Wednesday, 9 November 2011


Remembrance Day or Armistice Day is observed annually since World War 1 on November 11 in Commonwealth countries to  remember the members of their armed forces who have died in the line of duty. The November 11 date was chosen because the official end of World War I was on that date in 1918. The formal end to hostilities was marked at 11 am by the German signing of the Armistice. The 11th hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month is when Remembrance Day Ceremonies are held at War Memorials throughout Commonwealth countries.

The United States honour their military veterans on the November 11 as well with Veterans Day.

Lapel Poppy

The red remembrance poppy is a familiar emblem of Remembrance Day; it has been used since 1920 to commemorate soldiers who have died in war. The use of the poppy was inspired by the First World poem "In Flanders Fields" written by Canadian physician Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, who died in the war.

The opening lines of the poem refer to the many poppies that were the first flowers to grow in the churned-up earth of soldiers' graves in Flanders (a region of Europe that overlies parts of Belgium, France, and the Netherlands.)  The poppies bloomed across some of the worst battlefields of Flanders in World War I, their brilliant red colour an appropriate symbol for the blood spilled in the war.  The horrors of that war and the huge loss of life on both sides (mostly young men sent to their deaths over quagmires left from constant bombardments against the fortified trenches of the other side) are hard to imagine today.

Poppies growing wild at the side of a road

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"

Remembrance Day ceremonies are marked by a period of silence at 11 am, a time for solitary thought.

At this time of year I remember my father who fought in the Second World War. He was in the British Artillery and was captured early in the conflict and spent years in Prisoner of War camps.

My Dad in his uniform
He survived, returned to Britain, met and married my mother and raised 6 children. We moved to Canada many years ago.  My father has since passed away.

I remember attending Remembrance Day ceremonies with my family. My father would wear his medals and stand at attention, honouring his fellow soldiers. The ceremony included singing the National Anthem, a tribute to the fallen, the laying of commemorative wreaths and the playing of the Last Post: followed by a 2 minute silence.

The ceremony always seemed to have a piper, with the plaintive sound of the bagpipes. To this day the sound of bagpipes brings to mind standing with my father at the War Memorial. My Dad never talked much about the war, never glorified war and hoped that we would never have to experience such a conflict.  In his time young men did their duty and served their country.  It did not occur to most of them to question what they were doing or why they were doing it.

After the war his family gave him the letter confirming that he was a prisoner of war and where they could send letters to him. He kept his service and pay book as well.

After the war some of his fellow soldiers produced a publication called "Barbed Wire"

This post is dedicated to my father and all the young men and women who have fought to make the world a better place for their children and children's children.

Thank you for visiting my blog, I hope you'll come by again next Wednesday.