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Remembrance Day – also known as Poppy Day, Armistice Day (the event it commemorates) or Veterans Day – is a day to commemorate the sacrifices of members of the armed forces and of civilians in times of war, specifically since the First World War. It is observed on 11 November to recall the end of World War I on that date in 1918 (major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 with the German signing of the Armistice). The day was specifically dedicated by King George V, on 7 November 1919, to the observance of members of the armed forces who were killed during war; this was possibly done upon the suggestion of Edward George Honey to Wellesley Tudor Pole, who established two ceremonial periods of remembrance based on events in 1917.

In the United Kingdom, Armed Forces' Day (formerly Veterans' Day) is a separate commemoration, celebrated for the first time on 27 June 2009.

Observance in the Commonwealth

Remembrance Day, London, 2006.
Common British, Canadian, South African, and ANZAC traditions include two minutes of silence at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month (11:00 am, 11 November), as that marks the time (in the United Kingdom) when armistice became effective.

The Service of Remembrance in many Commonwealth countries generally includes the sounding of "Last Post," followed by the two minutes of silence, followed by the sounding of "Reveille" (or, more commonly, "The Rouse"), and finished by a recitation of the "Ode of Remembrance." The "Flowers of the Forest", "O Valiant Hearts", "I Vow to Thee, My Country" and "Jerusalem" are often played during the service. Services also include wreaths laid to honour the fallen, a blessing, and national anthems.


In Australia Remembrance Day is always observed on 11 November, although the day is not a public holiday. Services are held at 11am at war memorials and schools in suburbs and towns across the country, at which "Last Post" is sounded by a bugler and a one-minute silence is observed. In recent decades, however, Remembrance Day has been partly eclipsed by ANZAC Day (25 April) as the national day of war commemoration.


In Barbadosmarker, Remembrance Day is not a public holiday. It is recognized as November 11th, yet the parade and ceremonial events are carried out on Remembrance Sunday.The day is celebrated to recognise the Barbadian soldiers who died fighting in the first and second world wars between 1914 to 1918 and 1939 to 1945. The parade is held at National Heroes' Square where a interdenominational service is held. The Governor-General and Barbadian Prime Minister are among those who attend, along with other government dignitaries; and the heads of the police and military forces. During the main ceremony a gun salute, wreathes, and prayers are also performed at the war memorial Cenotaphmarker at the heart of Heroes' Square in Bridgetownmarker.


Remembrance Day Parade, Hamilton, Bermuda, 1991
In Bermuda, which sent the first colonial volunteer unit to the Western Front in 1915, and which had more people per capita in uniform during the Second World War than any other part of the Empire, Remembrance Day is still an important holiday. The parade in Hamilton had historically been a large and colourful one, as contingents from the Royal Navy, British Regular Army, the local Territorial units, the Canadian Forces, the US Army, Air Force, and Navy, and various cadet corps and other services were all contributed at one time or another to march with the veterans. Since the closing of British, Canadian, and American bases in 1995, the parade has barely grown smaller. In addition to the ceremony held in the City of Hamiltonmarker on Remembrance Day itself, marching to the Cenotaph (a smaller replica of the one in London), where wreathes are laid and orations made, a smaller military parade is also held in St. George'smarker on the nearest Sunday to Remembrance Day.


In Canadamarker, Remembrance Day is a public holiday in all provinces and territories except Ontariomarker and Quebecmarker. The official national ceremonies are held at the National War Memorialmarker in Ottawamarker, presided over by the Governor General of Canada, any members of the Canadian Royal Family (such as Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, in 2009), the Prime Minister, and other dignitaries, to the observance of the public. Typically, these events begin with the tolling of the Carillon in the Peace Towermarker, during which serving members of the Canadian Forces (CF) arrive at Confederation Squaremarker, followed by the Ottawa diplomatic corps, Ministers of the Crown, special guests, the Royal Canadian Legion (RCL), the viceregal party, and, if present, the royal party. Before the start of the ceremony, four armed sentries and three sentinels two flag sentinels and one nursing sister are posted at the foot of the cenotaph.

The arrival of the Queen or Governor General is announced by a trumpeter sounding the "Alert", whereupon the monarch or viceroy is met by the Dominion President of the RCL and escorted to a dais to receive the Royal or Viceregal Salute, after which the national anthem, "O Canada," is played. The moment of remembrance begins with the bugling of "Last Post" immediately before 11:00 am, at which time the gun salute fires and the bells of the Peace Tower toll the hour. Another gun salute signals the end of the two minutes of silence, and cues the playing of a lament, and then the bugling of "The Rouse". A flypast of Canadian Air Command craft then occurs at the start of a 21 gun salute, upon the completion of which a choir sings "In Flanders Fieldsmarker". The various parties then lay their wreaths at the base of the memorial; one wreath is set by the Silver Cross Mother, a recent recipient of the Memorial Cross, on behalf of all mothers who lost children in any of Canada's armed conflicts. The royal and/or viceregal group return to the dais to receive the playing of the Royal Anthem of Canada, "God Save the Queen", prior to the assembled Armed Forces personnel and veterans performing a march past in front of the royal and/or viceregal persons, bringing about the end of the official ceremonies. A tradition of paying more personal tribute to the sacrifice of those who have served and lost their lives in defence of the country has emerged since erection of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiermarker at the War Memorial in 2000: after the official ceremony the general public place their poppies atop the tomb.

Similar ceremonies take place in provincial capitals across the country, officiated by the relevant Lieutenant Governor, as well as in other cities, towns, and even hotels or corporate headquarters. Schools will usually hold special assemblies for the first half of the day, or on the school day prior, with various presentations concerning the remembrance of the war dead. The largest indoor ceremony in Canada is currently held in Montrealmarker, Quebec, followed in size by that held in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, with over 8,500 gathering in Credit Union Centremarker in 2008; the ceremony participants include old guard (veterans), new guard (currently serving members of the CF), and sea, army, and air cadet units.

New Zealand

New Zealandmarker's national day of remembrance is Anzac Day, 25 April. "Poppy Day" usually occurs on the Friday before Anzac Day. Some services are held on 11 November, which is generally referred to as Armistice Day.

South Africa

In South Africa, Poppy Day is not a public holiday. It takes place on the Saturday nearest to Remembrance Day, though in Cape Townmarker a Remembrance Service is still held on 11 November each year. Commemoration ceremonies are usually held on the following Sunday, at which the "Last Post" is played by a bugler followed by the observation of a two-minute silence. The two largest commemoration ceremonies to mark the event in South Africa are held in Johannesburgmarker at the Cenotaph (where it has been held for 84 consecutive years), and at the War Memorial at the Union Buildingsmarker in Pretoriamarker. Many high schools hold Remembrance Day services to honour the past pupils who died in the two World Wars and the Border war. In addition, the South African Legion holds a street collection to gather funds to assist in the welfare work among military veterans.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdommarker, although two minutes of silence are observed on 11 November itself, the main observance is on the second Sunday of November, Remembrance Sunday. Ceremonies are held at local war memorials, usually organised by local branches of the Royal British Legion – an association for ex-servicemen. Typically, poppy wreaths are laid by representatives of the Crown, the armed forces, and local civic leaders, as well as by local organisations including ex-servicemen organisations, cadet forces, the Scouts, Guides, Boys' Brigade, St John Ambulance and the Salvation Army. The start and end of the silence is often also marked by the firing of a cannon. A minute's or two minutes' silence is also frequently incorporated into church services. Further wreath-laying ceremonies are observed at most war memorials across the UK at 11 am on the 11th of November, led by the Royal British Legion. The beginning and end of the two minutes silence is often marked in large towns and cities by the firing of ceremonial cannon and many employers, and businesses invite their staff and customers to observe the two minutes silence at 11:00 am.

The First Two Minute Silence in London (11th November 1919) was reported in the Manchester Guardian on 12th November 1919:

The first stroke of eleven produced a magical effect.

The tram cars glided into stillness, motors ceased to cough and fume, and stopped dead, and the mighty-limbed dray horses hunched back upon their loads and stopped also, seeming to do it of their own volition.

Someone took off his hat, and with a nervous hesitancy the rest of the men bowed their heads also. Here and there an old soldier could be detected slipping unconsciously into the posture of 'attention'. An elderly woman, not far away, wiped her eyes, and the man beside her looked white and stern. Everyone stood very still ... The hush deepened. It had spread over the whole city and become so pronounced as to impress one with a sense of audibility. It was a silence which was almost pain ... And the spirit of memory brooded over it all.

The Cenotaph at Whitehall, London on Remembrance Day 2004
The main national commemoration is held at Whitehallmarker, in Central London, for dignitaries, the public, and ceremonial detachments from the armed forces and civilian uniformed services such as the Merchant Navy, Her Majesty's Coastguard, etc. Members of the British Royal Family walk through the Foreign and Commonwealth Officemarker towards the Cenotaph, assembling to the right of the monument to wait for Big Benmarker to strike 11:00 am, and for the King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery at Horse Guards Parademarker, to fire the cannon marking the commencement of the two minutes of silence. Following this, "Last Post" is sounded by the buglers of the Royal Marines. "The Rouse" is then sounded by the trumpeters of the Royal Air Force, after which wreaths are laid by the Queen and senior members of the Royal Family attending in military uniform and then, to "Beethoven's Funeral March" (composed by Johann Heinrich Walch), attendees in the following order: the Prime Minister; the leaders of the major political parties from all parts of the United Kingdom; Commonwealth High Commissioners to London, on behalf of their respective nations; the Foreign Secretary, on behalf of the British Dependencies; the First Sea Lord; the Chief of the General Staff; the Chief of the Air Staff; representatives of the merchant navy and Fishing Fleets and the merchant air service. Other members of the Royal Family usually watch the service from the balcony of the Foreign Officemarker. The service is generally conducted by the Bishop of London, with a choir from the Chapels Royal, in the presence of representatives of all major faiths in the United Kingdom. Before the marching commences, the members of the Royal Family and public sing the national anthem before the Royal Delegation lead out after the main service.

Members of the Reserve Forces and cadet organisations join in with the marching, alongside volunteers from St John Ambulance, paramedics from the London Ambulance Service, and conflict veterans from World War II, the Falklands, Kosovo, Bosnia, Northern Ireland, other past conflicts, and the ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. The last three British-resident veterans of World War I, Bill Stone, Henry Allingham, and Harry Patch, attended the 2008 ceremony but all passed away in 2009. After the service, there is a parade of veterans, who also lay wreaths at the foot of the Cenotaph as they pass, and a salute is taken by a member of the Royal Family at Horse Guards Parade.

Outside the Commonwealth

France and Belgium

Armistice Day (November 11) is a national holiday in France and Belgium. It commemorates the armistice signed between the Allies and Germany at Compiègne, France, for the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front, which took effect at eleven o'clock in the morning - the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month."


In Germanymarker, Armistice or Remembrance Day is not commemorated. Moreover, 11 November would be seen as an inappropriate date for such a holiday, as it traditionally marks the beginning of a German carnival. However, Volkstrauertag is commemorated. Originally this was on the fifth Sunday before Easter, but since 1952, has been celebrated two Sundays before the beginning of Advent. It has never been celebrated in the church since both the major German churches have their own festivals for commemorating the dead (All Souls Day in the case of the Roman Catholic Church, Ewigkeitssonntag, or "Eternity Sunday" in the case of the Lutheran church. Both festivals also fall in November.)


In Italymarker, servicemen who died for the nation are remembered on 4 November, when the ceasefire that followed the Armistice of Villa Giusti in 1918 began. Since 1977, this day has not been a public holiday; now, many services are held on the first Sunday of November.

Republic of Ireland

In the Republic of Irelandmarker, Armistice or Remembrance Day is not a public holiday. In July there is a National Day of Commemoration for Irish men and women who died in past wars or on service with the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces. Remembrance Day is observed by the Republic’s citizens who are serving or who have served in the British Armed Forces and the wider Irish Protestant community as part of their tradition and heritage.The Republic is a neutral state and has its own small army which is involved in UN peacekeeping missions; some citizens of the Republic of Ireland still enlist in the British Army.The Irish National War Memorial Gardensmarker is an Irish war memorial in Dublin dedicated to the memory of the 49,400 Irish soldiers who were killed in action in World War I.Remembrance Sunday is marked in the Republic by a ceremony in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublinmarker, which the President of Ireland attends.

United States

Veterans Day is commemorated in the United Statesmarker on 11 November, and is both a federal holiday and a state holiday in all states. However, the function of the observance elsewhere is more closely matched by Memorial Day in May. In the United States, and some other allied nations, 11 November was formerly known as Armistice Day; in the United States it was given its new name after the end of World War II. Most schools, particularly more middle and high schools than some elementary schools, throughout the U.S. usually hold assemblies on a school day prior, with various presentations recognizing teachers and staff members who served in one of the five branches of the United States Armed Forces, as well as remembering the U.S. troops who died in past and present wars, and some patriotic music by a school choir, band and/or orchestra, including songs from a musical used as a tribute to the troops (e.g., "Bring Him Home" from Les Misérables).

Anglican and Roman Catholics

For Anglicans and Roman Catholics, there is a coincidental but appropriate overlap of Remembrance Day with the feast of St. Martin of Tours, a saint famous for putting aside his life as a soldier and turning to the peace-filled life of a monk. Statues or images associated with St. Martin are for this reason sometimes used as symbols of Remembrance Day in religious contexts (e.g. the Anglican Cathedral of Montreal).


Poppies are sold every year as an act of remembrance to fallen soldiers at war.

The poppy's significance to Remembrance Day is a result of Canadian military physician John McCrae's poem In Flanders Fieldsmarker. The poppy emblem was chosen because of the poppies that bloomed across some of the worst battlefields of Flanders in World War I, their red colour an appropriate symbol for the bloodshed of trench warfare. An American YMCA Overseas War Secretaries employee, Moina Michael, was inspired to make 25 silk poppies based on McCrae's poem, which she distributed to attendees of the YMCA Overseas War Secretaries' Conference. She then made an effort to have the poppy adopted as a national symbol of remembrance, and succeeded in having the National American Legion Conference adopt it two years later. At this conference, a Frenchwoman, Anna E. Guérin, was inspired to introduce the widely used artificial poppies given out today. In 1921 she sent her poppy sellers to London, Englandmarker, where they were adopted by Field Marshall Douglas Haig, a founder of the Royal British Legion, as well as by veterans' groups in Canadamarker, Australia and New Zealandmarker.

A small number of people choose to wear white poppies, which they claim emphasises a desire for peaceful alternatives to military action. Some people regard this as being offensive.

The Royal Canadian Legion suggests that poppies be worn on the left lapel, or as close to the heart as possible.


In Canadamarker, the poppy is the official symbol of remembrance worn during the two weeks prior to November 11, after having been adopted in 1921.

The Canadian poppies consist of two pieces of moulded plastic covered with flocking with a pin to attach them to clothing. The head portion of the pin is bent at an angle in a simple unusual design that requires a unique machine at manufacturing. Originally the poppies were manufactured with a black centre ever since their original design in 1922. From 1980 to 2002 the centres were changed to green to represent the green hills of Flanders. Current designs are black only; this reversion caused notable confusion and controversy to those unfamiliar with the original design.

An older poppy design, in use until c. 1970, involved three pieces: red, then a black piece in the current style but made of felt, then a small circle of green felt in the very centre.

Until 1996, poppies were made by disabled veterans in Canada, but they have since been made by a private contractor.

In 2007, sticker versions of the poppy were developed for children, the elderly, and health care and food industry workers. The stickers were not designed to replace the lapel pin poppies, but merely to allow those who could not normally wear one to do so safely.

United Kingdom

In Englandmarker, Walesmarker, and Northern Irelandmarker the poppies are paper representatives of the flat Earl Haig variety with a leaf, mounted on a plastic stem. Wearers require a separate pin to attach the poppy to their clothing. In Scotlandmarker the poppies are curled at the petals with no leaf. In Northern Ireland, because the poppy honours soldiers of the British Armed Forces and because of The Troubles, it is worn primarily by members of the Unionist and the Irish Protestant community.

Other Countries

In Australia and New Zealandmarker the poppies are curled at the petals with no leaf.

In Ceylonmarker - present-day Sri Lankamarker - in the inter-war years, there were rival sales of yellow Suriya (portia tree) flowers by the Suriya-Mal Movement on Remembrance Day, since funds from poppy sales were not used for Sri Lankan ex-service personnel but were repatriated to Britain. However, nowadays poppy sales are used for indigenous ex-service personnel who have been disabled in the ongoing civil war.

In the United Statesmarker of America, the American Legion distributes crepe-paper poppies in exchange for contributions. "Poppy Day" is usually the same as or near Memorial Day in May. However, many Legion groups also make poppies available around November 11.


"Remembrance Day" is the primary designation for the day in many Commonwealth countries such as Australia and Canadamarker. However, "Armistice Day" also remains, often to differentiate the event from Remembrance Sunday, and is the primary designation used in New Zealandmarker and Francemarker.

"Poppy Day" is also a popular term used, particularly in Maltamarker and South Africa. Veterans Day also falls upon this day in the United Statesmarker, yet many other allied nations have quite different Veterans Days.

See also


  1. A Guide to Commemorative Services - Veterans Affairs Canada
  2. New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage: Anzac Day
  3. NZ Returned Services Association: Poppy Day
  4. NZ Returned Services Association: Armistice Day
  5. South African Legion
  6. From the Italian government website


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