Remembrance Day – UK Culture – Online English Lessons

Remembrance Day (formerly Armistice Day) is on the 11th November.

The Great War, or World War One, came to an end on the Western Front on the 11th November 1918 when the Armistice (a suspension of hostilities or truce) was signed between Germany and the allies of WW1 (fighting continued in other areas).

At 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month, a two minute silence is held as a sign of respect. People remember and think about the people who died or were injured during WW1, and all the wars since.

This mark of respect was started by King George V, and the first two minute silence was held in November 1919.

Ceremonies of remembrance on Remembrance Sunday

Remembrance Sunday is on the second Sunday in November, or the nearest Sunday to the 11th November.

Ceremonies of remembrance are held across the UK, with the National Service of Remembrance held at The Cenotaph war memorial in Whitehall, London.

The national ceremony is attended by the Queen, and other members of the Royal Family, with representatives from the Royal Air Force (RAF), Army, Royal Navy and Merchant Navy, and politicians.

War veterans parade past the Cenotaph and wreaths of poppies are laid on the memorial.

A poem by Laurence Binyon, For the Fallen, is often read out during remembrance ceremonies. The fourth stanza is the most famous:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them.

Poppy Day

Remembrance Day is sometimes called Poppy Day.

In the days leading up to Remembrance Day people wear poppies to commemorate those who died in war. Fields of poppies were the only thing to grow on the devastation of the battle fields of the Western Front during WW1. The sight of them blooming in abundance at Flanders, Belgium, inspired Canadian soldier John McCrae to write his poem In Flanders Fields.

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.

In response to McCrae’s poem, American Moira Michael started the tradition of wearing and selling poppies as a sign of remembrance. The first Poppy Day in the UK was on November 11th 1921.

The poppies are sold to raise money for the Royal British Legion‘s charitable work to provide care and support for service and ex-service people, and their families.

See this BBC News article for the Dos and don’ts of poppy etiquette; including when to start wearing one, what colour to wear, and where to pin it.

And their article about Which countries wear poppies?.

Here’s a link to a haiku (a short poem) for Remembrance Day.

Image of poppies by david.nikonvscanon Image of Cenotaph by Matt From London