There is ‘no excuse’ for governments not to hold ANZAC Day commemorations



Sky News host Paul Murray says Australia must have an ANZAC Day this year identical to the one in 2019 and hopes state governments follow Queensland’s example to keep the commemoration.

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US charges China-based Zoom executive with disrupting Tiananmen video commemorations


NEW YORK: US prosecutors on Friday (Dec 18) charged a China-based executive at Zoom with involvement in a scheme to disrupt video meetings commemorating the 31st anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown in China.

Xinjiang Jin, the company’s main liaison with Chinese law enforcement and intelligence services, conspired since January 2019 to use his company’s systems to censor speech at the direction of China’s government, the US Department of Justice said.

Prosecutors said Jin helped terminate at least four meetings in May and June, including some involving dissidents who survived the protests in 1989, and fabricated violations of Zoom’s terms of service to justify his actions to his superiors.

They also said Jin’s accomplices created fake email accounts and Zoom accounts, including in dissidents’ names, to make it seem the meetings’ participants supported terrorism, violence or the distribution of child pornography.

Zoom was not named in court papers filed in Brooklyn federal court, but its identity was confirmed by a person close to the matter. The papers said Jin’s employer is based in San Jose, California, which is where Zoom is headquartered.

A spokesman for Zoom said the company is reviewing the complaint. Jin is not in US custody and a lawyer for him could not immediately be identified.

“Jin willingly committed crimes, and sought to mislead others at the company, to help (Chinese) authorities censor and punish US users’ core political speech merely for exercising their rights to free expression,” Acting US Attorney Seth DuCharme in Brooklyn said in a statement.



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Millions of Britons stay home on Remembrance Sunday as commemorations move online


The Queen, Prince Charles and Prime Minister Boris Johnson lead politicians and royals who paid their respects to Britain’s war dead at the Cenotaph today. 

The annual Remembrance Sunday service is going ahead this morning but the public are unable to attend because of lockdown restrictions imposed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Millions of people across the UK will instead be privately paying their respects from home.

At the Cenotaph, around 10,000 veterans would normally pay their respects, but this year there are just 26 because of the risks presented by Covid-19.  

As well as Mr Johnson and Sir Keir, former Prime Ministers David Cameron, Tony Blair and Theresa May, Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey were all pictured on their way to the Cenotaph.  

As the clock struck 11am, Mr Johnson, Prince Charles, Prince William and other member’s of Britain’s elite marked the two-minute silence before laying their wreaths.  

Ahead of today’s service, Prime Minister Boris Johnson had said ‘no virus can stop us’ from commemorating the country’s war dead as he paid his respects at Uxbridge War Memorial in west London at a low-key event on Saturday.

Today’s Remembrance Sunday service is going ahead but the British public cannot attend as normal because of the coronavirus pandemic

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer were among the members of Britain's political elite who arrived at the Cenotaph on Whitehall for today's Remembrance Sunday Service

Sir Keir Starmer walking to the Cenotaph this morning

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer were among the members of Britain’s political elite who arrived at the Cenotaph on Whitehall for today’s Remembrance Sunday Service

At the Cenotaph, around 10,000 veterans would normally pay their respects, but this year there are just 26 because of the risks presented by Covid-19

At the Cenotaph, around 10,000 veterans would normally pay their respects, but this year there are just 26 because of the risks presented by Covid-19

Although the public are unable to attend today's ceremony, the event will be broadcast live on multiple channels, with people encouraged to take part in the two-minute silence at home. Pictured: Scottish Second World War veterans Ronnie Wilson

Woman's Auxiliary Air Force veteran Cathy Drummond at her home in  Scotland

Although the public are unable to attend today’s ceremony, the event will be broadcast live on multiple channels, with people encouraged to take part in the two-minute silence at home. Pictured: Scottish Second World War veterans Ronnie Wilson (left) and Cathy Drummond pose with their war medals outside their homes ahead of Sunday’s commemorations

He said: ‘We come together every November to commemorate the servicemen and women from Britain and the Commonwealth who sacrificed their lives for our freedom.

‘In this time of adversity, no virus can stop us from honouring their memory, particularly when we have just celebrated the 75th anniversary of victory in the Second World War.

‘And in times of trial, our tributes matter even more. So let’s come together once again and remember those to whom we owe so much.’

In a video message ahead of his attendance at the Remembrance Sunday service, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: ‘2020 has been a year of struggle and sacrifice, and we know many challenges lie ahead.

‘But in these difficult times whenever we are in need of inspiration we can always look with pride, not only to our wartime generations or those who are currently serving our nation at home and abroad, but to all our servicemen and women who throughout this pandemic have stood side by side with our key workers in the battle against this virus.

‘So on this special Remembrance Sunday where we mark 80 years since the Battle of Britain and 75 years since the end of the Second World War, let us say thanks to all those who have served and all those who continue to serve this great country.’ 

Sir Kier, along with Mr Johnson, Chancellor Rishi Sunak, former Prime Ministers Tony Blair and David Cameron, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey and the SNP’s leader in the House of Commons Sir Ian Blackford, was pictured walking down Downing Street on his way to the Cenotaph on Sunday. 

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and his predecessor, former Prime Minister Tony Blair, walk down Downing Street to the Cenotaph ahead of today's ceremony

Mr Blair was wearing a face mask

Past and present: Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and his predecessor, former Prime Minister Tony Blair, walk down Downing Street to the Cenotaph ahead of today’s ceremony

Ahead of today's Remembrance Sunday service, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said 'no virus can stop us' from commemorating the country's war dead as he paid his respects at Uxbridge War Memorial in west London at a low-key event on Saturday

Ahead of today’s Remembrance Sunday service, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said ‘no virus can stop us’ from commemorating the country’s war dead as he paid his respects at Uxbridge War Memorial in west London at a low-key event on Saturday 

In a video message ahead of his attendance at the Remembrance Sunday service, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: '2020 has been a year of struggle and sacrifice, and we know many challenges lie ahead

In a video message ahead of his attendance at the Remembrance Sunday service, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: ‘2020 has been a year of struggle and sacrifice, and we know many challenges lie ahead

Paying her respects: The Dean of Westminster Abbey David Hoyle (right) watches as The Queen's Equerry, Lieutenant Colonel Nana Kofi Twumasi-Ankrah, places a bouquet of flowers at the grave of the Unknown Warrior in front of the Queen in Westminster Abbey

Paying her respects: The Dean of Westminster Abbey David Hoyle (right) watches as The Queen’s Equerry, Lieutenant Colonel Nana Kofi Twumasi-Ankrah, places a bouquet of flowers at the grave of the Unknown Warrior in front of the Queen in Westminster Abbey

How to get involved in Remembrance Sunday

Even though this year’s Remembrance Sunday service at the Cenotaph is closed to the public, the Government says there are many ways you can get involved. 

People have been invited to share their personal stories and family histories on social media using the hashtag #WeWillRememberThem. 

They are also invited to post a tribute to the Royal British Legion’s virtual Field of Remembrance or on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Wall of Remembrance.

Britons can also watch Sunday’s Cenotaph service on television and online 

Other ways to get involved include: 

  • Supporting the Poppy appeal by donating through the post and displaying your own poppy or Remembrance window display.
  • Hold a small Remembrance service in your garden or write letters of remembrance to veterans or serving personnel.
  • Look up your own family history on Ancestry. The firm has made them free to access to mark this year’s commemorations. 
  • The Royal Air Force Museum is asking people to write poems to go on its online gallery.     

The Queen and members of the royal family are expected to join the country in commemorating the nation’s war dead at the Cenotaph. 

Among those who are expected are the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

The Duke of Sussex stepped down as a working member of the royal family and now lives in California.

But in a podcast to mark Remembrance Sunday the former Army officer said: ‘Being able to wear my uniform, being able to stand up in service of one’s country, these are amongst the greatest honours there are in life.

‘To me, the uniform is a symbol of something much bigger, it’s symbolic of our commitment to protecting our country, as well as protecting our values.

‘These values are put in action through service, and service is what happens in the quiet and in the chaos.’

In a brief ceremony at Westminster Abbey on Wednesday, the Queen commemorated the 100th anniversary of the interment of the Unknown Warrior, who represents the First World War soldiers whose place of death is not known or whose remains are unidentified.

The 94-year-old monarch had requested the service – her first public engagement in London since March – after she was advised not to attend an abbey service marking the warrior’s centenary next week, which the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall are expected to join on November 11, Armistice Day.

People are being encouraged to join commemorations on Sunday by sharing family histories, personal stories and messages of remembrance using the hashtag £WeWillRememberThem online.

Meanwhile, genealogy company Ancestry has made more than one billion UK wartime records free to access over the weekend for people to discover the roles their family played in the First and Second World Wars. 

About 150 personnel from the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force will be on parade at the Cenotaph, with musicians from all three services to play traditional music for the service, including the Last Post played by Buglers of the Royal Marines. 

The Liberal Democrats' leader Sir Ed Davey was also pictured on his way to the Cenotaph

SNP's House of Commons leader Sir Ian Blackford

The Liberal Democrats’ leader Sir Ed Davey was also pictured on his way to the Cenotaph, along with the SNP’s House of Commons leader Sir Ian Blackford 

Prince Harry visiting West Point Military Academy, America, in 2010

Prince Harry scrambling his Apache during his 12 hour shift at the British controlled flight-line in Camp Bastion, southern Afghanistan, in 2012

Prince Harry, who spent 10 years in the armed forces, described the day as ‘a moment for respect and for hope’, in an interview with the Declassified podcast

Second World War veteran remembers his fallen comrades from his doorstep  

A 96-year-old veteran has remembered the fallen soldiers from his doorstep in Birmingham, in the West Midlands.

Ned Redmond joined the British Army in 1944 and served in the Far East during World War II.

The great grandfather-of-four was a sergeant in the Middlesex regiment and fought in the Korean War.

WWII veteran Ned Redmond, 96, has commemorated his fallen comrades from his doorstep

WWII veteran Ned Redmond, 96, has commemorated his fallen comrades from his doorstep

He was one of the first to get off the boat in 1950.

In recent years, he has returned to South Korea as a guest speaker.

Ned – who lives independently – will pay his respects on November 8.

He encourages others to remember the heroes by standing on their doorsteps for two minutes of silence.

Dublin-born Ned said: ‘Looking back at everything I have done, I do feel proud.

He joined the British Army in 1944 and served in the Far East during World War II

He joined the British Army in 1944 and served in the Far East during World War II

‘It is hard to describe how hard Korea was.

‘We were on the front line every single day and lost a lot of good men – many of which were great friends.

‘We went for months without a shower and were covered in lice.

‘It was horrendous but i’m fortunate and happy to have survived it.’

 

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: ‘Many of the men and women on parade today have already taken part in efforts to fight coronavirus and many more will do so in the weeks to come.

‘I applaud their selflessness.’ 

To mark Remembrance Sunday, members of the public have been encouraged to share their family histories and commemorative messages online using the hashtag #WeWillRememberThem.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: ‘While this year’s service is a little different to normal, I want to encourage everyone to get involved from their own homes – watch on your TV, research your family history – but most importantly, keep safe.’ 

The commemorations come after the former head of the Royal Navy Lord West of Spithead led a backlash against a ban on services inside churches and warned veterans faced catching pneumonia by being forced to stand outside. 

As a result of winter coronavirus lockdown restrictions, most religious services are banned and anyone caught attending one could face a £200 fine.   

John ‘Paddy’ Hemingway, the 101-year-old last survivor of the Battle of Britain, is said to be upset by the move.

His son Brian Hemingway said the veteran ‘feels sad,’ people will not be able to come together on Sunday.

But growing uproar from former senior members of the armed forces, and former defence secretary Michael Fallon, has seen calls for an exemption so the day can be properly commemorated.

Lord West of Spithead, the former First Sea Lord, told The Telegraph: ‘If you look at the average size of a church there must be a way of letting veterans in with social distancing. 

‘It seems very silly to have them standing outside in the freezing cold. This puts them more at risk. They will die of pneumonia rather than Covid.’ 

The Royal British Legion earlier confirmed there will not be the annual March Past the Cenotaph.

On its website the charity said it recognised the decision was ‘deeply disappointing,’ adding it was taken following Government advice. 

Guidance from the Government allows local authorities in England to organise events at a ‘public war memorial or cenotaph’ so long as they are held outdoors, they are short and those in attendance observe social distancing measures. 

Former Prime Minister Theresa May also criticised the decision to ban church services.

She told the House of Commons: ‘The Covid-secure Remembrance service in Worcester Cathedral is now going to be turned into a pre-recorded online service.

‘Surely those men and women who gave down their lives for our freedom deserve better than this?’  

Former Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon, said: ‘Veterans are perfectly capable of social distancing and wearing face masks for half an hour and I hope the Government will think again. It seems ridiculous. We trusted veterans to put their lives on the line for the country but we cannot trust them to stand two metres apart in church.’

Several members in the House of Lords raised concerns over the impact of the move on people’s mental health, pointing out that for many elderly people attending church was their only regular social activity. 

Defending the rule, Communities Minister Lord Greenhalgh said: ‘We have come to a critical point in the fight against Covid-19.’

Stressing the need to ‘limit our interaction with others’, he said: ‘Therefore, with great regret, while places of worship will remain open for individual prayer, communal worship cannot take place at this time.’

Pressing the minister, Tory peer Lord Cormack said he had ‘not given a single shred of evidence as to why churches should not be open for public worship’.

He said a remembrance service had been planned for this Sunday in Lincoln Cathedral, which was ‘an immense space where everybody can be properly socially distanced’.

Lord Cormack added: ‘Instead, the Government have come up with an imbecilic answer – that the veterans, all of whom are 90 and over, can stand in the cold and be rained on, but they cannot go into a safe, socially distanced cathedral. 

‘This is a disgrace.’

The Cenotaph would ordinarily be thronged with members of the armed forces, veterans and ordinary Britons on Remembrance Sunday

The Cenotaph would ordinarily be thronged with members of the armed forces, veterans and ordinary Britons on Remembrance Sunday 

The Queen wears a face mask for the first time in public as she marks centenary of the burial of the Unknown Warrior at Westminster Abbey

By Bridie Pearson-Jones and Jack Wright for MailOnline 

The Queen wore a face mask for the first time in public last week as she marked the centenary of the burial of the Unknown Warrior in a small private ceremony in Westminster Abbey. 

Her Majesty, 94, honoured the British serviceman, whose identity remains a mystery, and the Royal Family‘s own associations with World War One at the London abbey ahead of Remembrance Sunday.

The head of state, who was dressed all in black as she placed an orchid and myrtle bouquet on the grave, was required to cover her face during the act of worship under government restrictions. 

It reflected the custom of Royal bridal bouquets being placed on the grave, a tradition which began in 1923 when Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the future Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, laid her bouquet as she entered the Abbey in memory of her brother Fergus, who was killed at the Battle of Loos in 1915.

Many Royal brides since have sent their bouquets to the grave at Westminster Abbey. 

Before her death in 2002, The Queen Mother also requested her funeral wreath be placed on the grave of the Unknown Warrior – a wish honoured at the Abbey the day after her funeral.

Tribute: The Queen commemmorates the centenary of the burial of the Unknown Warrior, an unidentified British serviceman who died in WW1, in Westminster Abbey on Wednesday

Tribute: The Queen commemmorates the centenary of the burial of the Unknown Warrior, an unidentified British serviceman who died in WW1, in Westminster Abbey on Wednesday

Paying her respects: The Dean of Westminster Abbey David Hoyle (right) watches as The Queen's Equerry, Lieutenant Colonel Nana Kofi Twumasi-Ankrah, places a bouquet of flowers at the grave of the Unknown Warrior in front of the Queen in Westminster Abbey

Paying her respects: The Dean of Westminster Abbey David Hoyle (right) watches as The Queen’s Equerry, Lieutenant Colonel Nana Kofi Twumasi-Ankrah, places a bouquet of flowers at the grave of the Unknown Warrior in front of the Queen in Westminster Abbey

Commemoration: The Queen inspects a bouquet of flowers to be placed at the grave of the Unknown Warrior by her Equerry, Lieutenant Colonel Nana Kofi Twumasi-Ankrah

Commemoration: The Queen inspects a bouquet of flowers to be placed at the grave of the Unknown Warrior by her Equerry, Lieutenant Colonel Nana Kofi Twumasi-Ankrah

Paying her respects: The Queen, 94, travelled by car from Windsor Castle to London to commemorate the centenary of the burial of the Unknown Warrior, according to the Court Circular. The Queen was photographed leaving Windsor Castle yesterday (pictured) before returning two hours later but the reason for the outing was not announced

Paying her respects: The Queen, 94, travelled by car from Windsor Castle to London to commemorate the centenary of the burial of the Unknown Warrior, according to the Court Circular. The Queen was photographed leaving Windsor Castle yesterday (pictured) before returning two hours later but the reason for the outing was not announced

Tribute: Lieutenant Colonel Nana Kofi Twumasi-Ankrah places a bouquet of flowers at the grave of the Unknown Warrior during a ceremony in Westminster Abbey

Tribute: Lieutenant Colonel Nana Kofi Twumasi-Ankrah places a bouquet of flowers at the grave of the Unknown Warrior during a ceremony in Westminster Abbey

Paying respects: The Queen's Equerry, Lieutenant Colonel Nana Kofi Twumasi-Ankrah, places a bouquet of flowers at the grave of the Unknown Warrior on behalf of the Queen during a ceremony at Westminster Abbey

Paying respects: The Queen’s Equerry, Lieutenant Colonel Nana Kofi Twumasi-Ankrah, places a bouquet of flowers at the grave of the Unknown Warrior on behalf of the Queen during a ceremony at Westminster Abbey

Tribute: The Queen inspects a bouquet of flowers placed on her behalf at the grave of the Unknown Warrior by her Equerry

Tribute: The Queen inspects a bouquet of flowers placed on her behalf at the grave of the Unknown Warrior by her Equerry

Which Royal bridal bouquets were laid on the grave of the Unknown Warrior? 

  • The Queen Mother, 1923
  • The Queen, 1947
  • Princess Margaret, 1960
  • Princess Alexandra, 1963
  • The Princess Royal, 1973
  • Diana, Princess of Wales, 1981
  • Sarah, Duchess of York, 1986
  • The Countess of Wessex, 1999
  • The Duchess of Cornwall, 2005
  • The Duchess of Cambridge, 2011
  • The Duchess of Sussex, 2018
  • Princess Eugenie, 2018
  • Princess Beatrice, 2020

During the ceremony this week, Her Majesty also joined the Dean of Westminster in prayers and a moment of reflection after the bouquet was laid on the grave, before The Queen’s Piper played a lament, The Flowers of the Forest.

The grave of the Unknown Warrior is the final resting place of an unidentified British serviceman who died on the battlefields during the First World War. The serviceman’s body was brought from Northern France and buried at Westminster Abbey on 11th November 1920 after a procession through Whitehall. 

The Queen’s grandfather, King George V, placed a wreath on the coffin at the Cenotaph, which was unveiled on the processional route. 

His Majesty later dropped a handful of earth from France onto the serviceman’s coffin as it was lowered into the grave at the Abbey. 

He was joined at the burial by his son, the future King George VI.

The Unknown Warrior became an important symbol of mourning for bereaved families, representing all those who lost their lives in the First World War but whose place of death was not known, or whose bodies remained unidentified. It remains a solemn tribute to all service personnel who have lost their lives in combat. 

The Queen was photographed leaving Windsor Castle on Wednesday before returning two hours later, where it is understood she is now self-isolating with husband Prince Philip, 99.

She looked sombre in a black ensemble, typically only worn while in mourning, attending a funeral, or for Remembrance Day and Remembrance Sunday services. 

The Court Circular for November 4 reads: ‘The Queen this morning commemorated the Centenary of the burial of the Unknown Warrior at Westminster Abbey, London SW1, and was received at the Great West Door by the Dean of Westminster (the Very Reverend Dr David Hoyle).’ 

The Queen

The Queen's Equerry, Lieutenant Colonel Nana Kofi Twumasi-Ankrah

Tribute: The Queen pays tribute to the Unknown Warrior while her Equerry, Lieutenant Colonel Nana Kofi Twumasi-Ankrah, carries a bouquet of flowers to place at his grave

Tribute: The Unknown Soldier was buried at Westminster Abbey on 11 November 1920 but lockdown restrictions mean commemorations had to take place in advance. File image

Tribute: The Unknown Soldier was buried at Westminster Abbey on 11 November 1920 but lockdown restrictions mean commemorations had to take place in advance. File image

The Queen's Piper plays during a ceremony in London's Westminster Abbey attended by the Queen last week

The Queen’s Piper plays during a ceremony in London’s Westminster Abbey attended by the Queen last week

Royal commemorations: The Duchess of Cornwall also carried out an engagement at Westminster Abbey yesterday, standing in for Prince Harry to visit the Field of Remembrance

Royal commemorations: The Duchess of Cornwall also carried out an engagement at Westminster Abbey yesterday, standing in for Prince Harry to visit the Field of Remembrance 

Sporting a poppy facemask,  Camilla, 73, honoured the servicemen and women who sacrificed their lives for their country and stood in solemn silence as the Last Post was played

Sporting a poppy facemask,  Camilla, 73, honoured the servicemen and women who sacrificed their lives for their country and stood in solemn silence as the Last Post was played

This tradition was first completed by the Queen Mother when she married King George VI in 1923. Pictured is Princess Beatrice's wedding bouquet on the grave earlier this year

This tradition was first completed by the Queen Mother when she married King George VI in 1923. Pictured is Princess Beatrice’s wedding bouquet on the grave earlier this year

King George V paying his tribute to the Unknown Warrior as he placed a wreath on the coffin, mounted on a gun carriage, at the Cenotaph in London's Whitehall in 1920

King George V paying his tribute to the Unknown Warrior as he placed a wreath on the coffin, mounted on a gun carriage, at the Cenotaph in London’s Whitehall in 1920

The Unknown Warrior's coffin resting in Westminster Abbey, in London, before the burial ceremony in 1920

The Unknown Warrior’s coffin resting in Westminster Abbey, in London, before the burial ceremony in 1920

The Queen has carried out only a handful of engagements since March and is expected to keep a low profile over the next month as she and the Duke of Edinburgh, 99, spend lockdown together at Windsor Castle.  

The Duchess of Cornwall also carried out an engagement at Westminster Abbey yesterday, standing in for Prince Harry to visit the Field of Remembrance.

She then stood in front of crosses from the Graves of the Unknown as the Dean offered prayers, before solemnly laying her own cross of remembrance and bowing her head in reflection.

A bugler played the Last Post, followed by a two-minute silence, and then Exhortation to Remembrance, as Big Ben chimed at 2pm.

 Afterwards the duchess toured the 308 plots filled with more than 60,000 crosses and symbols of all faiths, laid by staff and volunteers, with Surgeon Rear Admiral Lionel Jarvis, President of The Poppy Factory.

Remembrance Sunday services, which are traditionally part of communal worship, cannot go ahead as planned on November 8 due to lockdown restrictions 

However, rather than being banned entirely the Government has set out a series of guidelines for local authorities and faith leaders hoping to hold the services.  

The coffin was laid in the ancient abbey ahead of its burial, two years after the end of the First World War

The coffin was laid in the ancient abbey ahead of its burial, two years after the end of the First World War

The burial ceremony of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey was attended by prominent politicians and members of the public

The burial ceremony of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey was attended by prominent politicians and members of the public

The warrior's coffin was carried into the Abbey by soldiers who were flanked by fellow military personnel ahead of the burial ceremony

The warrior’s coffin was carried into the Abbey by soldiers who were flanked by fellow military personnel ahead of the burial ceremony 

In 1981, the Princess of Wales's bridal bouquet was laid on to the grave of the Unknown warrior after her wedding to Prince Charles

In 1981, the Princess of Wales’s bridal bouquet was laid on to the grave of the Unknown warrior after her wedding to Prince Charles



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Google, NFL latest to call for Juneteenth commemorations



A 3D printed Google logo is seen in this illustration taken April 12, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

June 16, 2020

By Arriana McLymore

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Google and the National Football League have joined a growing list of U.S. private sector organizations choosing to commemorate June 19th, the date marking the emancipation of the last remaining slaves at the end of the U.S. Civil War.

Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc, has instructed employees to cancel unnecessary meetings on “Juneteenth,” according to a staff memo seen by Reuters. Meanwhile, the NFL has decided to recognize the date as a league holiday and will close the league office.

The date is celebrated as African Americans’ Independence Day, and this year marks the 155th anniversary of the end of slavery in the United States in 1865.

Google and the NFL are the latest high-profile names from the private sector to recognize Juneteenth amid a nationwide outcry over racism in the United States sparked by the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis. Others include Nike Inc, Vox Media, The New York Times and several tech-sector heavyweights such as Twitter Inc.

“We encourage all Googlers to use this day to create space for learning and reflection, so please don’t schedule any unnecessary meetings,” the Google memo said. “Now, more than ever, it’s important for us to find moments of connection as a community.”

Google confirmed the memo, sent late Thursday. The memo applies only to Google staff, not everyone in the wider Alphabet organization.

A spokesperson for the NFL confirmed that the company would recognize Juneteenth as a company holiday and that league offices would be closed.

Google told Reuters it recognized Juneteenth is an important day, but rather than making it a holiday it wanted to give workers the space to use the day mindfully, including if they choose by watching a conversation the company’s diversity team will host with musician Alicia Keys. The company said it expected it to be a quiet day, noting several meetings had come off calendars after the memo.

Google stopped short of making Juneteenth a full company holiday, unlike Silicon Valley peers Twitter, Lyft Inc, and Square Inc, which each announced the new policies this week.

Sources inside Google, who were not authorized to speak to the media, said all their meetings have been canceled and some employees who wanted the day off have been told they can use sick days rather than vacation days.

Google last year drew criticism from users for not honoring Juneteenth with a “doodle,” or an altered version of the company’s homepage logo, after artist Davian Chester offered a suggestion that went viral on social media of black hands breaking apart handcuffs.

Chester said this week that he has not heard in recent days from Google, which commemorates many other holidays and anniversaries around the world with a special logo. “I believe they still aren’t going to do anything for Juneteenth but we will see,” Chester said. Google didn’t have immediate comment.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s memo said he would like staff to “reflect on our past but, more importantly, consider how each one of us can continue to show up and band together to work toward a better future.”

Goodell said the historical event “weighs even more heavily today in the current climate.”

(Reporting by Arriana McLymore in Raleigh, North Carolina, Imani Moise in New York and Paresh Dave in Oakland, California; Editing by Daniel Wallis)





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VE Day 2020 commemorations another casualty of COVID-19


Victory in Europe Day commemorations of the defeat of Nazi Germany were subdued this year due to the ongoing war with COVID-19, writes history editor Dr Glenn Davies.

ON 16/5/1945, my great uncle Private Donald Davies was officially declared in his Australian war record, a ‘Recovered POW’. As a prisoner of war for four years in total – first in Campo 57 in Italy and later the notorious Stalag-344 near Lamsdorf, Germany – he experienced the ultimate “lockdown”.

VE Day 2020 commemorations of the defeat of the Nazis in Europe have been largely muted due to the devastation across Europe brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Seventy-five years ago, Europe was coming out of lockdown after Victory in Europe was declared on 8/5/1945. After nearly six years, the war in Europe was finally over. As nations around the world are currently struggling to develop the road out of COVID-19 lockdown, it is worth reflecting on the road out of POW lockdown for one ordinary Australian soldier 75 years ago.

Following the outbreak of World War II on 3/9/1939, the Australian Government announced the decision to raise the Second Australian Imperial Force for overseas service.

The 2/15th Battalion was an Australian Infantry Battalion that consisted predominately of rural workers from central-western Queensland, drawn from 11th Brigade Citizens Military Force (CMF) — 26th Battalion (Longreach, Hughenden and Cloncurry), 31st Battalion (Townsville region) and 42nd Battalion (Capricornia).

John Mackenzie-Smith documents:

‘They were scarcely trained and severely deprived of arms which consisted of antiquated .303 Enfield rifles and bayonets, one Tommy gun, one clapped-out 2 inch mortar, one Bren gun and probably grenades.’

My great uncle Donald Walter Davies was a single labourer who enlisted in the 2/15th Australian Infantry Battalion, 9th Division on 1/6/1940 in Cairns, North Queensland. He was 21 years and 2 months old.

By 7/6/1940 he was undertaking basic training at Redbank, Brisbane. On 26/12/1940, Private Davies embarked from Sydney arriving in the Middle East on 3/2/1941. He was not to return to Australia until 8/8/1945. He was to be enlisted for 1,956 days, which included 61 days of active service in Australia and 1,687 days in active service overseas.

The Italian Army had occupied the North African port of Tobruk until its capture by Commonwealth forces in early January 1941. The Italians were driven back across Libya, where the Australian 6th Division captured Bardia, Tobruk and Benghazi. More than 130,000 demoralised Italian troops surrendered.

As the Italian Army collapsed in North Africa in January 1941, Hitler was forced to intervene. In February 1941 General Erwin Rommel and his Afrika Korps arrived in North Africa to support the Italians.

Rommel was a remarkable and brilliant commander. The British advance had continued until Rommel’s counteroffensive on 31st March drove the British and Commonwealth troops back to the borders of Egypt — although a defiant force of 14,000 Australian troops, as well as a smaller number of British troops, held the port of Tobruk against the Germans in a siege that lasted for eight months.

The Australian 9th Division – recently called to the front from Palestine – was ordered to move to Tobruk from its position in Derna to the west. By dawn on 7/4/1941, most of the 9th Division was east of Derna.

During breakfast, the 2/15th Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel R.F. Marlan – along with his headquarters staff and part of the 8th Light Anti-aircraft Battery – had been surprised by a company of German panzers. After a short sharp fight, nine officers and 215 men from the 2/15th became the latest prisoners of the Third Reich. It is most likely one of these was Private Donald Davies.

Private Donald Davies’ official war record states he was reported ‘Missing in Action. Believed POW’ on 13/4/1941. He was believed to have been captured at Derna on 7/4/1941. It was not until 10/7/1941 that there was official confirmation that he was a “prisoner of war”, or POW. This captivity was to last a little over four years. His was to be a long war.

The first evidence of where Private Donald Davies was being held captive was a letter written in January 1942 from Campo 57 to his mother in North Queensland.

In this first letter, he refers to Audrey – who he would marry after the war – and Nell, his sister. He talks of not yet receiving any parcels from home but tries to keep in the letter a hopeful tone. This would have been his first white winter — as a North Queensland boy he would never have experienced the cold from snow before.

On 31/1/1942 Private Donald Davies wrote:

Dear Mother

There is still very little I can say in a letter but here goes to do the best I can. Up to the time of writing I have not received any parcel but am still hoping. I have had one letter from Audrey and one [?] message. Twice this week it has snowed in noticeable quantities. I have only had one message from Nell. I can’t write to everyone as I only get paper for one letter per week and it is better for one to get all and pass the news on. Then I love to write occasionally to Audrey. Then to add to my tale of woe I have a very bad cold which makes things pretty bad but still I’ll see it out as I fail to see how this can go much longer. Well this is about all so I must close with

Love

Don

The first mention in Private Donald Davies’ war record on his location as a POW is on 2/9/1943 as being held in Italian Internment Camp 57. Australian POWs who were not officers were held in Campo 57, at Gruppignano near Udine in north-east Italy. The camp was commanded by the very harsh Colonel Vittorio Calcaterra. This Italian officer died before he was able to be charged with war crimes.

The main entrance, Grupignano, Italy (Photo via Australian War Museum)
In the second letter to his mother, Donald again refers to not receiving any packages from home. However, he does receive regular food parcels from the Red Cross. This letter also has been censored with 2-3 lines blacked out. The context of the letter suggests it was a critical comment about the Italian authorities holding up Red Cross parcel deliveries.

On 22/2/1942 Private Donald Davies wrote:

Dear Mum

Just the usual note to show the usual. I am as usual quite well. I have not received any parcel from you yet. The worst of the winter is now over and I think I have weathered it quite well. The chilblains are a bit painful though. I had my first letter from Nell this morning. It has taken a long while to reach me being several months old. Wrote to Agnes last week. I only remember one girl of that name and believe me she is easy on the eyes. Yes we get a parcel of food from the Red Cross weekly. Theoretically that is. Sometimes owing to a hitch somewhere or other they don’t turn up. [Black censored 2-3 lines] This is about the lot so I’ll say cheerio.

Love

Don

In the third letter to his mother, he discusses social activity at Campo 57 and some of his health problems. Food was poor in the Italian internment camps and housing was crowded and unsanitary. Although there is a reference to a dentist in the letter, the prisoners usually had to improvise their own medical treatment to cope with both pneumonia and kidney disease. There is a sense of his growing depression and frustration at the lack of contact with family and the outside world.

On 19/5/1943 Private Donald Davies wrote:

Dear Mum

Things have all quite a lot improved recently. Since I last wrote you I have had a slight attack of dysentery. Nothing to worry over though and I am as well as ever again. Also I am having a spot of trouble with my teeth. The dentist says that most of it is due to that fracture I had at college. I am not getting very much mail these days but I am glad of what little I do get. I have taken on the boxing again. I have a chap teaching me who has been in with most of the good men at home. My boxing sense is as good as ever but I am fearfully slow with my hands. That can be easily rectified though. Since my capture I have had two letters from Nell. Not a bad average is it. I am getting a little tired of writing and getting no reply. You might mention it to her next time you write. This is all for this time so will close with kind regards to all.

All love

Don

The final surviving piece of correspondence is a postcard to his sister-in-law, Ann. Although it is brief, the message suggests that parcels and messages from family were now getting through to the POWs in Italy.

On 5/7/1943 Private Donald Davies wrote:

My Dear Ann

Had a letter from you a while back. Thanks for the card of the kid. He sure is a fine boy. Had a parcel from Mum dated 4th January. Am doing quite well at present.

See you soon

Love

Don

Postcard to A. Davies sent from Campo 57 (Postcard supplied)

When Italy capitulated in 1943, all POWs in Italian hands were transferred to German control. POWs were held in over 40 major camps all over Germany, from Lithuania to the Rhine. About 8,600 Australians became prisoners of the Germans. They included 7,115 Australian soldiers captured in North Africa or Greece.

Private Donald Davies’ official war record reports on 10/5/1944 that he was interned as a POW in Stalag-344 at Lamsdorf, Germany. While officers and other ranks were rarely separated into different camps in Japanese captivity, in the German case this was the rule: officers went to oflags and all other ranks to stalags.

Private Donald Davies from North Queensland had a long war comprised of eight weeks and four days active duty in North Africa followed by over four years in Italian and German POW camps. In January 1945, the Soviet armies advanced into Germany and reached Stalag-344 on 17/3/1945. What came next in the chain of events at this time for him is unknown, except that by 27/5/1945 he was back in the United Kingdom.

It states in his war record that Private Donald Davies was officially declared a ‘Recovered POW’ on 16/5/1945 – eight days after VE Day on 8/5/1945. He spent time in England where a photograph of him in Scottish dress was taken on 28/5/1945.

Private Donald Davies in Scottish regalia (Photo supplied)

However, on 4/7/1945 he embarked from the United Kingdom for Sydney arriving on 2/8/1945. On 8/10/1945, Private Donald Davies was discharged from the 9th Division. He went on to have a long and successful life.

It is worth spending a moment and reflecting on the World War II service of one ordinary Australian soldier and his long road out of POW lockdown.

You can follow history editor Dr Glenn Davies Glenn on Twitter @DrGlennDavies.

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