THE mood in St Paul's Cathedral was not triumphal. Hundreds of
immaculately uniformed soldiers, sailors, and airmen and -women,
and relatives of the injured and the dead, sat quietly, together
with assorted dignitaries, as sombre organ music rumbled around
They were there, on a crisp Friday morning, to commemorate the
13-year-war in Afghanistan, and to remember what the conflict had
The Archbishop of Canterbury spoke of the "faithfulness" of
those who had fought in Afghanistan, echoing the prophet Jeremiah
in the book of Lamentations.
"As our nation honours at this service all of you who have
served in Afghanistan. . . I ask you to hear those same words
today, reverberating around our land: great is your faithfulness,"
"We thank you for your faithfulness: you who left family behind
. . . you who did not turn from danger, you who suffered injury,
and you who risked yourselves to care for the injured. Great is
"We also thank those of you who stayed behind, who let your
loved ones go. . . Great is your faithfulness."
The Chaplain General, the Revd Dr David Coulter, explained how
soldiers at Camp Bastion had fashioned a cross out of concrete and
brass shell cartridges as an impromptu memorial to fallen comrades.
"Services at this memorial were always poignant, tender, and raw,"
The same cross was laid on the altar of St Paul's and dedicated
by Archbishop Welby. It will eventually be taken to the National
Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. Military chaplains and members
of each branch of the armed forces then said prayers for those who
died, their families, civilians caught up in war, and for the
"healing of the nations".
The Prime Minister and other leading politicians sat in the
front row, alongside the Queen and the rest of the Royal Family.
Close by sat Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, and Sikh
representatives, who all later joined the Bishop of London, the Rt
Revd Richard Chartres, in making an "act of commitment to the
After Archbishop Welby prayed a blessing and the National Anthem
was sung, the audience slowly filed outside the cathedral to watch
a parade of Forces personnel through the streets of the City of
London. Crowds of passers-by filled the pavements and spontaneous
applause broke out as the ranks of uniformed soldiers marched
A handful of helicopters and aircraft that had flown in Afghan
skies during the campaign then flashed past over the dome of St
Dave Hart, who was injured while on service in Afghanistan, told
the BBC that the event was for all of those who had died: "I think
today really is primarily, for me, about the comrades who didn't
"And those who have come back with injuries - be they physical
or mental - and also for their families. It does feel like a
closing of a chapter really."
The father of one soldier who was killed, and posthumously
awarded the Victoria Cross, Duane Ashworth, said that Afghanistan
had benefited from British soldiers' sacrifices. "It's now for the
forces that are there to continue that training with the Afghan
forces and police, to make sure what our lads did does
Some UK soldiers are still in Afghanistan, training and advising
the Afghan army, and a service was held for them at the same time
at the Afghan National Officers' Academy. Military bases across
Britain and in Germany have also held reflections and
Earlier in the day, the President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani,
paid tribute to the 453 British troops who had lost their lives in
Afghanistan. He said that they had "paid the ultimate sacrifice to
enable us to live in freedom, in hope for peace, prosperity and