Lest we forget: remembering the fallen on Armistice Day

On 11 November 1918, the Armistice was signed for the cessation of hostilities between the Allies of World War 1 and Germany at Compiegne, France to take effect “at the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day of the eleventh month”.

To mark this solemn occasion, a small parade and Service of Remembrance, which includes the national two-minute silence, is annually held at the same time and date at the Cenotaph in London. Since 1994, the Annual Service of Remembrance on Armistice Day has been organised by the Western Front Association and attended by serving members of the Armed Forces as well as representatives from a number of civilian and youth organisations to remember the courage, comradeship and sacrifice of those on all side who served their countries during the Great War. Dr Tom Thorpe of the Western Front Association said: “The Association aims to further the education and understanding of the Great War, in all theatres, and consider the comradeship and service of all people of all causes and all sides.” 

For the first-ever Armistice Day ceremony on 11 November 1919, King George V made two decrees; the first that the nation observe a two-minute silence throughout the lands - the first minute to remember all those who went to fight for their country and the second to remember all those who never returned. The second decree was that at all other remembrance services medals would be worn. Both of these decrees are honoured on Armistice Day as the whole nation remembers those who have fought and those who have fallen.

Represented at the ceremony were not only members of the Armed Forces and Veterans, but also those who suffered during the tumultuous years of the Great War. Students and pupils representing the youth of the nation as well as representatives and descendants of the Chinese, Caribbean, Maltese and South African Native Labour Corps laid wreaths alongside those of the Western Front Association and Armed Forces. Karen Soo, a descendent of a Soo Yuen Yi, a member of the Chinese Labour Corps said: “My grandfather lived his whole life without ever being acknowledged and now that the Chinese labourers have the opportunity to be represented by the Western Front Association at today’s Cenotaph, it means that the efforts and sacrifice of those 140,000 young men far from home is finally being remembered.”

At the same time, a small service attended by Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Cornwall was held outside Westminster Abbey to mark the opening of the Field of Remembrance, where more than 70,000 tributes were laid out in plots in memory of fallen comrades and loved ones.