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Remembrance Sunday and the Red Poppy

Updated on September 16, 2015

Cenotaph - Whitehall London

Cenotaph on Whitehall, London, in November 2004 (with wreaths laid down on Remembrance Day). Photo Chris Nyborg.  Creative Commons
Cenotaph on Whitehall, London, in November 2004 (with wreaths laid down on Remembrance Day). Photo Chris Nyborg. Creative Commons

What is Remembrance Sunday?

Remembrance Sunday is an annual observance in the UK that usually falls on the second Sunday in November, the one closest to November 11th. It is a day to honor, reflect and commemorate the contribution of all service men and women. A parade and service is held at the Cenotaph in Whitehall, London attended by the Queen and usually televised. The British Legion website describes the event -

' The wreath laid by The Queen and the other tributes placed on the Cenotaph are dedicated to all who have suffered or died in war. Members of the Cabinet, Opposition Party leaders, former Prime Ministers and certain other Ministers and the Mayor of London are invited to attend the ceremony, along with representatives of the Armed Forces, Merchant Air and Navy and Fishing Fleets, and members of faith communities. High Commissioners from Commonwealth countries also attend the ceremony and lay wreaths at the Cenotaph.'

Similar services and parades are held locally all over the country.

Other events to celebrate remembrance supported by the Royal British Legion include:

  • The Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall
  • The Annual Poppy Appeal
  • Dedicate a tribute in the Fields of Remembrance
  • A special tribute for those who participated in The Great War

Two Minute Silence

The two minute silence at 11am on 11th day of the 11th month is held throughout the UK. Whichever day of the week the eleventh happens to be, most public places and working environments stop at 11am for a two minute silence to show respect and reflection. The date and time was chosen as the 11th of November was the date that marked the end of the First World War. If November 11th falls on a weekday, "Silence in the Square" in Trafalgar Square is held by the British legion. During this event members of the public place poppy petals into the fountains.

British Legion Two Minute Silence Video

Between late October and November 11th over 40 million poppies are distributed by the Royal British Legion In the UK. Wearing a poppy is a symbol of remembrance and hope. Millions of people choose to wear or display one to reflect memories, as a show of thanks to those who fought for freedom, and a symbol of British culture and heritage.

Remembrance Crosses Decorated with Poppies

Kenilworth Rememberance Crosses and poppies.
Kenilworth Rememberance Crosses and poppies. | Source

The Red Poppy - Papaver rhoeas.

The red poppy is a common weed in many parts of Europe. This poppy, the Papaver rhoeas, is a red-flowered poppy and can grow in the most barren of places. During the First World War, the majority of the fighting took place in Western Europe. The land was bombed, dug up and became a barren muddy landscape. In the middle of all this destruction grew poppies in large numbers.

The famous poem 'In Flanders Field' references the red poppies that grew over the graves of fallen soldiers. The poem was written during the First World War by a Canadian physician called John McCrae. He was inspired to write it after presiding over the funeral of friend.

The Poppy and Remembrance

The poem which was published in 1915 in Punch magazine began inspiring many people. The American academic Moina Michael began hand making silk poppies and when the Roya British Legion was formed in 1921 they ordered 9 million of these poppies which they sold on November 11th of that year. They sold out immediately and raised over 106,000 pounds. In 1922 war veteran Major George Howson established a factory in London producing poppies, which was manned by five disabled ex-servicemen. Today it produced millions of poppies every year.

In Scotland over five million poppies are made by disabled ex-service men by hand each year at Lady Haig's Poppy Factory. The money raised through donations for poppies helps fund the work the British Legion does to provide practical, emotional and financial support to all members of the British Armed Forces past and present, and their families.


War memorial
War memorial | Source

Annual Parade

Armed Forces Parade
Armed Forces Parade | Source

The Field of Remembrance

In 1928 the first Field of Remembrance was held in the grounds of Westminster Abbey and since that date tradition has grown. Today there are five additional fields across the country.Each Remembrance Tribute carries a personal message to someone who lost his or her life in the Service of the country.

Remembrance Facts

Handmade poppies made in Scotland have four petals and no leaf.

The Royal British Legion, is a British charity providing financial, social and emotional support to members and veterans of the British Armed Forces, their families and dependents.

Remembrance Day is an observance and not a public the UK.

It is also observed in Commonwealth counties.

The Cenotaph ceremony is organised annually by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, with The Royal British Legion coordinating the March Past

Examples of Countries that Observe Remembrance Day

Date Observed
Name of Observance
November 11th
Remembrance Day
November 11th
Remembrance Sunday
November 11th
Remembrance Day
India - in some areas
November 11th
November 11th
November 11th
France and Belgum
November 11th
September 5th
Two Sundays before the 1st Sunday of Advent
May 4th
Remembrance of the Dead
May 8th
Veterans Day
United States
November 11th
Veterans Day

© 2014 Ruthbro


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  • Ruthbro profile image

    Ruthbro 3 years ago from USA

    Thank you for sharing. A very important day

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    Ian Stuart Robertson 3 years ago from London England

    It was a very moving ceremony at the cenotaph in Whitehall this year in commemorating the 100 years since the outbreak of the 'war to end wars' and the two minutes silence was a very sombre and emotional experience for us. As usual, Her most gracious Majesty, Elizabeth the second along with other members of the Royal Family were present. The Queen, who herself did full time military service in the last year of World War II lay the first wreath to honour the 'fallen'. The Queen performed this ritual regally and with all the dignity of our reigning Monarch.

  • Ruthbro profile image

    Ruthbro 3 years ago from USA

    Thank you!

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    Dianna Mendez 3 years ago

    This is so similar to our Veterans Day here in the US. I remember by dad would always bring a couple of poppies home for the parade each year. Thanks for sharing this interesting view of such an important day.