Remembrance Sunday – 7 Things You May Not Know About This Special Day

This Sunday, 12 November, the nation remembers those who sacrificed their lives to secure and protect our freedoms.

Each year, on the second Sunday of the month of November, a service is held at The Centotaph in Whitehall.  At this service, a 2 minute silence is observed at 11am before the laying of the wreaths.  The silence represents the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918 when the guns of Europe fell silent.  The silence begins with the Royal Marines buglers sounding The Last Post and ends with the Royal Marines buglers sounding The Rouse. Gunners of the Royal Horse Artillery fire a gun salute at the end of the silence.

Wreaths are then laid by the Queen, Members of the Royal Family, the Prime Minister and leaders of major political parties.

After the ceremony, the bands play and a parade of veterans, organised by The Royal British Legion, marches past The Cenotaph.

The following are 7 things you may not know about Remembrance Sunday.

Where does the association of poppies with remembrance come from? The poem written by Canadian soldier, John McCrae. The opening line of his poem “In Flanders Fields”, refers to poppies being the first flowers to grow amongst the death and destruction of the battle-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 Scarse heard amid the guns below”.

McCrae was not satisfied with his work and is said to have crumpled the paper the poem was written on and thrown it away. It was retrieved by a member of his unit and eventually convinced to submit it for publication.

Who Had The Idea Of Selling Poppies To Raise Money For Those Who Have Served? American humanitarian worker Moina Michael came up with the idea of selling silk poppies to be worn as a tribute to the fallen. By 1921, her efforts led to the poppy being adopted as the official emblem of remembrance by the Royal British Legion.

Are Poppies Always Worn In The Same Way? White poppies are sometimes used as an alternative and worn as a statement to commemorate the dead but object to war. Purple poppies are also worn by members of the Charity Animal Aid, whose aim is to remind people that animals also lose their lives during war.  Some people say that you should wear your poppy on the left hand side. The Queen wears her poppy on the right hand side which caused some people to incorrectly believe that the Royals are allowed to position theirs on the right. The Royal British Legion say that there is no right or wrong way to wear it – ‘other than with pride’.

Armistice Day, Poppy Day or Remembrance Sunday? The Armistice was signed at Compiegne in Northern France and took effect on 11 November 1918. Armistice Day was adopted by George V on 7 November 1919 has now become Remembrance Day in Commonwealth nations, though in the UK the focus is on Remembrance Sunday instead which is also known as Poppy Day. Traditionally this day is the Sunday closest to 11 November. The UK changed from Armistice Day to Remembrance Sunday at the end of World War 2 when it was decided that the dead of both wars should be commemorated on the same day.

Where Did The Idea for The Two-Minute Silence Originate? The idea came from Mayor Sir Harry Hands of Cape Town, South Africa whose son was mortally wounded in the First World War and requested that everyone should pause at noon for two minutes silence. It was suggested in Britain by Australian journalist Edward George Honey who, in a letter to the London Evening Standard on 8 May 1919, proposed a respectful silence to remember those who had given their lives in World War 1. It was introduced as part the Armistice Day ceremony by King George V.

Why Is The Last Post is Always played? The Last Post was first published in the 1790s and sounded daily in British Army camps. At this time, soldiers didn’t have watches so had to be regulated in camp by trumpet/bugle calls to tell them when to get up and when to have their meals. The Last Post bugle call signalled that the duty inspector had carried out his inspection of the sentry posts on the perimeter of the camp with the camp being secure for the night. The Last Post was later adopted into military funerals and Remembrance Sunday ceremonies.

Where Are The Poppies Made? In Richmond, Surrey, there is a poppy factory which employs around 30 disabled veterans to produce the poppies and wreaths for the Royal Family and The Royal British Legion’s annual poppy appeal. The Poppy Factory is the country’s leading employment charity for veterans with health conditions or impairments. It’s possible to do a free pre-arranged 2-hour tour of the factory where you can learn all about the history of the poppy, see some of the wreaths and poppies made throughout history and even have a chance to make a poppy for yourself. Further details can be found at https://www.poppyfactory.org/visit-us/

The following video clip gives some interesting information on the work of The Poppy Factory.

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