Remembrance Day 2010 is, as ever, on 11th November. At 11am on Remembrance Day Britain will come to a halt. Schools and factories will fall silent as two minutes of silence is called all over the country.
Remembrance Day is held every year to commemorate Armistice Day in 1918, when the guns stopped firing in Flanders at the end of the Great War.
At the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" the war to end all wars ended, after the slaughter of a generation of young men from Britain, Australia, France, Canada and New Zealand. America suffered heavy casualties too, but only entered the war in 1917, so the American losses were proportionately fewer.
It was only after The War ended and soldiers came home that the civilian population came to realise the horrors and stupidity that they had been subjected to.
It was King George V, who, in 1919, first dedicated 11th November to those who had died in wars, but the first Remembrance Day was on only officially held on 11th November 1921. That day marks the start of a long tradition where we show our respect and gratitude to those who have fallen in the First World War and in every other war and conflict since then.
Wear your poppy with pride
The poppy was chosen as a symbol of remembrance after a poem called "We Shall Keep the Faith", written by an American in 1918, was published
We Shall Keep the Faith
by Moira Michael, November 1918
Oh! you who sleep in Flanders Fields,
Sleep sweet - to rise anew!
We caught the torch you threw
And holding high, we keep the Faith
With All who died.
We cherish, too, the poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led;
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies,
But lends a lustre to the red
Of the flower that blooms above the dead
In Flanders Fields.
And now the Torch and Poppy Red
We wear in honour of our dead.
Fear not that ye have died for naught;
We'll teach the lesson that ye wrought
In Flanders Fields.
Poppies were the only thing that grew in the fields of mud that parts of Belgium and Northern France were turned into. The seeds lie dormant in the soil for years and only germinate when they are exposed to light, as they were by the shells and feet of both armies. They grew between the graves of fallen soldiers in the mass Great War graveyards and became the symbol of life lost. Blood red is an appropriate colour to help us remember the spilt blood of the millions who died in the Trenches.
Here a few statistics regarding the number of soldiers of different countries who died in the Great War
18,000 New Zealanders
Figures are taken from The Longman Companion to the First World War (Colin Nicholson)
IN FLANDERS FIELDS
by John McCrae
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 Britain, the main Remembrance Day has traditionally been held on Remembrance Sunday, which is the second Sunday in November. But there has been a growing movement to reassert 11th November as the day we set aside to remember the dead of all wars, but especially those who died in the Great War.
Poppies are sold to raise funds for the British Legion. In Scotland poppy monies go to the Earl Haig Fund. Both the British Legion and the Earl Haig Fund look after injured servicemen and their families. These two British forces' charities have been in increasing need of funds since the two Gulf Wars and the continuing conflict in Afghanistan.
Poppy Day 2010 is expected to raise 36million pounds in Great Britain alone.
Remembrance poppies are on sale from the beginning of November and almost every person in Britain will buy one and will wear it with pride. Every television presenter, every person who is interviewed on TV and every politician will wear a poppy at all times from the end of October until mid-November
The Royal British Legion helps veterans to attend the largest Remembrance Day wreath laying ceremony at the Cenotaph in Whitehall, London. Similar wreath laying ceremonies will take place at every war memorial in the country.
Local British Legion, churches, youth organisations and poltians will all lay wreaths at their own local war memorial at 11 o'clock on 11th Novemnber, 2010.
Every village in Britain has its own war memorial, engraved with the names of men from that village who were killed, first in the 1914-18 war, then with names added since for the Second World War and every conflict since then. It is horrifying to see forty names of soldiers killed in the 1914-18 Great War from a tiny village and it is impossible to imagine the deaths, literally a generation of men from every village and town in Britain.
Many Irishmen were also killed fighting with the British Army. In 1914 it seemed like a good idea to join up, because there were no jobs in Ireland. In 1918, most of those who joined up were dead.
Selling poppies for Remembrance Day (Poppy Day) is the main British Legion fund raising event of the year and the Legion's (and Earl Haig Fund's) work is increasingly valued again by the British public after a resurgence of pride in our armed forces for their magnificent work in Afghanistan.
Veterans' Day is the US equivalent, being on the same date. Remembrance Day is not a public holiday in Europe though.