11th November: Remembrance Day – “Lest We Forget”

11th November: Remembrance Day – “Lest We Forget”

Remembrance Day is a solemn commemoration that takes place on 11 November each year and is observed by all Commonwealth of Nations countries to mark the end of the First World War.

Hostilities for “the War to End All Wars” formally ceased on the “11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month” in 1918 when at last “the guns fell silent”, ending a period of more than four years of mass slaughter on a scale never before encountered in human history.

Australia had suffered grievously in the conflict – with many arguing that we should never have been involved in the first place. The major issue of conscription had split society and a generation of young men had been decimated, with their families forced to continue on without fathers.

However after the war had ceased most were united in the belief that such a conflict must never again be allowed to happen and the first step in this process was to remember the sacrifice of those who had served.

It was a Melbourne journalist, George Honey, who suggested that a period of silence should be observed each year at 11 am on the 11 November and his idea was taken up with enthusiasm by King George V, who issued a proclamation in 1919 that called for two minutes of silence:

“All locomotion should cease, so that, in perfect stillness, the thoughts of everyone may be concentrated in reverent remembrance of the glorious dead.”

Even though it is nearly 100 years since the end of World War One, which to most Australians of today is a distant and obscure conflict seen through grainy black and white movie images, Remembrance Day is generally observed with reverence. Many official functions are conducted – including wreath-laying ceremonies – and the “two minutes silence” is widely practiced in cities and towns across the country.

 

Image: A large crowd gathers in Martin Place, Sydney on the 11th November 1918, to celebrate the news of the signing of the armistice to end the First World War. This date was celebrated in later years as Remembrance Day.

Image source: The Australian War Memorial