13 May 2015
Cadet SSgt Charlotte Connor (17), from Cleveland ACF’s Burlam Road Detachment, had the honour of reading out a prayer in a special service of thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey marking the culmination of the UK's VE Day commemorations.
The Queen joined around 1,000 veterans and their families at the service which was led by the Dean of Westminster. Others attending included the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales, Prime Minister David Cameron and representatives of the Allied nations and Commonwealth countries that fought alongside Britain.
During the service cadets read prayers which had been said in Westminster Abbey during the hourly services on VE Day in 1945. Charlotte was the only ACF cadet to attend the event and was put forward as a “good candidate with a good public speaking record”.
(Highlights of the service are available on YouTube with Charlotte's reading at 2 minutes 18 seconds in.)
As well as meeting the Queen and Prime Minister David Cameron, the 17-year-old was able to speak to many of the veterans involved and listen to their tales.
Charlotte, who is studying A Levels in psychology, sociology and maths at Macmillan Sixth Form College commented: “It was just incredible, surreal really,” adding: “It was scary when I read out the prayer, I was shaking. When I met the veterans, we heard a few stories. One became a dressmaker for the Queen.”
Charlotte is pictured with her brother Ashley and PM David Cameron
BBC royal correspondent Daniela Relph commented: “The theme of the service was thanksgiving for reconciliation and unity as well as prayers for peace…
“Veterans and young military cadets delivered many of the readings and prayers. It was striking to hear the voices of those who had seen and heard so much during World War Two followed by the crisp, optimism of those who hope they will never have to experience anything like it.”