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Britain will fall silent for two minutes to remember the end of the First World War on Friday the 11th of November. This tradition of holding a silence was started by King George V to ensure that the ‘thoughts of everyone may be concentrated on reverent remembrance of the glorious dead.’
This day is called Armistice Day, Remembrance Day or sometimes more informally Poppy Day.
From 2014 to 2018 this day has an added significance from the fact that this period marks the centenary of the First World War.
From 1919 until 1945, Armistice Day was always on the 11th of November. In 1946 it was moved to Remembrance Sunday. Since the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II in 1995 it became usual to have ceremonies on both days. In 2006 Veterans Day was also created to help celebrate the achievements of the veterans. Today this is named Armed Forces Day and held annually.
This year Remembrance Sunday falls on the Sunday nearest the 11th of November, which is the 13th. Every year memorial services and two minute silences are held at 11am all over the country at cenotaphs and churches. It is a time to remember the dead from all wars, not just WWI.
During the war when the soil was churned up by endless fighting, poppies still managed to flourish leading the red poppy becoming a symbol of remembrance for the First World War. The poppy is also seen as a symbol to honour the millions of current servicemen and women who fight in our Armed Forces.
John McCrae recognises the poppy in the Poem ‘In Flanders Fields’.
In Flanders Fields, John McCrae (1872-1918)
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.
The first wreath is laid by the Queen on behalf of the nation and before other senior members of the Royal Family, including the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince of Wales and Prince Harry follow suit. Wreaths are then laid by the Prime Minister and leaders of major political parties, and lastly, by representatives from the Armed Forces: Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and the Army.
The British Legion also organises a cenotaph service and parade at Whitehall. Groups such as the British Red Cross, St John Ambulance, Civil Defence Association and the Salvation Army, as well as a huge parade of veterans also pass the Cenotaph, each saluting as they pass to pay their tribute to all those who died.
Charities such as Blesma The Limbless Veterans also provide support to amputees from the Armed Forces. They currently help 1873 amputees who lost limbs in the line of duty.
Every year a member of Wyedean attends the local service in Haworth to lay a wreath to honour those who have fallen. Which service will you be attending this year? Will you hold a two minutes silence at 11am? Listen out on Sunday for the half muffled church bells.
To make a donation to the Poppy Appeal visit the British Legion website here: http://www.britishlegion.org.uk/