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Tuesday 15 November 2016

Every year, for Remembrance Weekend, The Royal British Legion hosts its Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall, London to commemorate all those who have lost their lives in war and in conflicts. The first Festival was held in 1921 and is now in its 95th year.

Attended by the Queen and members of the Royal Family, the Festival serves as a poignant reminder of those who have lost their lives, or who have suffered life changing injuries in battle. It also celebrates those who have worked to support those currently serving in the armed forces, and the families who have suffered a loss.

The auditorium during set up

As well as the armed forces, members of the country’s civilian services, including the Merchant Navy, which has provided support for the armed forces in battle and in peace time, are also invited to attend and take part in the services muster at the end of the Festival.

Cadets from Warsash Maritime Academy are invited to represent the Merchant Navy each year, along with serving officers, and this year five cadets, Jonathan Wadham, Amanda Rees, Kasia Antosiak, James Lye and Harry Moore, made the trip to London to take part in the Festival which has two performances and is watched by an audience of over 60 million when it’s broadcast.

We caught up with Kasia Antosiak, a phase 5 deck cadet sponsored by SSTG/P&O Ferries, after the event to talk about her experience.

What does it mean to you to be asked to represent the Merchant Navy at the Festival of Remembrance?
It’s a prestigious event with many people watching us live at the Albert Hall and on television, and, most importantly, the Royal Family attends. I was very happy and proud to pay tribute to all victims of war and conflict as a representative of the Merchant Navy. 

Tell us about the Festival itself: What was the rehearsal like?
Rehearsals were long and thorough – the organisers made sure we were well drilled, and that not only our performance was spotless but also that the special guest artists, military bands, drumhead service, and camera operators were greatly prepared for their parts. 

Services muster rehearsals in full swing

How did it feel to take part?
Both performances were very emotional. The event was beautiful and had many touching moments. It felt very special to be there – an unforgettable experience.

What were the highlights of the experience? Did it live up to expectations?
During evening performance when we turned round to the Queen and the Royal family to sing the National Anthem and to salute to the Queen, that was the highlight of the whole experience for me. 

What will you take from the experience?
I will take from this experience beautiful memories, especially the picture of the Queen looking down at us, which will stay in my mind forever. 

View from the services musterThe Warsash cadets with five serving officers representing the Merchant Navy

The Festival of Remembrance can be viewed on the BBC iPlayer (UK only), and is available until 12 December.