The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month marks the signing of the Armistice, on 11th November 1918, to signal the end of World War One. At 11 am on 11 November 1918 the guns of the Western Front fell silent after more than four years continuous warfare. Remembrance Sunday is held on the second Sunday in November, which is usually the Sunday nearest to 11 November. Special services are held at war memorials and churches all over Britain.
A national ceremony takes place at the Cenotaph in Whitehall, London. The Cenotaph stands in the middle of the road in Whitehall (part of London for those who are wondering). It was designed by Sir Edward Lutyens and erected in 1919. It is a bare stature save for the carved wreaths on each end and the words “The Glorious Dead” as chosen by the author Rudyard Kipling. To me seeing the Cenotaph in the middle of the road paying homage to the war dead was certainly a stark reminder of the destruction man can cause. I must have walked past it at least ten times, stopping each time, thinking.
The Cenotaph located in Whitehall, London. Taken September, 2010.
The first such modern ceremony was held on 11 November 1919, following a suggestion by King George V for a two-minute silence across the United Kingdom and a ceremony to take place in London. Thousands had gathered around the wood-and-plaster Cenotaph in Whitehall, where Prime Minister David Lloyd George walked from Downing Street to place a wreath. Every year the Queen lays the first wreath at the Cenotaph.
The poppy symbolizes hope and life. Flanders Fields which is located in the western part of Belgium saw some of the most bloodiest and concentrated fighting during World War I. Complete and utter devastation as buildings, homes, roads, trees and everything in it’s path were decimated. Where homes once stood contained a sea of mud, the graves of the dead although men still lived and fought among their fallen comrades. Ironically, the poppy was the only living thing that survived from that area, therefore a symbol of survival, life, hope and reassurance to the brave men still fighting.
A Canadian doctor serving with the Canadian Air Force was so touched by what he witnessed he penned a poem called Flanders Fields. Dr. John McCrae published his poem and the poppy soon became a popular symbol for those who perished in battle.
Lest We Forget Poppy
In Flanders Fields:
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.