Armistice Day – Lest We Forget
Posted By Claire on November 11, 2010
Today is Armistice Day, Remembrance Day or Veteran’s Day in many countries around the world and I will be pausing at 11am GMT to observe a two minute silence in remembrance of all those who have died, whether in the armed forces or as civilians, in wars and conflicts.
Armistice Day, the 11th November, commemorates the moment, at “the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month”, in 1918 when the armistice was signed between the Allies and Germany on a railway carriage in Compiègne Forest.
In my home country, the UK, the two minute silence and commemorations were moved to Remembrance Sunday, the Sunday nearest to the 11th, in 1939 so that if the 11th fell on a weekday the two minute silence and commemorations would not hinder the wartime effort. These days, the armistice is commemorated on both days and people buy and wear red poppies in the weeks leading up to Remembrance Sunday.
As a Brownie and Girl Guide, I took part in processions to our village war memorial on Remembrance Sunday, to leave wreaths of poppies in memory of villagers who had died during the wars and then we processed to church for a special service. On Remembrance Sunday, there will be the annual Cenotaph Parade in Whitehall, London, where thousands of veterans and thousands of others will march to the Cenotaph and where members of the Royal family, led by the Queen, will lay wreaths following the 2 minute silence. At 11am, a field gun is fired on Horse Guards Parade to signal the start of the 2 minute silence and then fired again to signal the end of it. The Royal Marines buglers then sound the Last Post.
The Cenotaph Parade is incredibly moving and is shown live on TV in the UK for those who are not able to attend their own local parades.
Here is a video of one parade, including the 2 minute silence and laying of wreaths:-
I know that those of you in the USA have a public holiday today to mark Veterans Day and I know that many other countries mark today too, so please do let me know how you commemorate Armistice Day in your country.
I’ll leave you with the poem “In Flanders Fields”, written by Canadian Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae in 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.
9 thoughts on “Armistice Day – Lest We Forget”
I wish more was done in the States to commemorate Veterans Day. At least around where I live there is very little mention given to it. Most of the ceremonies that take place are held by the veterans themselves. There are news stories about veterans and articles in the paper, but that’s about it. No big community commemorations. I don’t know that most people even think about its significance – they’re just glad for the day off (if they get it), and act inconvenienced because the banks are closed. There is more attention given to Memorial Day. My father and 2 of his brothers fought in WWII. My father drove a truck over the Ledo Road in Burma as part of the China Burma India theatre of war; his 2 brothers were at Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944, so they took part in the D-Day invasion. Actually, more attention is given to the CBI veterans in Britain than there is over here. Once when my father and I went to England (In believe that it was in 1988) my father joined Burma Star, Britain’s equivalent to the CBI Veterans Association. I see many war memorials to Burma Star veterans in the UK (there is a stained glass window dedicated to them in Portsmouth Cathedral); I’d be hard pressed to name one CBI memorial in my area. When I visit Britain I always take pictures of them for my father, even though he’s been gone for 10 years now. (Now I’m starting to get emotional). WWII veterans had no memorial in Washington, D.C. until Memorial Day of 2004, nearly 60 years after the end of the war. I wish my father could have lived to see it. Since he didn’t, I have visited it several times for him. Maybe there isn’t much made of Veterans Day because no wars have been fought on American soil since 1865 (although some of us see 9/11 as an act of war against our country). I remember that when I went to London last Halloween they were selling poppies all over the place and everyone was wearing them – even teens and children. But then as I was writing this I realized that I might be part of the problem – I always take a plant and a flag to my father’s grave on Memorial Day, but never Veteran’s Day. Sorry to ramble on for so long – I guess you can see from my post that I was (and still am, I guess), a Daddy’s Girl. If anyone else in the States has a different experience regarding Veteran’s Day, let me know.
You mean, commemoration for our soldiers, those who survived, and those who made the ultimate sacrifice, besides White Sales? It’s pretty pathetic here in the US of A how almost ALL holidays are treated as excuses for a day off from work, and some sort of sale.
“You risked life and limb defending this country and its ideals, and your reward is to be commemorated by a sale of some sort or another, most likely for linens. Oh, and having any sort of benefits denied, because of a massively inefficient bureaucracy.”
I don’t know if there are any veterans on our list, or those on active duty, or those with family members currently in the service, but I thank you all for your service, whether you served on a front or behind the scenes. I’m the daughter of a man who served in the 101st Airbourne out of Fort Campbell KY during Vietnam — where he volunteered for two tours. I had (now gone) cousins who served in both the Pacific and European theaters, one present when a Nazi death camp was liberated (something which affected him until his death); I had a great-uncle-in-law who was a driver on the Burma Road. And I proudly have a brother-in-law who is about to complete his year in Kuwait and — Lord willing — should be home by Thanksgiving and will be the best birthday gift my Tudor loving baby sister could ever get!
Thank you Claire for your lovely and touching article. Last year when I was in England, we donated to one of the British causes which then presented my friend and I with paper poppies. We lovingly wore them during our entire week.
That’s interesting about Veteran’s Day, I thought that as you guys have a day off for it that there must be big processions and events. In the UK it isn’t a public holiday because the main commemoration services and processions happen on Remembrance Sunday.
Even though I used to be involved in Remembrance processions and services as a child, I don’t think it really hit me until I went to France as a teen and I saw the war cemeteries, the vast expanses of white crosses. I was so moved by it and then we did a topic in history on the First World War.
Whatever our feelings about war, we should remember and be proud of those who have fought/fight to keep us safe, to protect our liberty and to make this world a better place.
The war cemeteries in France are very moving and touching, aren’t they? In 2004 I took a tour of the Normandy battlefields. My father’s sister’s brother-in-law is buried at Normandy American Cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach. He was only 19 when he was killed in the aftermath of D-Day. While I was there I took the oportunity to visit his grave. I thought that since I was there, and since nobody in his family ever visited, it would be a nice gesture. Looking back, I wish I had taken something (a small American flag, flowers) to put on his grave to show that someone visited him.
We held two minutes of silence at work. Even then some people were huffing because of the extra waiting time for their prescriptions. It really annoys and upsets me that some people can be so wrapped up in their own lives, moaning about things that aren’t important.
I currently have a childhood friend on the frontlines in Afghanistan. It saddens me that the people most hurt by war are not the people responsible for it, the ones who should feel the consequences.
I am active duty Navy, and have done 3 deployments in the Iraqi Gulf, for a total of 16 months deployed. It upsets me how holidays which are centered around those who wear (or who have worn) the uniform (so others don’t have to) have been turned into capitalistic holidays. One of my good friends lost his life in the war, another has permanant brain damage, and I have known 2 others that have died in the line of duty- all of their sacrifces not even a foot note to the ongoing 50% sales.
Luckily, I am part of a culture who thouroughly believes “if we don’t take care of our own, who will?” We go out to the local federal cemetaries and fix up the site, leaving wreaths on each grave stone, hold fund raising dinners with the local VWFs (Veterans of Foreign Warfare) towards veteran’s retirement homes, and hold memorial services in order to teach the next generation that freedom is not free. I am thankful for the sacrifices made by those who went before me, and hope that I can make those who once wore the uniform proud of the accomplishments that my generation of service members have made.
I can remember wearing red poppies when I was a child here in the STates but have not seen that custom here in many years. We fly flags and the VFW holds services-my grandfather used to ride in a parade because for a long time, he was the oldest living veteran in North Carolina from WWI. He lived to be 101. My dad served in WWII but does not talk much about it and my husband was in Coast Guard during Viet Nam–signed up on his 17th birthday! I am thankful to all who have served and wish we did more here–I like the moment of silence idea.
I always find this day and this Sunday very moving. Beautiful article and memories. Has anyone been to see the poppies at the Tower? Such a strong reminder of the blood of men and women and children on all sides lost in their millions. So many lives lost; so many families bereaved; have we learnt anything? At the going down of the sun and in the morning: we will remember them.