Every year, at 11.00am on 11th November millions of people stop to remember those who fought in the two World Wars. The 11th November was chosen for this commemoration as it was the date in 1918 when the armistice was signed, bringing the First World War to an end.
We’re all very familiar with how the day is commemorated here in the UK, but what happens on Armistice Day in the WW1 battlefields?
As you can imagine, there are numerous events planned to mark Armistice Day in the WW1 battlefields, especially as we’re still in the midst of the centenary years – in fact, this year is the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme.
Armistice Day in the Somme
As with the rest of France, Armistice Day is a public holiday in France. Remembrance services will take place at the many war memorials and cemeteries across the Somme.
This includes Thiepval Memorial to the Missing, where the Royal British Legion is holding a parade followed by a remembrance service. To commemorate the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, the Thiepval Memorial is currently in the midst of hosting 141 days of daily remembrance services, all of which include a performance of the Last Post.
Veteran Affairs Canada will also be holding a remembrance service at Newfoundland Memorial Park.
There are a number of other interesting events taking place in the Somme on Armistice Day, including a very special concert that will take place in Amiens in the evening. The Orchestra of Picardie will perform a piece by British composer Benjamin Ellin, commemorating WWI and celebrating peace.
Armistice Day in Flanders
As in France, Armistice Day is a public holiday in Belgium.
Many of the commemorations will centre around Ypres. A special Poppy Parade will form up in Vandenpeereboomplein by St. George’s Church and St. Martin’s Cathedral.
This parade is very special in that members of the public are invited to take part. After the parade is formed up, everyone taking part is given a poppy petal to carry. Once the parade arrives at the Menin Gate, the petals are collected and then released from the roof as part of the remembrance service.
The parade was created by Lieutenant-Colonel Graham Parker in the ‘90s, who felt it was a real shame that, due to the increasing popularity of the remembrance events in Ypres, people were travelling large distances to be there, only to find it impossible to get anywhere near the commemorations. Those taking part in the poppy parade today are provided with an allocated area in which to stand during the service.
The service itself features short speeches (in both Flemish and English), as well as prayers and hymns. There is also a wreath-laying section of the service and, of course, those gathered are asked to observe a minute’s silence, started by the playing of the Last Post and ended by the playing of Réveille.
There will also be a special concert held at St. Martin’s Cathedral. Organised by the Last Post Association, the Great War Remembered concert has been held every year since 2004 and includes various musical performances and readings.
Finally, the Royal British Legion will once again host the ‘Flanders’ Field of Poppies’ event. First held in 2008, the Royal British Legion invite their supporters and members of the public to dedicate a cardboard poppy, with a message. The poppies are planted on the ramparts alongside the Menin Gate, creating a field of poppies.
There’s still time to bring WW1 to life for your students during the centenary years, but availability is, as you’d imagine, extremely limited. Request a tailor-made quote now to make sure you don’t miss out!