By Danielle Mcadam
And now the torch and poppy red, We wear in honour of our dead” – Remembering the fallen, a century on.
Remembrance Day honours the brave men and woman who sacrificed their lives, for the freedom of their country.
Annually, on the 11th day, of the 11th month, at 11am, millions across the country will participate in a two-minute silence, to remember and honour those who have died in conflict.
The two-minute silence tradition began on November 11th, 1919, exactly a year after the armistice was signed. The armistice was an agreement between the Allies and Germany which brought an end to the First World War, after a harrowing four years of warfare.
This was signed on the 11th of November, at 11am, hence why the silence is held on this date and time, every year since.
100 years on, Remembrance Day is still an important part of British culture and honours not only those who died in the First World War, but the service men and woman who have died in wars since.
As well as participating in a two-minute silence, millions of people across the country will wear a poppy in honour of the fallen.
After WW1 ended, the poppy was one of the only plants to grow on the barren battlefields, were many dead lay. Inspired by these scenes, and scarred by war and loss, in 1915, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae wrote the infamous poem “In Flanders Fields”. The beautiful and emotive piece reads as follows.
“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.”
In 1918, humanitarian Moina Michael wrote her own poem inspired by John McCrae’s “In Flanders Fields”. Her poem included the line,
“And now the Torch and Poppy Red
We wear in honour of our dead.”
It was Moina who campaigned to make the poppy a symbol of remembrance.
In 1921, the first poppies were sold in the UK to raise money for ex service men, and for families of those who died at war. The campaign was a great success.
In 2018, as well as the traditional red poppy, a symbol of hope and remembrance, other charities have their own poppies, each with their own significant meaning.
The white poppy remembers all victims of war and is a symbol of peace. The purple poppy is a symbol of remembrance to the animals that have served and died in wars. The black poppy honours the black, African and Caribbean communities who contributed to the war.
As well as the silence and the poppy appeal, numerous remembrance events will take place across the country to mark the 100-year anniversary.
Notably bus operators, First Bus, will be providing a single, free bus journey to all armed force personnel travelling to remembrance events across Scotland. The concession is in honour of all surviving and fallen veterans of conflict.
Although nothing could silence the harrowing past, First Bus’s act of kindness speaks volumes.