Decades have passed since the Armistice that ended World War 1, “The War to end all Wars.” Since that time, conflicts have continued to rage around the globe, but we still hold fast to the idea that peace is possible, and we continue to work towards that goal.
Remembrance Day in Australia commemorates the noble sacrifices of armed forces and civilians during times of war. At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, one minute of silence is observed across the country to mark the cessation of hostilities on the Western front during WW1 after over four years of gruesome warfare.
The moment in 1918 when hostilities ceased was originally named Armistice Day, becoming a time when allied nations honoured the brave sacrifices made by all who fought and lost their lives during the First World War. At the end of the Second World War, the Australian and British governments renamed November 11 Remembrance Day to mark and remember all who have fallen in times of war. The ritual of observing one minute of silence was first proposed by Australian journalist Edward Honey in 1918 and continues to be universally practiced on Remembrance Day each year.
Unlike ANZAC Day, Remembrance Day is not a public holiday in Australia but services are held at 11am at War Memorials and cenotaphs in suburbs and towns across the country. Traditionally, the Last Post is sounded by a bugler followed by one minute of silence. After the minute of silence, flags are raised from half-mast to masthead as Rouse is played.
Remembrance Day is observed across the world in the United Kingdom, Canada, France, South Africa, The United States of America, Bermuda, Ireland and New Zealand as well as in Australia. In many of these locations, two minutes of silence is observed at 11am.
Men and women in Australia and around the world have made sacrifices, many have given their lives. Yet the freedom we enjoy was secured at a price. Since Federation, Australian units have served in the Boer War, the Boxer Rebellion, World War I, World War II, Korea, the Malayan Emergency, the Indonesian Confrontation, Vietnam, the Gulf War, the War against Terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq, and in many Peace Keeping Operations around the world.
They gave their lives to ensure that the things we hold dear as Australians would endure for future generations.
Remembrance Day Press Relase October 2014 : click HERE
Why a red poppy?
Since 1920, the red poppy has been used as a symbol of commemoration to soldiers who have fallen in times of war. During the First World War, poppies were among the first plants to blossom on the devastated battlefields of northern France and Belgium. According to soldier’s folklore, the vivid red of the poppy came from the blood of their comrades soaking the ground. Poppies grew in profusion over the earth which had become the grave to thousands of soldiers, making the poppy an appropriate symbol to represent the sacrifice of life and the bloodshed of trench warfare.
The sight of poppies springing up amidst the ravaged battlefields of Ypres inspired Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae to write one of the most notable and popular poems of the period, In Flanders Fields. It is believed that the poem was written on May 3rd 1915 after McCrae witnessed the death of his 22 year old friend, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer the day prior.
The tradition of wearing a poppy began just before the armistice in 1918. The secretary of the American YMCA, Moina Michael, read John McCrae’s poem and was so moved by it that she decided to partake in a personal commemorative ritual of wearing a red poppy. She believed this was a powerful way of keeping alive the faith that John McCrae had urged in his poem. In November 1918, a meeting was held with YMCA secretaries from around the world providing Moina Michael with a chance to discuss the poem and her decision to wear a red poppy. This inspired the French YMCA secretary, Anna Guérun to take the idea further and begin selling poppies to raise money for those affected by the war - particularly widows, orphans, veterans and their families.
The poppy soon became widely accepted throughout the allied nations as a symbol of remembrance which was to be worn on Armistice Day. Poppies were first sold in Australia in 1921 and continue to be sold by the RSL in the lead up to Remembrance Day every year to raise the much needed funds for the organisation’s valuable welfare work.
Colonel McCrae's Poem
By Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae
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.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders’ fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe;
To you from failing hands, we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders’ fields.
Colonel McCrae learned of his appointment as consulting physician to the First British Army while in a military hospital. He died within a week of the announcement, on the 28th of January and was buried with full military honours in the cemetery at Wimereux, France.