Remembrance Day and Poppies
Updated: Nov 8, 2020
Remembrance Day, also known as Armistice Day, marks the day when World War One ended, at 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. Traditionally a 2 minute silence is held across the country on this day, the 11th November, at 11am to remember all those who have died and who have been affected by conflicts around the world - not just those from World War One. This tradition first started in 1919 when King George V asked the public to observe a silence so that "the thoughts of everyone may be concentrated on reverent remembrance of the glorious dead". It is a time of remembrance and respect and it is a social faux pas to disturb this silence so international visitors take note and please try to avoid calling or speaking to someone at this time in case they are respecting this tradition. The 2nd Sunday in November is known as Remembrance Sunday and on this day events and ceremonies are held across the country, one of the most famous being the parade and memorial service at The Cenotaph in London which is attended by the Royal Family and senior politicians. Again these ceremonies are to respect and remember the sacrifices that people have made for our freedom. Despite the coronavirus ceremonies and events will still be held this year albeit virtually or in a reduced capacity. Wreaths of poppies will continue to be laid across the country in cities, towns and villages at local war memorials. Keep your eyes peeled for these if you are out and about during our lockdown's permitted exercise/recreation.
During November you will often see people wearing red poppies as a sign of respect and remembrance. This tradition goes all the way back to the First World War where the bright red poppies stood in stark contrast in the fields amongst all the destruction around them. These poppies inspired a Canadian doctor who had recently lost a friend at Ypres to write the famous poem "In Flanders Fields". This poem went on to inspire an American academic, Moina Michael, to adopt the poppy as a symbol to remember all those who had fallen in the war. She campaigned to have the poppy adopted as the official symbol for Remembrance in the United States and worked with people in other countries to do the same. It was a French woman in the UK, Anna Guerin, who persuaded the founder of the Royal British Legion in 1921 to adopt the poppy as their emblem and to sell them so that they could raise money to support war veterans with housing and jobs. The rest as they say is history and today millions of poppies are sold every year to support the work of the Royal British Legion and to give people a symbol of both remembrance and hope for the future. An incredible 40 million poppies are distributed every year by volunteers across the country.
On a recent journey to a local arboretum I spotted a field filled with poppies next to the main road. The contrast of the red on the surrounding landscape was a remarkable sight to behold. I later went back on my bicycle to find the field so that I could take photos to share with you in this blog, I hope you like them. This Sunday and Wednesday, like many others, I will be stopping to reflect and pay my respect. Travelling is a great way to open people's minds and to build respect for other cultures so lets hope and pray that travelling will become possible again soon :)
The poem, "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.