The liberation from Japanese occupation was commemorated by the British military for the last time yesterday - but no senior government official was there. While hundreds of people ringed Statue Square to witness a slice of history 10 months before the handover, the Government was conspicuous by its absence. 'I feel a bit sad there was nobody from the Government here. Several people have asked me why and I can't answer,' said veterans' champion Jack Edwards. A government spokesman last night said no officials had been due to attend, although Governor Chris Patten and top officials were present at last year's 50th anniversary of Liberation Day. Instead, Commander of British Forces Major-General Bryan Dutton took centre stage, laying the main wreath on the steps of the Cenotaph, which had four sentries from HMS Tamar posted at each corner. Earlier, at 11 am, a four-man party from RAF Sek Kong fired a volley of shots to mark one minute's silence as 53 soldiers from the 1st Battalion Royal Gurkha Rifles stood to attention. Before they marched away, the crowd was treated to one of the last public renditions of God Save The Queen by the Band of the Corps of Royal Engineers. Chairman of the Hong Kong Prisoner of War Association, Arthur Gomes, said afterwards: 'This was the last time the British will be with us to commemorate those who died liberating Hong Kong. An element will be missing in future. It's just a hiccup . . . but not the end. 'I think there will be another parade next year, as long as we can remember friends who passed away and think back to how happy we were to survive and walk out of those camps free men.' Like Mr Gomes, Mr Edwards, also a former prisoner-of-war, hopes the People's Liberation Army will take up the mantle and provide a military backdrop at future ceremonies, including Remembrance Sunday. Mr Edwards hopes the parade can be incorporated into Sino-Japan War Victory Day, a public holiday on August 18 next year, determined by the Preparatory Committee's sub-group on handover affairs. He said: 'The Cenotaph has eight Chinese characters on it, so it means as much to them as it does to us. We all fought the Japanese. Deng Xiaoping fought the Japanese and 'fifty years, no change' were his words.' He added: 'I was impressed by the turnout today, especially among young people, who understood what it was all about.' Sales executive Elba Chan Cheuk-ting, 23, who attended with her friend Karen Jong Ka-yam, 22, said: 'I think it will be a good idea if the Chinese Army continues the tradition. 'We are not sad or happy about today. It's a fact of life that the British are going. But it's very important we remember those who died in the war trying to free Hong Kong.'