Remembrance Day in France
Remembrance Day – November 11th is a major National Day in France.
An official ceremony is held in order to commemorate the anniversary of the end of hostilities, which took place “at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month” in 1918.
The Great War, however, officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919.
This important commemoration is observed by all municipalities.
A wreath of blue-white-red flowers is placed on each War Memorial.
This monument is located either on the town’s main square or by the church.
The President of the Republic chaired the Parisian celebration and lays a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier under the Arc de Triomphe at 11am.
Two consecutive minutes of silence are observed at 11am local time.
The first minute is dedicated to the nearly 20 millions people who lost their life during WWI.
The second pays tribute to the living left behind, the mourning mothers, wives, brides to be and sisters…
French Unknown Soldier
The ashes of an Unknown Soldier from WWI were laid on January 28th, 1921.
They should have been placed in the Pantheon.
However, the French people decided by way of a petition that his ashes were to be placed under the Arc de Triomphe.
The arch is indeed one of the most prestigious military monuments in Paris.
On his tombstone is engraved:
“ici repose un soldat français mort pour la patrie 1914–1918”
“Here lies a soldier who died for his country 1914-1918”
The Flame of Remembrance was placed on his grave and lit on November 11th, 1923.
The flame burns in memory of the Dead of WWI and WWII who were never identified.
The flame is rekindled every evening at 6.30pm.
Bleuet de France
The Bleuet de France – Cornflower was adopted by France in order to commemorate Armistice Day.
Indeed, cornflowers were (along with the poppies adopted by the British) the only flowers that still grew on the various battlefields despite the shelling that transformed the land into lunar landscapes.
These two flowers therefore became a symbol of the resilience of life, life that went on in the mud of the trenches!
Bleuet (blue cornflower) was also the nickname given by the WWI veterans (Poilus) to the young recruits of Class 15 – those born in 1895.
The new recruits who fought on the Chemin des Dames, wore brand new uniforms that were bleu horizon (sky blue).
Here is the official site for the Bleuet de France for those who wish to buy a Bleuet or make a contribution to help our French veterans.
Official links to the WWI 100th Anniversary Commemorations: Mission Centenaire
Poppy and British Remembrance Sunday
British observe two minutes of silence at the 11th hour on November 11.
However, they commemorate the end of the Great War on the second Sunday of November, which has been since known as Remembrance Sunday.
The poppy is associated with Remembrance Sunday.
The delicate flower carpeted the battlefields of Flanders where so millions of men lost their lives during WWI.
Its vibrant colour therefore symbolizes all the blood that was shed.
The Royal British Legion is the nation’s custodian of Remembrance Day.
It helps people understand the importance of remembering those who sacrificed their lives.
It makes sure that they are never forgotten.
The annual Poppy Appeal is the Royal British Legion’s biggest fundraising campaign of the year; it starts 2-3 weeks before November 11.
Millions of small wooden war crosses and poppy-shaped badges are sold every year to the public and contribute to raise considerable funds.
The poppy badge should be worn with the leaf positioned at 11am in order to commemorate the time of the signature of the Armistice.
However, the most important is to wear it!
In Flanders Fields by John McRae
Poppies became the emblem of Remembrance Day when Lieutenant John McCrae wrote a moving memorial poem after witnessing the death of one of his friends during WWI.
Here is the first chapter:
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.
Remembrance Day in other countries
All countries involved in the Great War commemorate Armistice Day as a national day either on the day itself or at a fixed date.
1- The Belgian Armistice Day is a National Day and is celebrated on November 11.
2- In Poland, November 11 is a public holiday known as Independence Day.
Indeed, it not only commemorates the end of WWI but also their independence from Russia.
3- In the USA, November 11 is known as Veterans Day; it is both a federal and a state holiday in all states.
4- In Ireland, Armistice or Remembrance Day is not a public holiday.
However, the Irish people who died in past wars are remembered and honoured on National Day of Commemoration in July.
5- New Zealand‘s National Remembrance Day is Anzac Day and is celebrated on April 25.
Poppy Day usually takes place on the Friday before Anzac Day; the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps was originally commemorated by New Zealand and Australia.
6- Australians now observe Remembrance Day November 11, regardless of the day of the week, but the day is not a public holiday.
7- In Canada, Remembrance Day is a public holiday and federal statutory holiday, and a statutory holiday in all three territories and all the provinces exception made of Ontario and Quebec.
8- In South Africa, Poppy Day is commemorated on the Saturday nearest to Remembrance Day.
It is not a public holiday, however, a Remembrance Service is still held on 11 November each year in Cape Town.
9- Remembrance Day is recognized as November 11, however, it is not a public holiday in Barbados.
A commemorative ceremony is still carried out on Remembrance Sunday.
10- Remembrance Day is commemorated on November 11 in Bermuda, where it is an important holiday.
11- Mauritius commemorates Remembrance Day on November 11.
12- Vokstrauertag is the German National Day of mourning.
It takes place on the Sunday closest to November 16 because Germany does not observe the anniversary of the WWI Armistice.
‘La guerre et ce qui s’en suivit’ by Louis Aragon
The poet Louis Aragon was a nurse during WWI.
It is impossible to translate his poem without loosing its intensity, so here it goes in French…
Tu n’en reviendras pas
Tu n’en reviendras pas toi qui courais les filles
Jeune homme dont j’ai vu battre le coeur à nu
Quand j’ai déchiré ta chemise et toi non plus
Tu n’en reviendras pas vieux joueur de manille
Qu’un obus a coupé par le travers en deux
Pour une fois qu’il avait un jeu du tonnerre
Et toi le tatoué l’ancien Légionnaire
Tu survivras longtemps sans visage sans yeux
On part Dieu sait pour où Ça tient du mauvais rêve
On glissera le long de la ligne de feu
Quelque part ça commence à n’être plus du jeu
Les bonshommes là-bas attendent la relève
Roule au loin roule le train des dernières lueurs
Les soldats assoupis que ta danse secoue
Laissent pencher leur front et fléchissent le cou
Cela sent le tabac la laine et la sueur
Comment vous regarder sans voir vos destinées
Fiancés de la terre et promis des douleurs
La veilleuse vous fait de la couleur des pleurs
Vous bougez vaguement vos jambes condamnées
Déjà la pierre pense où votre nom s’inscrit
Déjà vous n’êtes plus qu’un nom d’or sur nos places
Déjà le souvenir de vos amours s’efface
Déjà vous n’êtes plus que pour avoir péri
War Memorial with Canadian Unknown Soldier’s Grave in Ottawa
Ottawa – The Ashes of a Canadian Unknown Soldier were repatriated from Cabaret Rouge CWGC Cemetery near Souchez.
They were placed at the foot of the War Memorial in Ottawa on May 25, 2000
Poppies in the moats of the Tower of London
In September 2014, the moats turned solid red with the 888, 246 ceramic poppies, which remained in place until the end of November 2014.