The Prime Minister quoted First World War poetry while she laid wreaths at the graves of the both the first and last British soldiers to be killed during the First World War.
Theresa May thanked the fallen troops for being “staunch to the end against odds uncounted” as she paid her respects to mark the centenary of Armistice.
Dressed in a black coat, May was sombre as she laid wreaths at the graves of Private John Parr of the Middlesex Regiment, who died on August 21 1914 – the first UK soldier to be killed in the conflict – and the last to be killed, Private George Ellison of the Royal Irish Lancers.
He died on the Western Front on November 11 1918, at 9.30am – just 90 minutes before the Armistice came into effect at 11am.
Private Ellison was born in York and later lived in Leeds. He was shot dead by a German sniper while on patrol on the outskirts of Mons, Belgium.
His death came six days before the fifth birthday of his only child, James.
The 40-year-old had survived four years of trench warfare, including fighting in the Battles of Ypres and the Somme without suffering any injuries, only to die just before peacetime.
He is buried just feet away from the grave of John Parr of the Middlesex Regiment, the first British soldier to die during the war.
In the note left by the resting place of Private Parr, May quoted a line of wartime poetry – The Soldier written by Rupert Brooke.
She wrote: “There is in that rich earth a richer dust concealed.”
The sonnet was written by Brooke, an officer in the Royal Navy, while on leave at Christmas and formed part of a collection of work entitled 1914 which was published in January 1915.
Brooke never experienced frontline combat and died from blood poisoning on April 23, 1915, after being bitten by a mosquito while sailing to Gallipoli. He was buried on the island of Skyros.
At the grave of Private Ellison, in blue pen on a headed Downing Street card attached to the garland of poppies, May wrote: “They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted ... We will remember them.”
This was from another poem written by Laurence Binyon and published in September 1914, which is often quoted in Remembrance Sunday services.
May is visiting war cemeteries in Belgium and France alongside French President Emmanuel Macron and Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel.
Starting in Mons on Friday morning, May and Michel were escorted through the St Symphorien Military Cemetery by Commonwealth War Graves Commission representative Liz Sweet.
The cemetery was set up by the German army as a final resting place for British and German soldiers killed at the Battle of Mons.
The pair were greeted by a guard of honour from the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers and stood for the sound of The Last Post before a minute’s silence.