Remembrance Day is a day of memorial observed by the Commonwealth of nations ever since the end of the First World War. The day is to remember the members of their armed forces who died in the line of Duty. The first Remembrance Day was inaugurated by King George V in 1919 and has been a tradition ever since. Its been 98 years since the first Remembrance Day, since then Britain and the Commonwealth have been in more wars with more dead.
It is not just the Commonwealth that remember their fallen on the 11th November. Many other countries in Europe and the rest of the world do as well, albeit not on the same day. Remembrance Day is no longer just about those who fell in the Great War, but also those who fell in the line of duty from the other wars of the 20th and 21st Century.
The 11th November is a significant date for many countries as it marked the end of the Great War. In 1918 on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month hostilities formally ended. The Treaty of Versailles marked the official end of WW1 in June 1919.
The red Remembrance poppy is the emblem of Remembrance Day. This is because of a poem called ‘In Flanders Fields’ written by Lieutenant- Colonel John McCrae from Canada.
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.
Poppies are an important symbol of WW1 as in some of the worst battlefields in Flanders, poppies bloomed. Their brilliant red colour became a symbol of the blood spilled in the war. Poppies were first worn as a sign of remembrance in 1921. At first real poppies were worn, now we have paper poppies.
Britain, Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand observe Remembrance Day with a 1 or 2-minute silence at 11am on the 11th November. The service normally includes some poetry, blessings and national anthems. Barbados and Saint Lucia pay tribute to their fallen soldiers on Remembrance Sunday with a parade and ceremonial events. Belize, Bermuda, Kenya and India also observe the 11th November to acknowledge those who died.
Outside of the Commonwealth
Many European countries observe the 11th as a day of remembrance including France, Belgium and Poland. Armistice day is one of the most important military celebrations in France as many died in the Wars. Rather than wearing a poppy, the French tend to wear a cornflower (Bleuet de France). For Poland, the 11th is their Independence Day at the end of WW1.
The United States also remember their dead with Veterans Day on the 11th November. The day was formally known as Armistice day, but was changed in 1954 after the end of the Korean War to honour all of their Veterans.
Remembrance Sunday is still observed in Hong Kong. It ceased to be a public holiday after they left the Commonwealth in 1997, but they continue to pay tribute to their dead with a multi faith memorial service on Remembrance Sunday.
Italy celebrate the Armistice Villa Giusti on the 4th November. The day is known as the Day of National Unity of the Armed Forces. Although not a public holiday, there are still services that are held on the first Sunday of November. Germany’s day of mourning is normally the Sunday closest to the 16th November (normally two Sundays before the beginning of Advert). They have mourned the Volkstrauertag since 1953.
Denmark have Veterans day which is on the 5th September to celebrate those who fought for their country. Netherlands Remembrance Day is on the 4th May a day before Liberation Day. Netherlands remembers its fallen military personnel not just from the world wars, but the other conflicts they have been a part of as well. Norway celebrate on the 8th May, the same day as Victory in Europe Day to commemorate their dead.