If you are in the UK around autumn time, a few days into November you will start noticing people wearing poppy flower pins on their clothing. You can also see them being sold at almost any popular grocery store even see people selling them on the streets. Well that is probably because Remembrance Day is around the corner.
On this day many nations remember and honour those who have fought and died in the First World War. In the UK it is celebrated on the nearest Sunday to the 11th of November. Why that particular date you wonder, well it is said that in 1918 all combat in WWI came to an end on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. Early that morning, Germany, lacking manpower and supplies, was invaded and had no other choice but to sign an armistice with the Allies. The legacy of the war was more than horrendous – around nine million soldiers dead and nearly 21 million wounded, with Germany, Russia, Austria-Hungary, France, and Great Britain each losing almost a million of their population each. That is not even including all the civilians that died from diseases, starvation and just exposure to the horrors of the war in general.
In the UK, the main observance is held with two minutes of silence observed on the actual 11th of November. Ceremonies, usually held by the Royal British Legion, are done at local war memorials. Often, the beginning and the end of the silence is marked by the firing of an artillery piece or even the blast of a cannon.
Why a poppy flower as a symbol you might wonder? Well the inspiration for that comes from the poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ by Canadian doctor, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae. More specifically its opening lines referring to thousands of poppies that were the first flowers to grow in the churned-up earth of soldiers’ graves. Colonel John McCrae wrote his poem in the spring of 1915, shortly after losing a friend of his in Ypres. He found himself being inspired by the sight of all those little red flowers that were growing in battle-scarred fields. During World War I, the poppy was one of the very first flowers to bloom on the battlefields of Flanders. Their bright red colour symbolised the blood that was shed during the horrific conflict, but it also represents the hope of new life. Ever since the year 1920, the poppy was adopted as a symbol of Remembrance Day. Nowadays, people wear poppies on their clothing in the days leading up to the actual event to show their respect and gratitude. In addition to that, poppy wreaths are placed on war memorials.
So next time on the 11th of November at 11:00 spare two minutes of your busy schedule to respect to those who have fallen in the name of our freedom.