Monday, 10 November 2014

On the eve of Remembrance Day....

In Honour of Remembrance Day

Tomorrow is the 96th Anniversary of Remembrance Day, the day when, all those years ago, the guns on the Western Front fell silent after over four years of war.  The German forces, who had inflicted heavy losses on the Allied armies over the previous four months, were driven back.  In order to secure a peace settlement the Germans called for a suspension of fighting, or an Armistice, in November.   They accepted the allied terms of unconditional surrender.   The guns fell silent at 11am on the 11th of November 1918.

It is hard to comprehend that over 70 million people who were mobilised for war.  Even more unimaginable is the fact that between 9 and 13 million  were killed in the war and up to a third of those who died have no known grave.   The anniversary of the moment the guns were silenced on the Western Front has ever since been a day to remember those who had died in war with the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month being the focal point of the Remembrance Services.

On the first anniversary of the Armistice in 1919, at London’s then new Cenotaph, a two minute silence was observed as part of the main commemorative service.  Did you know that the silence was proposed by Australian journalist Edward Honey, who was working in Fleet Street. 

The Australian and British governments changed the name to Remembrance Day after the end of the Second World War as Armistice Day was no longer an appropriate title for a day which would commemorate all war dead.

In 1993 in Australia, on the 75th anniversary of the armistice, Remembrance Day the remains of an unknown Australian soldier, exhumed from a First World War Military Cemetery in France, were ceremonially entombed in the Memorial's Hall of Memory.  Remembrance Day ceremonies were conducted simultaneously in towns and cities all over the country, culminating at the moment of burial at 11 am and coinciding with the traditional two minutes' silence. This ceremony, which touched a chord across the Australian nation, re-established Remembrance Day as a significant day of commemoration.

In 1997, Governor-General Sir William Deane formally declared the 11th of November to be Remembrance Day.  He urged all Australians to observe one minute's silence at 11 am on 11 November each year to remember those who died or suffered for Australia's cause in all wars and armed conflicts.

Poppies are part of the tradition of Remembrance Day and are becoming part of the ANZAC Day tradition as well.

During the First World War red poppies were among the first plants to grow in the battlefields of northern France and Belgium.  Folklore will tell you that the vivid red of the poppy is drawn from the blood of those who died, their blood soaking the ground.

Poppies adorn the panels of the Memorial's Roll of Honour, placed beside names as a small personal tribute to the memory of a particular person, or to any of the thousands of individuals commemorated there. This practice began at the interment of the Unknown Australian Soldier on 11 November 1993.  As people waited to lay a single flower by his tomb in the Hall of Memory, they had to queue along the cloisters, beside the Roll of Honour. By the end of the day, hundreds of RSL poppies had been pushed into the cracks between the panels bearing the names of the fallen.

This scene has been beautifully immortalised in the quilt made by Lucy Carroll which she is hoping to sell eventually to raise funds for Soldier On the organisation which inspired the quilt and after which it is named.

1 comment:

  1. We will remember. I have today bought poppy pins, they have darling enamel looking ones for $1 so I have bought a total of 20 from 4 different places. I have already in my daily encounter with friends given away 5 pins and to the people who checked my eyes at the optometrist given away another 3. I have told the story of Aussie Heroes too while I was at it. Always spreading the word.