The Festival of Remembrance, held in honour of those who have given their lives in the service of their country, has been marked at the Royal Albert Hall annually since 1923.

The Festival has been broadcast on BBC radio since 1927, and has become a popular televised event on BBC One each year.

A Cenotaph In Sound

The very first ‘Festival of Remembrance’ was called In Memory 1914-1918 – A Cenotaph In Sound, in aid of The British Legion, Field Marshal Earl Haig’s Appeal for Ex-Service Men of all Ranks, and was held on 11 November 1923. A royal delegate including HRH The Prince of Wales was in attendance to hear John Foulds’ new composition, A World Requiem: A Cenotaph in Sound, performed by a chorus and orchestra.

alt text)
In Memory 1914-1918 – A Cenotaph In Sound, in aid of The British Legion, Field Marshal Earl Haig’s Appeal for Ex-Service Men of all Ranks, 1923

Foulds’ World Requiem was was performed at each successive annual concert until 1926, advertised as ‘a festival of faith, not of victory’.

alt text)
Remembrance Festival, 1928

Remembrance Festival

In 1927 the concert was simply renamed the ‘Remembrance Festival’ and featured community songs including Pack up Your Troubles, Take Me Back to Dear Old Blighty, and Tipperary. The event ended with a service that has now become familiar, featuring The Last Post and ending in God Save the King/Queen.

jpg(alt text)
The British Legion’s Festival of Remembrance, 1937

British Legion Festival of Remembrance

Our Patron the Her Majesty the Queen made her first visit to the Hall aged 26, following her accession to the throne, on 8 November 1952 for the British Legion Festival of Remembrance. Her Majesty the Queen regularly attends this annual national event, for which, as for every visit of a monarch, the ceremonial ‘hammercloth’ is draped on the front of the Royal Box.

alt text)
Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance, 2007 ©Chris Christodoulou

Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance

It was not until 1971 that the British Legion were permitted to use the prefix ‘royal’, following a Royal Charter bestowed to the organisation on 29 May 1971. The festival was promptly renamed Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance, which it has proudly held every year since.

Although the festival was originally only intended to honour those who died in the First World War, it now includes tributes to the war dead from more recent conflicts.

alt text)
Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance, 2006 ©Chris Christodoulou

The event features performances by various arms from all three military services – displays known as continuity drills which included complex marching drills, weapons manoeuvres, music and performances.

alt text)
Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance, 2014 ©Chris Christodoulou

alt text)
Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance, 2008 ©Chris Christodoulou

alt text)
Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance, 2009 ©Chris Christodoulou

Over the decades the Festival has featured world-famous guest singers and performers including Alfie Boe, Katie Melua, Katherine Jenkins, Russell Watson, Rod Stewart, The Military Wives, Sir Cliff Richard, Brian May, Will Young and Bryn Terfel.

alt text)
Katherine Jenkins at Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance, 2008 ©Chris Christodoulou

alt text)
The Military Wives at Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance, 2011 ©Chris Christodoulou

The Festival culminates with a parade of servicemen and women, alongside representatives from youth uniformed organizations and uniformed public security services of the City of London, down the aisles and onto the floor of the Hall. There is a release of poppy petals from the roof and a two minute silence to commemorate and honour all those who have lost their lives in conflicts.

alt text)
Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance, 2008 ©Chris Christodoulou