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Remembrance Day - 11 November

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Remembrance Day

November could be considered the month of remembrance and commemoration, as it commences with All Souls Day, shortly followed by Remembrance Day. On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, an armistice occurred during World War One which created permanent hostile ceasefire on the Western Front and an end to the first global war. This began the tradition of Remembrance Day, formerly known as Armistice Day, as it signifies a time for us to commemorate our fallen soldiers on the day that peace was formally executed. 

The tradition became that on each anniversary, all allied nations would take 2 minutes of silence to reflect upon those who lost their lives during the war. Many ceremonies are taken place nationwide on November the 11th, in Melbourne specifically, the Remembrance Day National Ceremony held by the Australian War Memorial is a large public commemoration in which a minute of silence is taken place and a formal ceremony is taken place. A funeral ceremony is also conducted for unknown soldiers as it represents the devastation of war and the many soldiers who remained unidentified post-war times. Poppies are also worn as a symbol nationwide to remember the impact of war and the significant loss of life.

The Significance of Poppies

Poppies are little red flowers that have long been used as an emblem for Remembrance Day. They can be seen on November the 11th pinned to a person’s clothing, placed against plaques and headstones or combined together to create funeral wreaths for the ceremonies of the unknown soldiers. At the end of World War One in the desecrated battlefields of France and Belgium, red poppies were amongst the first flowers to blossom from the wastelands and former battlefields. 

Upon sighting the poppies on the battlefield at Ypres, John McCrae was inspired to write the poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ which became an influence for the introduction of poppies as a nationwide symbol for remembrance. The poem inspired writers such as Moina Michael to write a responsive poem and wear a red poppy as a way of holding faith and commemoration, as proposed by McCrae himself, which led to the outspread of poppies and the quick acceptance of them becoming the emblem of remembrance. 

Today, poppies are considered a nationwide emblem in memoriam of fallen soldiers. On a side note, the little red flowers can also signify the devastation of war and loss of life, as the vivid red colour symbolises the blood that was spilled and absorbed into the soil throughout the battles. The absorption of blood with soil on the battlegrounds is what is believed to create the intense red colour of the poppy, as commonly believed through soldier’s folklore.

How did World War 2 influence Remembrance Day?

Before World War 2 erupted, Remembrance Day was still regarded as Armistice Day, as it was greatly influenced by the suspension of battle that took place on November 11, which led to the adoption of the Treaty of Versailles and an end to the First World War. Therefore, Armistice Day was both a commemoration for fallen soldiers but also a remembrance of the peace that was achieved. However, after the destruction and large loss of life from World War 2, the United Kingdom offered a proposal to change Armistice Day to Remembrance Day as a way of including all the soldiers who died during World War One. The policy was then accepted by the Australian government and throughout the Commonwealth, and Remembrance Day was established as the day of commemoration for all our allied soldiers who lost their lives during both World War One and World War Two.

Ceremonies

Ceremonies take place at 11am on November the 11th all throughout our Commonwealth to pay respects to the fallen soldiers who lost their lives during the World Wars. The tradition of the minute silence dates back to 1919 with King George V personally requesting that all people of the British Empire suspend their activities for a two-minute silence in memoriam of fallen soldiers during the hour of armistice. The two-minute silence also signifies the peace treaty that blossomed from the suspension of fighting and marked the conclusion of World War One.

During 1920 on the anniversary of Armistice Day, the ceremony of commemoration was given added significance as it became a funeral for an unknown soldier. Throughout post-war times, unknown soldiers were referred to as soldiers who died in battle but were never identified, however given military honours and government entombments, such as the wreath-laying ceremony at the Australian War Memorial for the unknown Australian soldier or the Inauguration Stone. The funeral ceremony signifies the devastating impact of war, as the unknown soldier is a representative of many. Remembrance Day ceremonies can also be significant as it enables us to see the loss of life and desolation caused through war by remembering our history and taking measures to avoid repeating it. Poppy wreaths are commonly employed at the funeral ceremonies as laying a wreath down can translate to laying to rest. This is significant because poppies grew on the burial ground battlefields, and are therefore used as the flower to lay a soldier peacefully to rest during ceremonies.

Difference between Anzac Day and Remembrance Day

Anzac Day falls on the 25th of April and is only associated within Australia and New Zealand, otherwise known as the Anzacs. As Remembrance Day commemorates all the lives of our allied nations soldiers who passed away during battle in both World Wars, Anzac Day is a day of commemoration for all Australian and New Zealand soldiers who lost their lives in World War One, but also a way to pay respect to those who returned home. The date signifies the anniversary of the landing of Anzac troops on the Gallipoli peninsula during World War One, and is a significant ceremony in Australia as the landing on Gallipoli marked the first major military action fought by Australia and New Zealand. The battle at Gallipoli however left widespread devastation for Anzac troops, therefore immortalizing the event in Australian history and memorializing it on a significant date. Poppies are also adopted as a symbol on Anzac Day, as they are recognized as the emblem of remembrance worldwide. 



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