Remembrance Sunday: UK & Commonwealth Traditions Explained


The French continue to celebrate the armistice of 1918 every November 11. They thus benefit from an additional public holiday. Across the Channel, we chose the closest Sunday to commemorate the sacrifice of the millions of soldiers killed during the First World War.

Almost 12 years ago, on February 4, 2012, the last witness to the battles of the first great drama of the 20th century died. The Englishwoman Florence Beatrice Green, aged almost 111, enlisted in the Royal Air Force in September 1918. She had served for several weeks as a steward in the officers’ mess at several military airfields.

Since then, following a pious habit, Her Gracious Majesty’s subjects have continued to observe Remembrance Sunday every second Sunday in November, the nearest to the 11th. It is also known as “Poppy Day ” or “Poppy Day”, the emblematic flower of ceremonies, which one must wear in one’s buttonhole. Every year, 40 million artificial ‘poppies’ are made by disabled veterans in Richmond upon Thames, near London, at the premises of the Royal British Legion, the charity which supports soldiers and their families.

Two minutes of silence observed at 11:11 a.m.
Today, the tradition continues not only throughout the United Kingdom, but also in Commonwealth countries that took part in the war, such as Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. . On November 11 itself, two minutes of silence were observed at 11:11 a.m., the precise moment of the ceasefire in 1918. This moment of contemplation was preceded by the bells for the dead and followed by the “Réveil”. Various poems are recited there, including a stanza from the famous Ode of Remembrance, composed by Laurence Binyon “For The Fallen” and published in the Times, in September 1914. “They will not age like us, / Who survived them. / They will never know the outrage / Nor the weight of the years. / When the hour of dusk / And that of dawn comes, / We will remember them.

The day before November 11, 1919, the first anniversary of the victory, King George V invited the President of the French Republic, Raymond Poincaré, to a grand dinner at Buckingham. The next day, London froze in a unanimous and respectful tribute, as reported by the Manchester Guardian: “The first stroke of 11 o’clock produced a magical effect. The tram cars stopped, the engines stopped coughing and smoking , and stopped short, and the strong-limbed draft horses leaned over their loads and stopped too, seeming to do so of their own accord. Someone took off his hat, and with nervous hesitation the other men also bowed their heads. Here and there, we saw an old soldier unconsciously slipping into the posture of “attention.” An elderly woman, not far away, wiped her eyes, and man next to her looked pale and severe. Everyone remained very still […] It was a silence that was almost pain. […] And the spirit of memory covered all of this.”

Royal Family and Government Join National Service
A century later, it is therefore on Remembrance Sunday – this year on November 12 – that most of the celebrations take place. Under the aegis of local delegations of the British Legion, wreaths of poppies are placed at the foot of war memorials by representatives of the armed forces, but also elected officials and members of the clergy, veterans’ associations, scouts or the Salvation Army. The royal family and the government join in the national service, celebrated in London. On November 5, 2018, and for a period of four months, 10,000 torches were lit in the dry moat of the Tower, to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War.

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