At 11 o’clock on the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918, the Great War ended. This was to be the war to end all wars. It was not, but those who perished doing their duty are not left to die in vain – we will remember them.
Remembrance Day (or Armistice Day) takes place on the Sunday closest to the 11th November every year (although before WWII it was always observed on 11th itself). Once a celebration of the end of a devastating conflict (over 10 million military personnel were killed between 1914 and 1918, not to mention around seven million civilians), it soon became a day on which to remember those who had fallen in all conflicts. The heroes. The brave souls who had given their lives for their country, and to whom we still owe a debt today.
Traditionally, the nation wears a paper poppy to show their support for not only those who died, but those who are fighting today. The poppies were first worn in 1921, when artificial poppies were made by ex-servicemen (which gave them an income) and the money from their sale went to fund others who were not so fortunate as to have work. Eventually, the British Legion was set up and took over the making of the poppies. The money made from them each year goes to help serving ex-servicemen and women when they are in need. It also funds a number of charitable projects. To support the Legion’s work, you can buy a poppy to wear, but there are other items available too including wristbands, car stickers, wooden crosses, and much more at www.poppyshop.org.uk.
Each Remembrance Day we hold a two-minute silence at 11am. This mark of respect allows us time to think of the sacrifices those who died made. These two minutes unite a nation in contemplation. Solemn though it may be, it is also peaceful and moving, and this coupled with the Remembrance Day parade through London to the Cenotaph in Whitehall makes this a day that stays with many long after it has ended. The poppy wreaths that are placed around the Cenotaph by the queen, the prime minister, and many others, and the sight of the surviving soldiers marching or being pushed in their wheelchairs, still so proud and so dignified, is a thing of beauty that comes from something so terrible.
As Laurence Binyon’s famous “For the Fallen” so eloquently states: “At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we shall remember them.”