Remembrance Sunday

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Remembrance Sunday
Royal British Legion's Paper Poppy - white background.jpg
The poppy is worn around the time of Remembrance Sunday (traditionally from All Souls' Day (2 November) until the later of; Remembrance Day (11 November) or Remembrance Sunday)
Official name Remembrance Sunday
Observed by United Kingdom
Liturgical Color (Red or green)
Observances Parades, silences
Date Second Sunday in November
2017 date November 12  (2017-11-12)
2018 date November 11  (2018-11-11)
2019 date November 10  (2019-11-10)
2020 date November 8  (2020-11-08)
Frequency annual
Related to Remembrance Day and Armistice Day

Remembrance Sunday is held in the United Kingdom as a day "to commemorate the contribution of British and Commonwealth military and civilian servicemen and women in the two World Wars and later conflicts".[1] It is held at 11 a.m. on the second Sunday in November (the Sunday nearest to 11 November, Armistice Day,[2] the anniversary of the end of hostilities in the First World War in 1918).

It is marked by ceremonies at local war memorials in most cities, towns and villages, attended by civic dignitaries, ex-servicemen and -women (many are members of the Royal British Legion and other veterans' organisations), members of local armed forces regular and reserve units (Royal Navy and Royal Naval Reserve, Royal Marines and Royal Marines Reserve, Army and Territorial Army, Royal Air Force and Royal Auxiliary Air Force), military cadet forces (Sea Cadet Corps, Army Cadet Force and Air Training Corps as well as the Combined Cadet Force) and youth organisations (e.g. Scouts, Boys' Brigade, Girls' Brigade and Guides). Wreaths of remembrance poppies are laid on the memorials and two minutes' silence is held at 11 a.m. Church bells are usually rung half-muffled, creating a sombre effect. The service is held for about two hours.

National ceremony in the United Kingdom

The ceremony at the Cenotaph
Group of wreaths laid during the Remembrance Sunday ceremony in London

The national ceremony is held in London at the Cenotaph on Whitehall.

Two minutes' silence is held at 11 a.m., before the laying of the wreaths. The time of the silence represents the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918, when the guns of Europe fell silent.[3] This silence is started by Royal Marines buglers sounding Last Post and ended by Royal Air Force buglers sounding The Rouse. Gunners of the Royal Horse Artillery fire a gun salute at the end of the silence.

Wreaths are then laid, to the sound of "Beethoven's Funeral March" (composed by Johann Heinrich Walch). The first wreath is traditionally laid on behalf of the nation by the Queen. Since 2017, her representative, Charles, Prince of Wales, lays the first wreath on her behalf as the Queen watches from an overlooking balcony.[4][5] Wreaths are then laid by senior members of the Royal Family; formerly this included Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, but due to advanced age he watched alongside the queen in 2017 and an equerry fulfilled this role.[6] The Duke of Edinburgh did not attend the 2018 ceremony and, once again, an equerry laid a wreath on his behalf.[5] The Prince of Wales lays a wreath on his own account, and further wreaths are laid by the Duke of Cambridge, the Duke of Sussex, the Duke of York, the Earl of Wessex, the Princess Royal, Duke of Kent and (in 2018) Prince Michael of Kent.[7] Other members of the Royal Family watch the ceremony from the Foreign Office balcony. On two occasions foreign heads of state have laid wreaths on behalf of their people. In 2015, Willem-Alexander, King of the Netherlands, placed a wreath in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the British liberation of the Netherlands in World War II.[8] At the 2018 service, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, President of Germany, laid a wreath on behalf of the German people, marking the first time a representative of that country has done so.[5]

Wreaths are then laid by the Prime Minister (and other Commonwealth leaders if they are present[9]), the Leader of the Opposition and the leaders of the other major political parties; the Foreign Secretary; the Speaker of the House of Commons and the Lord Speaker; Commonwealth High Commissioners; the Irish Ambassador (since 2014);[10] representatives from the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force; the Merchant Navy and fishing fleets; and finally, the emergency services.

A short religious service of remembrance is then conducted by the Bishop of London in their capacity as Dean of the Chapel Royal. The hymn O God Our Help In Ages Past is sung, led by the massed bands and the Choir of the Chapel Royal,[11] in the presence of representatives of all major faiths in the United Kingdom. The national anthem God Save the Queen is then sung, before the royal party depart.

After the ceremony, as the bands play, a huge parade of veterans, organised by the Royal British Legion, marches past the Cenotaph. Members of the Reserve Forces and cadet organisations join in with the marching, alongside volunteers from St John Ambulance, paramedics from the London Ambulance Service, and conflict veterans from World War II, Korea, the Falklands, the Persian Gulf, Kosovo, Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Iraq, other past conflicts and the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan. The last three then known British-resident veterans of World War I, Bill Stone, Henry Allingham and Harry Patch, attended the 2008 ceremony but all died in 2009. After the service, there is a parade of veterans, who also lay wreaths at the foot of the Cenotaph as they pass, and a salute is taken by a member of the Royal Family at Horse Guards Parade in front of the Guards Memorial. Each contingent salutes the Cenotaph as they pass and many wreaths are handed over to be laid at its base. They salute the Cenotaph (meaning "empty tomb" in Greek) as they are paying tribute to all those it represents, to all those who died and who lie buried elsewhere.

Regional and local ceremonies

The Remembrance Sunday parade in Oxford in 2011.

Significant ceremonies also take place in the capitals of the nations and across the regions of the United Kingdom.[12] Most notably at the Scottish National War Memorial, in Edinburgh in the grounds of Edinburgh Castle,[13] the Welsh National War Memorial in Cardiff[14] and at the Northern Ireland War Memorial and Cenotaph in Belfast in the grounds of the Belfast City Hall.[15]

British Overseas Territories

In the past, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs laid a wreath on behalf of all the British overseas territories. However, since 2001 there has been a campaign by Britain's Overseas Territories Association for the right to lay a wreath themselves at the annual service at the Cenotaph. In 2008 the Labour Government agreed that one wreath could be laid for all 14 territories by a representative of the territories.[16][17]

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, Remembrance Sunday has tended to be associated with unionists. Most Irish nationalists and republicans do not take part in the public commemoration of British soldiers organized by the Royal British Legion. This is partly due to the actions of the British Army during The Troubles and its role in fighting against Irish independence. However, some moderate nationalists have attended Remembrance Day events as a way to connect with the unionist community. In 1987 a bomb was detonated by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) just before a Remembrance Sunday ceremony in Enniskillen, killing eleven people. The IRA said it had made a mistake and had been targeting soldiers parading to the war memorial. The Republic of Ireland has its own National Day of Commemoration in July for all Irish people who died in war.

Other ceremonies

From 1919 until 1945, Armistice Day observance was always on 11 November itself. It was then moved to Remembrance Sunday, but since the 50th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in 1995, it has become usual to hold ceremonies on both Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday.

In 2006, then Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown proposed that in addition to Remembrance Sunday, a new national day to celebrate the achievements of veterans should be instituted. The "Veterans Day", to be held in the summer, would be similar to Veterans Day celebrations in the United States. This has now been renamed "Armed Forces Day", to include currently serving troops to Service families, and from veterans to cadets. The first "Armed Forces Day" was held on 27 June 2009.

Submariners hold an additional remembrance walk and ceremony on the Sunday before Remembrance Sunday, which has The Submariners Memorial as its focal point.

Outside the United Kingdom

Outside the United Kingdom Anglican and Church of Scotland churches often have a commemorative service on Remembrance Sunday. In the Republic of Ireland there is an ecumenical service in St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin, the Church of Ireland's national cathedral. Since 1993 the President of Ireland has attended this service.[18] The state has its own National Day of Commemoration (held in July) for all Irish men and women who have died in war. In the United States it is celebrated by many Anglo-Catholic churches in the Episcopal Church. The Anglican Church of Korea also celebrates the day to commemorate, in particular, the Commonwealth soldiers who fought in the Korean War with a service at the Seoul Anglican Cathedral.

In New Zealand an attempt was made to change Armistice Day to Remembrance Sunday after World War II but it was a failure, partly owing to competition from Anzac Day.[19]

See also


  1. ^ "[ARCHIVED CONTENT] Department for Culture Media and Sport – remembrance sunday". Retrieved 10 November 2010.
  2. ^ These two statements are in effect the same: the second Sunday is always between 8 and 14 November inclusive, so the second Sunday is no more than three days away from 11 November, and therefore always the Sunday nearest to 11 November.
  3. ^ "Remembrance – The two minutes' silence". Retrieved 11 November 2007.
  4. ^ Davies, Caroline (11 October 2017). "Prince Charles to lay Remembrance Sunday wreath on Queen's behalf". the Guardian. Retrieved 10 November 2018.
  5. ^ a b c "Charles leads nation in tribute at London cenotaph – but Prince Philip absent". The News Letter. 11 November 2018. Retrieved 11 November 2018.
  6. ^ "An Equerry is tasked with laying a wreath at the Cenotaph on behalf of Prince Philip – Royal Central". Retrieved 10 November 2018.
  7. ^ "Royal Family lay wreaths at Cenotaph". BBC News. Retrieved 10 November 2018.
  8. ^ King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima Join Royals For Remembrance Sunday
  9. ^ "War dead honoured at the Cenotaph". BBC News. 12 November 2006. Retrieved 14 November 2016.
  10. ^ "Irish ambassador lays wreath at London ceremony".
  11. ^ "The Chapels Royal".
  12. ^ Nation unites to remember fallen.
  13. ^ Services held to honour war dead.
  14. ^ Army band heads remembrance event.
  15. ^ War dead are remembered across NI.
  16. ^ Brady, Brian (2 November 2008). "British territories demand right to lay Cenotaph wreaths". The Independent. Retrieved 29 August 2009.
  17. ^ Rosindell, Andrew. "British Overseas Territories And Remembrance Sunday". Early Day Motion. Parliament of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 29 August 2009.
  18. ^ Sørensen, Nils Arne (2003). "Commemorating the Great War in Ireland and the Trentino: An Essay in Comparative History". Nordic Irish Studies. Centre for Irish Studies in Aarhus and the Dalarna University Centre for Irish Studies. 2: 137. JSTOR 30001490.
  19. ^ Helen Robinson, 'Lest we Forget? The Fading of New Zealand War Commemorations, 1946–1966', New Zealand Journal of History, 44, 1 (2010).

External links

  • Royal British Legion
  • The Commonwealth War Graves Commission
  • The Department for Culture, Media and Sport – UK National Service of Remembrance
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