Sunday, November 10, 2013

Day 54 - Remembrance Sunday

Remembrance Sunday observance at the Cenotaph
Remembrance Day (also known as Poppy Day or Armistice Day) is a memorial day observed in Commonwealth countries since the end of World War I to remember the members of their armed forces who have died in the line of duty. This day, or alternative dates, are also recognized as special days for war remembrances in many non-Commonwealth countries. Remembrance Day is observed on 11 November to recall the end of hostilities of World War I on that date in 1918. Hostilities formally ended "at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month," in accordance with the Armistice, signed by representatives of Germany and the Entente between 5:12 and 5:20 that morning. ("At the 11th hour" refers to the passing of the 11th hour, or 11:00 am) World War I officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on 28 June 1919.

The day was specifically dedicated by King George V on 7 November 1919 as a day of remembrance for members of the armed forces who were killed during World War I. This was possibly done upon the suggestion of Edward George Honey to Wellesley Tudor Pole, who established two ceremonial periods of remembrance based on events in 1917.

The Queen at the Centotaph
The Initial or Very First Armistice Day was held at Buckingham Palace commencing with King George V (The Queen's Grandfather) hosting a "Banquet in Honour of The President of the French Republic" during the evening hours of November 10, 1919. The First Official Armistice Day was subsequently held on the Grounds of Buckingham Palace on the Morning of November 11, 1919. This would set the trend for a day of Remembrance for decades to come.

The red remembrance poppy has become a familiar emblem of Remembrance Day due to the poem "In Flanders Fields". These poppies bloomed across some of the worst battlefields of Flanders in World War I, their brilliant red color an appropriate symbol for the blood spilled in the war.

Flanders Poppy field
In the United Kingdom, although two minutes of silence are observed on 11 November itself, the main observance is on the second Sunday of November, Remembrance Sunday. Ceremonies are held at local war memorials, usually organised by local branches of the Royal British Legion, an association for ex-servicemen. Typically, poppy wreaths are laid by representatives of the Crown, the armed forces, and local civic leaders, as well as by local organisations including ex-servicemen organisations, cadet forces, the Scouts, Guides, Boys' Brigade, St John Ambulance and the Salvation Army. A minute's or two minutes' silence is also frequently incorporated into church services. Further wreath-laying ceremonies are observed at most war memorials across the UK at 11 am on 11 November, led by the Royal British Legion.

Veterans attending the Remembrance Sunday observation
The beginning and end of the two minutes' silence is often marked in large towns and cities by the firing of ceremonial cannon and many employers and businesses invite their staff and customers to observe the two minutes' silence at 11:00 am.

The Queen laying a wreath at the Cenotaph
The main national commemoration is held at Whitehall, in Central London, for dignitaries, the public, and ceremonial detachments from the armed forces and civilian uniformed services such as the Merchant Navy and Her Majesty's Coastguard. Members of the British Royal Family walk through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office towards the Cenotaph, assembling to the right of the monument to wait for Big Ben to strike 11:00 am, and for the King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery at Horse Guards Parade, to fire the cannon marking the commencement of the two minutes of silence.

Following this, "Last Post" is sounded by the buglers of the Royal Marines. "The Rouse" is then sounded by the trumpeters of the Royal Air Force, after which wreaths are laid by the Queen and senior members of the Royal Family attending in military uniform and then, to "Beethoven's Funeral March" (composed by Johann Heinrich Walch), by attendees in the following order: the Prime Minister; the leaders of the major political parties from all parts of the United Kingdom; Commonwealth High Commissioners to London, on behalf of their respective nations; the Foreign Secretary, on behalf of the British Dependencies; the First Sea Lord; the Chief of the General Staff; the Chief of the Air Staff; representatives of the merchant navy and Fishing Fleets and the merchant air service. Other members of the Royal Family usually watch the service from the balcony of the Foreign Office. The service is generally conducted by the Bishop of London, with a choir from the Chapels Royal, in the presence of representatives of all major faiths in the United Kingdom. Before the marching commences, the members of the Royal Family and public sing the national anthem before the Royal Delegation lead out after the main service.

UK Leaders waiting to place their wreaths
Paying tribute to service personnel who died in conflict, the Queen stood as a two-minute silence was observed.  The beginning and end of the silence was marked with the firing of a round by the King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery, using a 13-pounder World War One gun.

The monarch then laid her wreath at the foot of the monument, the focal point of the UK's Remembrance Sunday events since World War One, bowing her head after paying her respects. On a sunny but crisp autumn day, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry laid wreaths. Prime Minister David Cameron was next to pay his respects, followed by Labour leader Ed Miliband and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

Former prime ministers Sir John Major, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, along with London Mayor Boris Johnson, also took part in the ceremony, as did military and emergency service chiefs and representatives from Commonwealth countries.

More than 10,000 military veterans and civilian representatives marched past the monument. Services also took place at memorials across the UK, in Commonwealth countries and at bases abroad.

Wreaths of Poppies laid at the Cenotaph
To view a video of the ceremony, please visit

We spent a quiet day at the flat, having heard that the pavements were lined 10-deep on Whitehall long before the start of the Remembrance Sunday ceremony. When the street was officially declared "at capacity" by the police, with 10,000 people lined up waiting to march past the Cenotaph once the Queen and the politicians had laid their wreaths, crowds were still piling into Parliament and Trafalgar squares to be present when the deep boom of a first world war field gun launched the eerie silence at the heart of the capital.

It is a somber day for reflection around the world for those who gave up their lives for their countries.

I hope you and your loved ones are all safe....

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