Remembrance Day –
THE ELOQUENCE OF SILENCE
Today is Remembrance Day, with the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month marking the signing of the Armistice, on 11th November 1918, to signal the end of World War One. It is a special day set aside to remember all the men and women who were killed during the two World Wars and other conflicts around the globe. At one time the day was known as Armistice Day but was renamed Remembrance Day after the Second World War. Wreaths are laid beside war memorials by companies, clubs and societies. People may also leave small wooden crosses by the memorials in remembrance of a family member who died in war.
The “Last Post” is traditionally played to introduce the minute’s silence in Remembrance Day ceremonies. It is usually played on a bugle. (In military life, “The Last Post” marks the end of the day and the final farewell.) The sounding of “Reveille”, ends the minute’s silence, followed by the recitation of the “Ode of Remembrance” (“For the Fallen”) by Laurence Binyon (1869 – 1943).
The Fourth stanza of this ode is the most famous and reads:
“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.”
Remembrance Day is also known as Poppy Day, because it is traditional to wear an artificial poppy. The link between Red Poppies and war is usually attributed to a Canadian physician and soldier, Lt. Col. John McCrae, through his famous poem about WW1, “In Flanders Field”; published in Punch Magazine in 1915. The obvious symbolic correlation between red poppy and blood spilt with loss of life on European battlefields, had already been noted by the end of the Napoleonic wars at the beginning of the 19th century.
“Let us be silent, that we may hear the whispers of the gods.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson