HANDY HISTORIES: REMEMBRANCE SUNDAY
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It’s so easy to forget why we celebrate something. I know it is for me. Having my hair cut on Saturday, someone asked me why it is we wear a Poppy around November 11th. She knew why, but not why if you get my meaning? In the coming days your little bundles of joy may be asked to write or talk about this subject and their first port of call, if they are, will be you! Fear not, the Handy Histories Team is here to give you a little bit of extra help to make the conversation that little bit easier.
The First World War raged from 1914 to 1918. By the time it had finished, over 37 million people had died, and another 20 million had been wounded; often beyond repair. Germany, having suffered enormously in the final few months of the war, decided to finally ask the Allies for peace. They got rid of their eccentric and irrational Emperor Wilhelm II, and approached the Allies to end the war. Fighting finally ended on the 11th November 1918 where the peace agreement was signed in, of all unlikely places, a railway carriage in Northern France. The Armistice ended the fighting on both the Eastern and Western fronts. But it did not end the War. The war did not officially end until June 28th 1919. This period is known as the armistice but sadly it wasn’t the end of the dying. Men were still being killed accidentally during the ceasefire, as word of the ceasefire was difficult to spread through the traditional communication lines that were left in tatters, thanks to the destroyed countryside and difficult terrain.
Why the Poppy?
“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.”
These words, written by Canadian soldier, John McCrae come from the poem “In Flanders Field” which was the inspiration behind the Poppy being used for the symbol of remembrance.
When the war was over, and both the victors and the losers returned to the battlefields with the aim of recovering what they could, from the disaster of the First World War, they found fields and fields of poppies growing on the bloodied battlefields.
Poppies grow in disturbed land, and strangely, these sites of huge losses provided a perfect environment for these flowers to grow. From death, came something beautiful.
The reason for the wearing of a red Poppy is to remember the fallen and those affected. The Royal British Legion use the money from the Poppy Appeal to help veterans from all wars, but the significance of the 11th November, is that at the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month; the guns finally fell silent across Europe.
Men were released from the hell of war, and were welcomed back to their homes and loved ones.
And the poppies still grow – a permanent reminder of what men can sacrifice for what is right and what is wrong.
Today, the Poppy doesn’t just represent those lost during the First World War. Today, it represents any kind of loss in the service of this country; The Second World War, the Korean War, the Falklands War, the Gulf War, Afghanistan and Iraq – the Poppy is a symbol of our remembrance for all the lives lost in the act of war.
Remember; at 11:00 on November 11th, stop, listen and remember.
For that silence is a silence that has echoed throughout the ages. There is no silence more important in our country’s history.
The Allies: The Nations who fought against Germany in the First World War – The British Empire, The French Republic, The Russian Empire and The United States.
Armistice: An agreement between those at war to end the fighting. It does not mean that it the end of the war; just the fighting.
Flanders: a part of Northern Belgium particularly hard hit during World War One.
Royal British Legion: Society in charge of maintaining the Poppy Appeal.
If you have any questions or want a specific area of history you want help with, then email the Handy Histories Team at [email protected] and we will try and help you out!