THOUSANDS of people gathered around Gwent yesterday to honour those who gave their lives for Queen and country. Mike Buckingham, Ben Frampton and Alison Sanders report.

THE words of the hymn carried on the chill November breeze could not have been more to the point “The love that never falters, the love that pays the price.

The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice”.

It was neither the time nor place to debate the whys and wherefore of the Afghanistan campaign but rather to pay our respects to those who fulfilled in blood their part of the military covenant.

That much could be taken for granted although there was something else as intangible as the wind which stirred the paraded standards.

For the first time since the guns fell silent in 1918 there was no living witness anywhere in the world to the fighting on the Western Front 91 years ago, the last survivor Mr Harry Patch having died this year at the age of 111.

As each years passes fewer survivors of the more recent world war stand proudly in front of the Newport Cenotaph, the youngest now in his early 80s yet still they parade, joined by comrades of more recent conflicts from Korea and Suez and the canal zone, Malaya and Aden, Northern Ireland and the Falklands to Iraq.

Most of the veterans on parade had been members of the British Army - illustrious regiments and corps including the South Wales Borderers and the Royal Regiment of Wales, the Royal Artillery, Royal Engineers, the Guards and the Parachute Regiment.

No less proud were former RAF men, Royal Navy veterans including those who had served on the Arctic convoys and the Queen Alexandra Royal Army Nursing Corps.

The standards at the head of the parade as it made its way from the High Street, across Town Bridge led by the Pipes and Drums of the City of Newport were those of the Royal Naval Association, the Airborne Forces, the Royal Artillery Association, the Royal Welsh, the Newport Branch of the Royal British Legion and the Air Training Corps.

As protocol demands, the armed services contingent was led by the senior service, Newport's twinned ship HMS Severn being represented.

The Army was represented by men of Newport-based 104 Regiment Royal Artillery whose guns signalled the beginning of the traditional two minute silence and its end.

As the guns boomed out on the stroke of 11 the marching parties snapped to attention.

In those two minutes lay the very heart of the ceremony as those paraded and onlookers thought of the men and women who across the span of the 20th century, laid down their lives for their country.

Anyone believing that the duty of remembrance was lost on the young would have been pleasantly surprised to see the number of young people on parade.

As each veteran of World War Two through frailty or death falls out so it seems a cadet or Guide or Scout takes his place.

Crisply smart in their naval 'square rig' the cadets of Training Ship Resolute and 'fore and aft' were joined by Army cadets and members of the Air Training Corps.

The very large Scout and Guide contingent included Newport Scout Fellowship, the 11th Newport Guides, 7th, 13th, 23rd, 24th, 25th and 26th Newport Scouts and Cubs, 1st Llanmartin, 1st Wentwood together with Explorer Scouts and members of the Girls' Brigade and Boys' Brigade.

At the Cenotaph the remembrance service was conducted by the Right Rev. Dominic Walker, the Bishop of Monmouth who was assisted by the Mayor's chaplain Canon Henry Davies.

The Kohima Epitaph was given by Lieutenant-Colonel Spike Butcher, commanding officer 104 Regiment.

Prayers for the Royal Navy were said by a Sea Cadet, those for the land forces by an Army Cadet and the most lyrical of all for the Royal Air Force – “Almighty God, who makest the clouds thy chariot and walkest upon the wings of the storm'” by an Air Cadet.

With God Save the Queen and Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau the black-beribboned standards were lowered for the last time.

By the time the column had formed up to for the march past and salute taken by the Lord Lieutenant Simon Boyle and Councillor Glyn Jarvis, mayor of Newport, the base of the Cenotaph was a mass of scarlet poppies, wreaths having been laid on behalf of all service units and the City of Newport, by MPs Mr Paul Flynn and Miss Jessica Morden and AMs, representatives of the police, fire and rescue and ambulance services, regimental and service associations, the crew of HMS Severn, the Merchant Navy, the Salvation Army, Royal Air Force Associations, the Royal British Legion, the Army Cadet Force, the Air Training Corps, Sea Cadets, St John Ambulance Brigade, Scouts and Guides, Lions and Rotary Clubs.

The beautiful simplicity of the hymn “I Vow to Thee my Country” was for many given added poignance by the inclusion of its second verse: "We stand today in memory of those who stood and fell Defending all that's righteous that we in peace might dwell These, the friends of blessed nation, these children of our land Who gave their tomorrows that we, today, might stand.”

AROUND 200 people gathered around Pontypool Park Memorial Gates for one of several remembrance services held in Torfaen yesterday.

A parade left the riverside car park in the town just before 12pm and included members of the Royal British Legion, the Royal Welsh Veterans Association, Torfaen ex-service men and women association, Gwent Army Cadets, fourth Gwent Boys Brigade and Pontypool and Trevethin Guides and Brownies.

The service paid tribute to those killed in warfare including Kyle Adams from Croesyceiliog and James Prosser from Coed Eva, who were recently killed whilst fighting in Afghanistan.

The service was led by the rector of Pontypool and chaplain to the Royal British Legion, Reverend Canon Brian Pippen.

Music was provided by Blaenavon town band and Pontypool brass band and bugler Elizabeth Stanley played The Last Post.

The hymn “O God our help in ages past” was sung and wreaths were laid by the mayor of Torfaen Bob Jones, MP Paul Murphy, AM Lynne Neagle and various organisations.

A wreath was also laid at 1pm at the park gates at the Pontymoile entrance to the park.

HUNDREDS of people gathered in Blaina's central park to greet the procession of the Nantyglo and Blaina branches of the Royal British Legion.

People marched from Garn Road to the war memorial where around 250 people were gathered.

Wreaths were laid from a number of organisations, including Blaenau Gwent council, South Wales Fire and Rescue service and the police.

Hymns were sung and a two minute silence was held before the march was taken through the streets of Blaina, bringing people out from their homes.

Standard-bearer and member of the Blaina British Legion, Alan Stokes, 71, said: "It was a lovely service, helping keep the memory alive and collecting money for a very good cause. It was very good to see young people here as well and it seems to get stronger every year."

IN Chepstow the family of the late William Charles Williams VC placed a wreath next to the gun in the town centre.

The gun was given to Chepstow by King George V after WW1 in recognition of the bravery of Mr Williams at Gallipoli in 1915 when he held the lighters in place until he was killed by enemy fire, for the troops to disembark from the SS River Clyde.

He was awarded the VC for his bravery that day.

Yesterday his great niece Sharon Putwain and nieces Jackie Avery and Carol Dutson remembered his sacrifice.

Hundreds of people also turned out to take part and pay their respects in the annual parade through the town.