We will remember them

07 November 2014

History | War and Conflict

On 11 November the nation, and many others around the world, will observe the annual memorial day for all those who lost their lives through war. This year, and surely for the next four years, particular thought is given to those who fought in the First World War, as we mark 100 years since the conflict began.
Remembrance Day’s origins are of course intrinsically linked to the ending of the First World War, hence why we hold the two minute silence at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day on the eleventh month each year. Another key symbol of Remembrance Day commemorations is the Cenotaph at Whitehall in London. This iconic site of mourning and remembrance was designed and created for the Peace Day Parade, which was held in London on 19 July 1919 – a celebration to mark the formal ending of the war following the signing of the Treaty of Versailles just a few weeks earlier. Design by Sir Edward Lutyens, it was originally a temporary structure made out of wood and plaster.

Image ©Imperial War Museums. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.

Image ©Imperial War Museums. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.

The monument looked much like the one you can see in Whitehall today except for the wreaths – now carved in stone but then made with laurel, as can be seen in the photographs above. So popular was the structure with the general public that it was decided almost a year later to replace it with a replica stone version, which could stand permanently in its place.

Remembrance Day, because of the events 11 November 1918, is of course also known as Armistice Day. Volume VI of the Source Records of the Great War – a published collection of government records and other official reports which charts the main events of WWI – contains President Woodrow Wilson’s moving address to Congress following the Armistice:

‘The war thus comes to an end; for, having accepted these terms of armistice, it will be impossible for the German Command to renew it. It is now possible to assess the consequences of this great consummation. We know only that this tragic war, whose consuming flames swept from one nation to another, until all the world was on fire, is at an end …’.

Possibly one of the most popular and moving poems associated with Remembrance Day is John McCrae’s Flanders Fields. McCrae was a soldier, poet and physician who fought in the war; he wrote this poem after he had to perform the burial service of a close friend who died in battle. The poem is said to be one of the reasons why the poppy has become the chosen symbol of the day of remembrance, and is one of the many moving creative works that emerged from the brutality of the First World War.

© National WWI Museum at Liberty Memorial Archives. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
To learn more about the final days of World War I, explore our three First World War resources. Full access is restricted to authenticated academic institutions who have purchased a license.


About the Author

Claudine Nightingale

Claudine Nightingale

I work as a Senior Development Editor at Adam Matthew. Since January 2014, I have developed a wide range of projects, including our fantastic theatre titles 'Shakespeare in Performance' and 'Eighteenth Century Drama'.