Armistice Day is on the 11th of November each year. This day is also called Remembrance Day. It marks the day World War One ended, at 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. A two-minute silence is held at 11am to remember the people who have died in wars. We also have Remembrance Day on the second Sunday in November each year and on this day, our Royal Family and top politicians attend a memorial service where they lay wreaths of poppies at the foot of the Cenotaph in London.
The poppy is the symbol of remembrance and its connection stems from being the flower that grew form the war-torn battlefields of the First World War. From such ugliness grew beauty, perhaps not unnoticed that the red colour may well be Mother Nature’s way of symbolising bloodshed. The artificial poppy proudly worn by so many of us today first appeared in 1921 and was manufactured to be sold on behalf of the Earl Haig Fund in support of ex-servicemen who had lost their lives in the fighting. Sales were so popular that the following year the British Legion founded a factory to manufacture them which is still in operation day. The poppy is now worn to commemorate all people that have died on behalf of their country and the money donated from people in return for their poppy is used to help those that need help following time served in the armed forces. Since 1945 more than 12,000 British servicemen and women have been killed or injured. This year it is estimated that over 45 million poppies will be given out by 150,000 volunteers. There is no right or wrong way to wear your poppy (although most wear it on their left lapel with the leaf pointing to 11 o’clock – The British Legion asks only that people wear their poppy “with pride.” Perhaps the story of the poppy is best relayed in John McCrae’s famous poem entitled “In Flanders Field” which you can read here:
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
This coming Sunday (the 13th of November) is Remembrance Sunday. It is a day for the nation to remember and honour those who have sacrificed themselves to secure and protect our freedom. Each year at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, (this Sunday at 11am) we (as a nation) observe (take part in) a Two Minute Silence.
The first two-minute silence in Britain was at the request of King George V who asked that everyone (including our locomotives) fall silent so that “the thoughts of everyone may be concentrated on reverent remembrance of the glorious dead”