of the Royal British Legion. Being commonly commemorated by countries of the Commonwealth, the tradition is still kept despite the fact that the territory is no longer part of the Commonwealth anymore since 1997.
Watch the ceremony in full: