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Queen, Howard honor war dead

Australia's Howard jointly unveiled the memorial with the queen.
Australia's Howard jointly unveiled the memorial with the queen.

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LONDON, England -- Queen Elizabeth II has marked Armistice Day by honoring the tens of thousands Australian troops who died fighting alongside the British in two world wars.

With Australia's Prime Minister John Howard, she unveiled an Australian War Memorial at London's Hyde Park Corner commemorating the 102,000 Australians who gave their lives in World War I and World War II.

As Big Ben struck at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month -- when 85 years ago the guns fell silent ending World War I -- the queen, with the Duke of Edinburgh, led Britain in two minutes' silence.

The dedication ceremony was followed by addresses from the queen and Howard. UK Prime Minister Tony Blair then gave his own address before prayers of dedication.

The silent tribute was ended by an RAF flypast of Jaguars from 57 Squadron which thundered overhead but was obscured by low cloud.

The queen, in her capacity as head of state, said Australians had stood side-by-side with the British during two of the ugliest wars in history.

"The forces of aggression were defeated but the cost in human lives and misery was enormous," she said.

Blair said the bond between the two countries remained as strong as ever, with military forces continuing to work together. They are both currently trying to stabilize and rebuild Iraq.

"The Australian forces served with remarkable honour and exemplary bravery," he said.

Howard said his country was tied to Britain by victory, an enduring belief in human dignity and democracy.

"Armies no longer march across borders," he added. "In this new century aggression was finding its form in attacks of indiscriminate terrorism inspired by distorted faith."

The green-grey granite memorial, fashioned from stone quarried in Western Australia, takes the form of a curved wall bearing the battle names and about 24,000 cities, hometowns and suburbs from which the Australian servicemen and women came.

Also attending were a group of 28 Australian veterans and war widows, members of the British Legion, a contingent of British veterans as well as members of the public.

Joining a crowd of about 3,000 at today's dedication were a group of 28 World War II veterans who made the trip from Australia to honour friends unable to come.

The project cost the Australian government $A9 million and followed Westminster Council's instructions not to include statues of soldiers.

Wreaths were be laid by dignitaries including the leader of the Australian opposition Simon Crean, Chief of the Australian Defence Force General Peter Cosgrove and Chief of the UK Defence Staff, General Michael Walker.

The service ended with an Ode of Remembrance and the Last Post was played, followed by another minutes' silence and the playing of the British and Australian national anthems.


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