Remembrance Day origins

Powerful symbol : The red poppies which grew on the battlefields of the Western Front and have become a symbol of remembrance for those who have fallen in war. Image: Supplied.
Powerful symbol : The red poppies which grew on the battlefields of the Western Front and have become a symbol of remembrance for those who have fallen in war. Image: Supplied.

Armistice Day - World War 1

At 11am on November 11, 1918 the guns of the Western Front fell silent after more than four years of continuous warfare.

The allied armies had driven the German invaders back inflicting heavy defeats upon them.

In November the Germans called for an armistice (suspension of fighting) in order to secure a peace settlement which resulted in their unconditional surrender.

The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month attained special significance in the post-war years.

The moment when hostilities ceased on the Western Front became universally associated with the remembrance of those who had died in the war.

On the first anniversary of the armistice in 1919 two minute's silence was instituted as part of the main commemorative ceremony in London.

The two minutes silence became a central feature of commemorations on Armistice Day.

Remembrance Day - World War 2

After the end of WW2, the Australian and British governments changed the name to Remembrance Day.

Armistice Day was considered no longer appropriate for a day which would commemorate all war dead.

One minute's silence

In Australia in 1997, a proclamation was issued formally declaring November 11 to be Remembrance Day.

The proclamation urged all Australians to observe one minute's silence at 11am on November 11 each year to remember those who died or suffered in all wars and armed conflicts.

The wearing of the red poppy

The field poppy is an annual plant flowering in spring. Its seeds are blown in the wind and can lie dormant in the ground for a long time. If the ground is disturbed the seeds will germinate and the poppy flower will grow.

On the WW1 battlefields of the Western Front and on Gallipoli, where fighting disturbed vast areas of ground, the red poppy flowered profusely. From this time the vivid red flower became synonymous with great loss of life in war.

In Australia a resolution was passed that from November 11, 1921 the Red Poppy was to be worn on Armistice Day.

Inspiration for the poem 'In Flanders Fields'

In May 1915 a young Canadian artillery officer was killed by an enemy shell blast. A Canadian doctor, Major John McCrae, was tasked with the burial service. It is believed that the sight of the vibrant red flowers growing wild in the disturbed burial grounds inspired Major McCrae to write his now famous poem In Flanders Fields.

The first lines of the poem are considered to be amongst the best written in relation to WW1.

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.

The human cost of World War 1

The human cost of World War 1 was staggering.

More than 9 million soldiers and 12 million civilians died in that terrible conflict. Twenty-one million soldiers were wounded; many missing arms, legs, hands, or driven mad by shell shock. In Australia more then 500,000 men enlisted and over 350,000 embarked for overseas service; more than 60,000 were killed, including 521 'Collie Boys'.

'Lest We Forget'

This story Remembrance Day origins first appeared on Collie Mail.