He was 3ft tall in his shiny black shoes and he wore his great-uncle’s medals with pride as he stood to attention in the rain.
Jonny Osborne, seven, symbolised the face of a new generation yesterday as he marched shoulder to shoulder with servicemen and women to honour those killed by war.
But three miles across London from the Armistice Day ceremony at the Cenotaph, another face of Britain was on display. It was contorted with hatred, poisoned by politics, and fuelled by flames from a giant, burning poppy.
War, inevitably, linked the two events, yet they could hardly have been more different. At one, violence and venom. At the other, dignity and deference.
At the Cenotaph, Jonny shared the crowd’s applause as he walked behind a cluster of Victoria Cross and George Cross
These were the Muslim extremists who brought shame to the memory of the dead yesterday by breaking the traditional two-minute silence with chants of ‘British soldiers burn in hell’.
Ironically, it was the freedom for which thousands fought that allowed them to stage their demonstration at the stroke of 11am – the exact moment the nation came to a halt at the Cenotaph, across the country, and after parallel services at British bases in Afghanistan.
The protesters were even given a police escort to their protest venue near the Victoria and Albert Museum in Kensington, thankfully the closest they were allowed to the focal point of Britain’s remembrance tribute yesterday.
Absent on parade, but still fondly remembered, were the likes of Harry Patch, the last Tommy from the trenches of the First World War. A stalwart of these occasions, he died last year aged 111
Which was why young Jonny and other youngsters had an important role to play yesterday, an occasion born of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, when the guns finally fell silent in the 1914-1918 fighting.
As the number of survivors and their widows dwindles with time, new generations have become word-of-mouth messengers for those who gave their lives.
Jonny told me: ‘All I know really is that people should not forget. I tell everybody about the war – as many people as I can. It’s my favourite thing.’
His great-uncle, Sapper Lawrence Burton, was killed in fierce fighting on the beaches of Greece in 1941 while serving with the Royal Engineers.
Jonny wore three of his medals yesterday as a guest of the Association of Veterans of Foreign wars, of which his U.S.-resident grandfather Terry Burton is president.
His other great-uncle, Len Burton, was shot by a German sniper in Italy in 1945.
So yesterday the great-nephew they never met added a few medals of his own to his blazer, among them a Spitfire emblem alongside Union Flag and Stars and Stripes badges.
Jonny, who attends a Church of England primary school near his home in North London, added: ‘I said a prayer for them. I like praying to God. I think people should. There were lots and lots of people praying for these guys.’
The ceremony honoured the dead from all wars and remembered the loved ones they left behind.
Even in the blustery and occasionally heavy rain, increasingly frail legs managed to keep certain sections of the crowd standing ramrod straight.
When it rained like this in the trenches, everything turned to mud. Yesterday it conveniently
disguised the tears that were shed for fallen friends.
Nearby at separate commemorations, poppy petals filled Trafalgar Square fountain and the Duke of Edinburgh visited the Field of Remembrance and the Grave of the Unknown Warrior at Westminster Abbey.
The two-minute silence was observed so strictly that the stillness it brought to this part of
London was startling.
In what is normally one of the busiest sections of the capital, I heard a dried-out leaf hit the ground after it fell from a plane tree in Whitehall.
Over at Kensington, however, the fanatics from Muslims Against Crusades, as they labelled themselves, were just kicking off.
No silence was observed here. Captured on film, they burned a large model poppy, and chanted slogans protesting at what was happening in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Spokesman Asad Ullah said: ‘We find it disgusting that innocent people, innocent children, have been killed in an illegal and unjust war and we are demonstrating against that.’
Jonny’s grandfather shook his head when he heard what had happened.
‘I’m stunned,’ he said. ‘Almost speechless.
‘It’s totally disrespectful to those who gave their lives. It’s absolutely insulting.’
Back at the Cenotaph, Jonny went marching home.
With luck, the word-of-mouth message he spreads will