Saluting Remembrance Day
We will never forget
What is ‘Remembrance Day’?
Remembrance Day was created to commemorate members of the armed forces who tragically lost their lives in war conflicts. To be begin with, it was invented to honour the soldiers who served in the First World War. People throughout the world, now observe Remembrance Day every year in order to pay their respects to the armed forces in general and those who have sacrificed their own lives to protect their country and the lives of others.
World War I & The First Remembrance
On 28th July 1914, World War I began. The opposing forces each felt that war was necessary for their own reasons. Each side had their own allies for support and completely believed that their reasons for war were correct. Fast forward four years of utter devastation and never-ending battles, the First World War ceased in 1918. Over ten million soldiers tragically lost their lives throughout the world. Many of the soldiers who sadly passed away were as young as 16 years of age. This generation became known as the ‘Lost Generation’ with several famous poems dedicated to the fallen. This period of conflict had such a profound effect on so many people worldwide, and it aptly became named The Great War.
The very first official event of remembrance happened in Britain on 11th November 1919 at 11 o’clock in the morning – precisely one year after World War I had ended. King George V instigated a one minute’s silence in the belief that “the thoughts of everyone may be concentrated on reverent remembrance of the glorious dead.” Newspapers reported on the first observance – describing people’s reactions and the eerie atmosphere. Tram and motor cars stopped, turned off their engines and the general public removed their hats to bow their heads in respect. Men looked pale and pensive and the women wiped away tears. Horses, carrying loads, even seemed to hunch up on themselves and stopped working for that moment in time. It was almost as if they intuitively knew something of major importance was happening.
The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month signifies the ending of WWI on 11.11.1918. At this time, over one hundred years ago, the Armistice was signed. This was an agreement to end the First World War. Every year, people pause at this same time (some places at 11.11am, not just 11.00am) to pay tribute to our fallen soldiers. The tradition of ‘a couple of minutes silence’ is carried out in many countries across the world. It is performed to honour those who lost their lives due to conflict and to think about the suffering and pain they went through for others.
The Significance of Wearing Poppies
Imagine the damaged, bare and battered lands of France and Belgium after the First World War ended. Amazingly, against all odds, red poppies grew in these battle-weary grounds. John McCrae, a doctor serving in WWI wrote a famous poem entitled ‘In Flanders Fields’ which mentions the poppies and their significance. They grew around the graves of those poor men who had died in battle. As a result, this beautiful poem has long been associated with the Great War. Some people actually call Remembrance Day ‘Poppy Day’ because poppies became a symbol through which many people honour the event.
People have the opportunity to buy a poppy annually. As the years have rolled by, not only can we buy paper poppies but also stickers, badges and wrist bands. Each year in schools, children look forward to spending their pocket money on poppy merchandise and adults also enjoy getting their new poppy to wear on their coats with pride. As well as being a symbol of respect, a portion of the money raised by these items goes to war charities. These charities work hard to improve the lives of wounded soldiers and their families.
Undeniably the 11th November is a special day every year but it often falls on a week day which is not the easiest day to carry out Remembrance Day events. Therefore, on the Sunday closest to the 11th November, many villages and towns hold special events to mark the occasion. Many people attend ceremonies and parades are held at places of worship, cenotaphs and war memorials. There is a memorial service at the Cenotaph in London which is attended by many people in the United Kingdom, the Royal Family and politicians. The word ‘cenotaph’ translates from the Greek language as 'empty tomb'. The Cenotaph is a monument dedicated to the losses suffered during WWI and all military conflicts that have occurred since. It is tradition that the head of the monarchy (King Charles III) lays the first poppy wreath at the foot of the Cenotaph. Other representatives of the armed forces then follow suit by laying more poppy wreaths. Remembrance Sunday is an incredibly special and important event and the day is dedicated to remembering our fallen. In the words of Laurence Binyon, famous poet, ‘At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them, we will remember them.’