Sunday, November 12, 2006
History of Remembrance Sunday
In the United Kingdom Remembrance Sunday is the Sunday nearest to 11 November - Remembrance Day, which is the anniversary of when hostilities in the First World War ended at 11 a.m in 1918.
Remembrance Sunday is marked by ceremonies at local war memorials in most towns and villages, attended by civic dignitaries, ex-servicemen and women (principally the Royal British Legion), youth organisations (e.g. Scouts and Guides), and military cadet forces. Wreaths of poppies are laid on the memorials and two-minutes' silence is held at 11am.
From 1919 until 1945, Remembrance ceremonies were held on Armistice Day; observance was then moved to Remembrance Sunday but since the 50th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in 1995 it has become usual to hold ceremonies on both Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday.
On Remembrance Sunday in 1987, a bomb exploded by the Provisional IRA killed 11 people and injured 63 in Enniskillen (see Remembrance Day Bombing).
In 2006, Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown proposed that in addition to Remembrance Sunday, a new national day to celebrate the achievements of veterans should be instituted. The "Veterans Day", to be held in the summer, would be similar to Veterans Day celebrations in the United States.
At 11 a.m. on 11 November 1918, the Armistice marked the moment when hostilities ceased on the Western Front. The "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" thereafter became universally associated with the remembrance of those who had died in the First World War.
1919: Introduction of the Silent Tribute
On the first anniversary of the Armistice, 11 November 1919, two minutes silence was instituted as part of the main commemorative ceremony in Whitehall, London. King George V had personally requested all the people of the British Empire to suspend normal activities for two minutes on the hour of the Armistice. Two minutes' silence was popularly adopted and it became a central feature of commemorations on Armistice Day.
1920: Tomb of the Unknown Warrior
On the second anniversary of the Armistice, 11 November 1920, the commemoration was given added significance with the return of the remains of an unknown soldier from the battlefields of the Western Front. Unknown soldiers were interred with full military honours in Westminster Abbey in London and at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. The Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey attracted over one million people within a week to pay their respects. Most other allied nations adopted the tradition of entombing unknown soldiers in their capitals over the following decade: Washington, Rome and Brussels in 1921, Prague and Belgrade in 1922, and later Warsaw and Athens.
1946: Introduction of Remembrance Day
After the Second World War, the British and her Dominions, including New Zealand, agreed to change the name and date of Armistice Day to Remembrance Day, now to be observed on the Sunday prior to 11 November (it was later transferred to the second Sunday in November). Armistice Day was no longer viewed as an appropriate title for a day which would commemorate the war dead of both World Wars. In short, Remembrance Day "Sundayised" the observance of Armistice Day. By the mid 1950s, however, the public gradually lost interest in commemorating Remembrance Day. It was believed that the decline of Remembrance Day was a result of its "Sundayisation" and the loss of the association with the eleventh hour of the 11 November.
Armistice Day again
Since the 1990s the United Kingdom and many countries of the Commonwealth have increasingly returned to commemorate Armistice Day 11 November because the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" has so much significance. In 1995, for example, the Royal British Legion embarked on a campaign for the reintroduction of two minutes' silence on 11 November at 11 a.m., which steadily gained momentum to the point where today it is estimated that three-quarters of the population of the United Kingdom participate in the observance.
Borrowed from various souces.