LONDON (AP) — The U.K fell silent for two minutes on Remembrance Sunday as King Charles III led the nation in honoring servicemen and women who lost their lives in past conflicts.

Big Ben chimed 11 times to mark the start of the silence as thousands of veterans, including some who had served during the World War II looked on solemnly under gray London skies.

Their number gets fewer each year – adding poignancy to the appearance of Charles, leading the ceremony for the first time since the death of his mother Queen Elizabeth II in September. She had served as a mechanic and truck driver during the last months of World War II, and continued to join the annual commemoration in London well into her 90s.

The veterans, with brightly shined shoes and medals gleaming on their lapels, watched Charles lay a newly designed wreath of poppies at the foot of the Cenotaph, London’s war memorial. Other royals, including the Prince of Wales and the Earl of Wessex, as well as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the leader of the opposition also laid wreaths.

Many thousands thronged the streets of London to watch the occasion and join in the silence, though they applauded when 10,000 veterans later marched past.

Remembrance Sunday is marked every year in the U.K. on the closest Sunday to Armistice Day on Nov. 11 with the wearing of poppies and a national two-minute silence observed at 11 a.m. It marks the moment the guns fell silent in 1918 at the end of World War I.

Officials said this year’s service is dedicated both to fallen soldiers in wars past and to Ukrainians fighting against Russia’s invasion.

“We must never forget those who gave their lives in defense of our values and our great nation,” said Defense Secretary Ben Wallace. “All of us will also be thinking of those brave Ukrainians who are fighting for their very own survival to defend freedom and democracy for all, just as the U.K. and Commonwealth soldiers did in both world wars.”