What is Armistice Day? Meaning of Remembrance Day 2021, who do we remember and poppy tradition explained

Known as Poppy day, Remembrance Day or Armistice Day, 11 November is a sombre occasion in the UK

11 November and, if it doesn’t fall on a Sunday, Remembrance Sunday, are two sombre days we mark in the UK every year.

Both days see the nation stop and reflect on the lives lost in conflict.

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It is a day the UK and many other Commonwealth and European states have been marking for more than 100 years.

So what is Armistice day, why is it on 11 November, and why do we wear poppies to commemorate it?

Here’s what you need to know.

Known as Poppy day, Remembrance Day or Armistice Day, 11 November is a sombre occasion in the UK (image: Shutterstock)

What is Armistice Day?

Armistice Day was the day when World War One officially ceased in Europe.

The Allies, including Britain and France, signed an agreement with Germany to bring the conflict to an end at 11am on 11 November 1918.

Ever since, 11 November has become a day of reflection for countries across the world.

People come together to commemorate the estimated 40 million people who lost their lives between 1914 and 1918, as well as those who have died in conflicts since then.

In the UK, the day is marked with a minute or two-minute’s silence at 11am, and often sees wreaths of poppies left at war memorials across the country.

This occasion tends to be accompanied by a trumpet piece known as The Last Post, and can also be accompanied by gun salutes.

Depending on when the day falls, another remembrance ceremony is held on the closest Sunday to 11 November.

On Remembrance Sunday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer will lay poppy wreaths at the Cenotaph in London (image: Getty Images)

During this ceremony, the Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition, Mayor of London and other officials and armed forces personnel lay wreaths at the Cenotaph in London.

Situated in Whitehall, close to Downing Street, the monument symbolises the losses suffered during World War One and is dedicated to 'The Glorious Dead'.

On Remembrance Sunday, veterans typically gather in London and town centres across the UK for processions and church services.

What is the poppy tradition?

Those marking Remembrance Day will often wear a poppy in the run up to and for a few days beyond 11 November.

This tradition came about because poppies were a common sight on the Western Front during World War One.

After hostilities ceased, the flowers flourished at the battle sites, where soil had been churned up during the fighting and shelling.

Seeing poppies dotted across the landscape at Ypres in 1915 inspired Canadian doctor John McCrae to write the poem ‘In Flanders Fields’.

In 1918, after reading the poem when the war had ended, American humanitarian Moina Michael campaigned to make the poppy a symbol of remembrance of those who had died in the conflict.

Artificial poppies were first sold in the UK in 1921 to raise money for the Earl Haig Fund - a charity which supported ex-servicemen and families who had lost loved ones during the war.

Selling the flowers proved so popular that in 1922, the British Legion founded a factory - staffed by disabled veterans - to produce its own, something which continues to this day.

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