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Nations around world honor war dead

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Nations honor those who sacrificed their lives in wars on Wednesday
  • In many cases services took place for first time without any surviving veterans of World War I
  • Services mark 91st anniversary of armistice signed between Germany and Allies on November 11, 1918

(CNN) -- Nations honored those who sacrificed their lives in wars on Wednesday, in many cases for the first time without any surviving veterans of World War I.

Services took place around the world to mark the 91st anniversary of the armistice signed between Germany and the Allies on November 11, 1918.

Depending on where it is celebrated, the day is alternatively known as Armistice Day, Remembrance Day, Poppy Day or Veterans Day.

In Britain, Queen Elizabeth led Remembrance Day ceremonies in Westminster Abbey, a service also attended by Prime Minister Gordon Brown and other senior politicians and military leaders.

The day has special resonance because the last remaining veterans, William Stone, Henry Allingham and Harry Patch, all died this year.

The dignitaries joined people around the country in observing the traditional two-minute silence.

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The Very Rev. Dr. John Hall, dean of Westminster, began the service by talking about the moment when the guns fell silent in Europe 91 years ago.

"We remember, with grief, the gas and the mud, the barbed wire, the bombardment, the terror, the telegram; and, with gratitude, the courage and sacrifice. Never again, they said; the war to end all wars. With resolution we remember," Hall said.

In Paris, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel held a ceremony under the Arc de Triomphe.

Australians observed one minute silence at 11 a.m., in memory of those who died or suffered in all of the nation's wars and armed conflicts.

"Their loss is a reminder that there is nothing glorious about war. Those called upon to fight know that better than anyone," Gen. Peter Cosgrove, chairman of the Council of the Australian War Memorial, said Wednesday.

"But they also know that, when all else fails, it is necessary to fight against the tyrannies that threaten liberty. That cause transcends the ages, and it is a noble one."

U.S. military forces, especially those in Iraq and Afghanistan, also were to observe Veterans Day, keenly aware of the costs of war.

In the United States, the sacrifices of the military in the raging war in Afghanistan and the winding-down war in Iraq stand front and center in the nation's consciousness.

President Barack Obama paid tribute Wednesday to those who have lost their lives in the nation's wars, as well as to the men and women who currently serve.

"There's no tribute, no commemoration, no praise that can truly match the magnitude of your service and your sacrifice," he said in a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, on a rainy, overcast Veterans Day.

Earlier, the president had laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

Millions were killed in World War I, which lasted from 1914 to 1918. France, Britain and the United States defeated Germany and its allies, such as Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire.