Every year in November, the nation marks the wars that have scarred our past and the bravery of the men and women who fought them. Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday is a chance to remember not just those who fought, but what they fought for.
Origins of Armistice Day
Armistice Day, held on November 11 every year, commemorates the signing of the armistice between the Allies and Germany at 11am on 11 November 1918 – the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.
Although hostilities continued in some areas, the armistice essentially brought an end to fours years of fighting in the First World War.
In Britain, it is tradition to pause for a two minute silence at 11am on November 11 to remember those killed in the two world wars and the British servicemen killed or injured since 1945.
The armistice was signed in Ferdinand Foch’s railway carriage in the remote Forest of Compiègne, north of Paris, at 5am on 11 November 1918, and came into force at six hours later, at 11am. (Incidentally, in 1940 Hitler forced the French to sign an armistice on German terms in the same railway carriage.)
French military commander Foch was in charge of leading the negotiations and signing the agreement which made it impossible for the German army to recommence fighting.
The Treaty of Versailles signed six months later acted as the lasting peace treaty between the nations.
The armistice forced the Germans to evacuate invaded countries and territories within two weeks. They also had to surrender a significant amount of war material, including five thousand guns, 25,000 machine guns, 1,700 planes.
Germany, exhausted by war and with a nation of hungry citizens, reluctantly accepted the terms.
The main commemorative events
Armistice Day is also called Remembrance Day and they both refer to November 11. This year Armistice Day falls on a Saturday. It’s not to be confused with Remembrance Sunday which always falls on the second Sunday in November. This year it’s a day later, on November 12.
Schools, offices and churches up and down the country usually take part in a two-minute silence at 11am and hold services at war memorials on either or both days.
November 11 is also marked around the world. After the Second World War, many countries changed the name of the day from Armistice Day to Remembrance Day, while the US chose to call it Veterans Day and made the day a federal holiday.
Armistice Day, Saturday November 11
The Royal British Legion will host a Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall to remember all those who have lost their lives in conflicts.
Remembrance Sunday, November 12
Remembrance Sunday commemorations will take place at 11am at The Cenotaph, Whitehall, London. This year, for the first time, the Queen and Duke will instead choose to watch proceedings from a balcony, as the Prince of Wales steps in to represent his mother. It is the first time the Prince will lay the wreath at the Cenotaph watched by his mother.
At the National Memorial Arboretum, Armistice Day will be commemorated with a service of remembrance outdoors at the Armed Forces Memorial.
Queen leads Remembrance Sunday tributes
Two minutes of silence
The first Remembrance Day in Britain and the Commonwealth was held in 1919. However, Australian journalist Edward George Honey is originally thought to have proposed the idea of a two-minute silence in a letter published in the London Evening News in May 1989.
King George V later issued a proclamation calling for a two minute silence, it said: “All locomotion should cease, so that, in perfect stillness, the thoughts of everyone may be concentrated on reverent remembrance of the glorious dead.”
The Royal British Legion says of remembrance: “Great Britain still believes strongly in remembering those who fought not only in World Wars, but the more than 12,000 British Servicemen and women killed or injured since 1945.
“The Royal British Legion supports silences observed during both Remembrance Sunday services and on 11 November, Armistice Day, itself. The act of Remembrance rightly has a place in – and impact on – our lives, no matter which day of the week it might fall upon.”
Poppy memorial at the Tower of London – by numbers
Why we wear poppies
In the spring of 1915, shortly after losing a friend in Ypres, Canadian doctor Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae was inspired by the sight of poppies growing in battle-scarred fields to write the now famous poem In Flanders Fields.
His poem moved American teacher Moina Michael who began making and selling silk poppies to friends to raise money for the ex-service community.
Before long, poppies made their way to the UK and became the symbol of the Royal British Legion when it was formed in 1921.
The first ever ‘Poppy Appeal’ in the UK that year raised over £106,000 for war veterans. The following year, a poppy factory was set up by Major George Howson MC, giving jobs to disabled former servicemen.
The bright red poppy is regarded as a resilient flower which managed to flourish despite fields being destroyed by war.
Buying a poppy in 2017
Poppies are available from late October when the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal launches. Street collectors will be selling them all over Britain up until November 11.
Collectors aim to be at all major supermarket chains, train stations and high street stores. You can also buy poppies online from the Royal British Legion’s website. The suggested donation is £1 per poppy.
The net income from the appeal goes to the Royal British Legion Benevolent Fund and armed forces’ dependents, veterans and those bereaved.
In 2014, the Legion spent over £85 million on social, emotional and financial care and support to serving and ex-service people and their families.
In Flanders Fields by by John McCrae, May 1915
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.
Which side should you wear it on?
Some people say left, so it is worn over the heart. The left is also where military medals are worn. Others say only the Queen and Royal Family are allowed to wear a poppy on the right, which is an urban myth.
But a Royal British Legion spokesman said there is no right or wrong side, “other than to wear it with pride”.
The making of the poppies
The poppies are made at the Poppy Factory in Richmond, Surrey where 30 workers (70 per cent of the workforce) are disabled or suffer from chronic illness. The public usually buy nearly 45 million poppies each year.
Last year, more than 11 million of those were produced at the Poppy Factory (along with 135,000 wreaths) and the rest were produced on machines at the Poppy Appeal’s HQ in Kent.
In 2014, the Poppy Appeal raised a record £44m for the Royal British Legion.
Article Source : http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/0/what-is-armistice-day-why-do-we-wear-poppies-and-when-is-remembr/