The Queen laid a wreath at the Cenotaph on London's Whitehall on behalf of the nation in the main ceremony. The 88-year-old monarch, dressed in black relieved only by a spray of poppies, stepped carefully back down the shallow steps and bowed respectfully before turning to make way for the principal male members of the royal family, all of whom have served in the armed forces, to lay their wreaths. Her 93-year-old husband Prince Philip was the first, followed by their three sons and grandson the Duke of Cambridge.

For the first time there was a burst of applause for the Queen as the ceremony closed - acknowledgement of her courage in the wake of last week's arrests of four men on suspicion of involvement in preparing or instigating acts of terrorism. Police did not reveal specific targets of the plot, which was thought to be inspired by Islamic State.

Held on the closest Sunday possible to November 11, 1918 – the day World War I ended – to commemorate the contribution of British and Commonwealth military and civilian servicemen and women in the two World Wars and later conflicts, Remembrance Sunday is a poignant blend of sorrow, respect and admiration.

Yet it's not a sad day.

Not so long ago, children asking about the First and Second World Wars received sparse answers from parents and grandparents for whom it was too close, or simply not a subject for conversation.

Now, with the world more torn by war than ever, there seems to be a more open understanding: there was a palpable air of camaraderie as families and veterans of all ages filled the carriages of London's Underground early on Sunday morning to visit the commemorative ceramic poppy installation at Tower Hill whose excruciatingly beautiful representation of the cost of war continues to draw millions.

Two young boys stood to offer their seats as a group of sprightly elderly men wearing medals got on, joking amongst themselves. Their father, wearing a Help for Heroes T-shirt, rolled his eyes as one of the boys asked if the older men had fought in World War I. "I know we look 120 to you, but no, lad, we didn't," came the laughing answer.

Ceramic artist Paul Cummins' artwork at the Tower of London features 888,246 artificial poppies - each one representing a British or Commonwealth soldier's life lost in World War I. (Photo: VoR)