Following World War 1, a suggestion was made that there be a time of silence to mark the end of the Great War. King George V heard of this suggestion and thought it to be a very good idea. He implemented 2 minutes of silence on at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1919. This day was referred to as Armistice Day. The period of silence is still marked in the UK where this day is not a holiday as it is in some countries of the world such as Canada.
A cenotaph had been built in 1919 at Whitehall in London and following WW1 it was decided that the war victims should be remembered on a Sunday close to November 11th. A service at this cenotaph occurred every year and was broadcast from 1928 by BBC except during WW 2 and still is. In 1939 due to the outbreak of WW2 the day was renamed the Day of Dedication. In 1956 it was established that Remembrance Sunday should be on the second Sunday of November and this tradition continues to this day. Today Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday commemorate British service men and women as well as their allies who have died in all military conflicts including the Boar War, the Korean War, in the Falklands and the Gulf War, in Northern Ireland, in more recent conflicts in Iraq and in Afghanistan as well as during the conflict in what was Yugoslavia.
At Whitehall the Royal Family attends and lays wreaths as do politicians, religious leaders, military representatives and other dignitaries. There is March Past of veterans and Armed Forces units after 11am following a service of prayer and hymns and laying of wreaths. Typically up to 10,000 people take part in the March Past at the London Cenotaph.
Typically all communities in the UK have their own services on Remembrance Sunday and local Armed Forces, cadets, scouts, Guides and members of the Boys and Girls Brigades take part and churches are involved.
The British Legion began a poppy appeal in 1921 to raise funds for veterans as it still does today. Citizens in the UK and especially those in prominent positions always wear a poppy for several weeks before Armistice Day. The British Legion became the Royal British Legion in 1971.
The Royal British Legion sponsors the annual Service of Remembrance that is on the Saturday evening prior to Remembrance Sunday. This is a very moving service that takes place at the Royal Albert Hall to which the Royal Family members, veterans and members of the Armed Forces attend as well a the beloved Chelsea Pensioners. There are always family members who have lost loved ones there to represent all families that have shared their loss. Veterans share their stories, there are songs and sometimes dance, poetry, readings, hymns and prayers. It ends with silence while poppies fall from the ceiling.
At Westminster Abbey their is an annual Field of Remembrance where citizens can add a small cross. Across the UK, there are always other dedications and displays. In recent years there have been mass poppy displays at the Tower of London and at Chelsea Hospital. Businesses sometimes mark their honour of those who have served in such ways as with a mannequin with a dress of poppies. One company dropped poppies from their atrium during the period of silence one year recently. From 2015-2018 the poppy sculptures Wave and Weeping Window toured 19 locations around the UK. There have been knitted poppy campaigns and these have been drooped over castles such as Hertford Castle and have taken prominent places in towns. Poppies have been projected on buildings and cathedrals, and Hull Minster had an installation of a sculpture in poppies. And of course poppies are what are the prominent feature of all the wreaths which are lain on Remembrance Sunday and around Armistice Day. Wreaths have been lain on the football pitch before a game at this time of year.
In 1920 it was decided to have a grave to the Unknown Soldier at Westminster Abbey to commemorate all those who had died but of whom there had been no identification. A body was brought to London from Belgium for this purpose. There is always a candle lit here and poppies are around the headstone which is a prominent feature as one enters the Abbey. Other monuments to the dead have been built around the UK such as the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire and the Air Forces monument for those men and women of the British empire who lost their lives in air operations at Runnymede, Englefield Green, Surrey. There are many monuments, statues and cenotaphs all over.
BBC always airs documentaries about the World Wars in particular and personal stories of veterans and victims or war for weeks prior to November 11th.
It is fair to say that even though November 11th is not a holiday in the UK , it is a very important day for its citizens.
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