Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Week of Remembrance

Remembrance Day (also know as Poppy Day, Armistice Day or Veterans Day is a memorial day observed in British Commonwealth including Canada to remember the members of their armed forces who have died in the line of duty since World War 1.

Remembrance Day is observed on 11 November to recall the official end of World War I on that date in 1918; hostilities formally ended "at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month" of 1918 with the German signing of the Armistice

("at the 11th hour" refers to the passing of the 11th hour, or 11:00 a.m.)

The day was specifically dedicated by King George V on 7 November 1919 as a day of remembrance of members of the armed forces who were killed during World War I.

The red remembrance poppy has become a familiar emblem of Remembrance Day due to the poem "In Flanders Fields". These poppies bloomed across some of the worst battlefields of Flanders in World War I, their brilliant red colour an appropriate symbol for the blood spilled in the war.

The common British and Canadian tradition includes either one or two minutes of silence at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month (11:00 a.m., 11 November), as that marks the time (in the United Kingdom) when the armistice became effective.

In Canada, Remembrance Day is a public holiday in all provinces and territories except Ontario and Quebec. Veterans Affairs Canada, a federal entity, states that the date is of "remembrance for the men and women who have served, and continue to serve our country during times of war, conflict and peace"; specifically, the First and Second World Wars, the Korean War, and all conflicts since then in which members of the Canadian Forces have participated. The department runs a program called Canada Remembers with the mission of helping young and new Canadians, most of whom have never known war, "come to understand and appreciate what those who have served Canada in times of war, armed conflict and peace stand for and what they have sacrificed for their country."

Poppies are laid on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Remembrance Day in Ottawa

The official national ceremonies are held at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, presided over by the Governor General of Canada (the Queen's official representative), any members of the Royal Family, the Prime Minister, and other dignitaries and is observed by the public. Typically, these events begin with the tolling of the Carillon in the Peace Tower, during which serving members of the Canadian Forces arrive at Confederation Square followed by the Ottawa diplomatic corps, ministers of the Crown, special guests, the Royal Canadian Legion, the royal party (if present), and the viceregal party. Before the start of the ceremony, four armed sentries and three sentinels (two flag sentinels and one nursing sister) are posted at the foot of the cenotaph.


The Guard of Honour (a member of the Royal Canadian Navy at left, and the Royal Canadian Air Force (at right) at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, Remembrance Day, 2010

The arrival of the governor general is announced by a trumpeter sounding the "Alert", whereupon the viceroy is met by the Dominion President of the Royal Canadian Leagion and escorted to a dais to receive the Viceregal Salute, after which the national anthem, " O Canada", is played. The moment of remembrance begins with the bugling of " Last Post" immediately before 11:00 a.m., at which time the gun salute fires and the bells of the Peace Tower toll the hour. Another gun salute signals the end of the two minutes of silence, and cues the playing of a lament, the bugling of " The Rouse"," and the reading of the Act of Remembrance. A flypast of Royal Canadian Air Force occurs at the start of a 21 gun salute, upon the completion of which a choir sings "In Flanders Fields". The various parties then lay their wreaths at the base of the memorial; one wreath is set by the Silver Cross Mother, a recent recipient of the Memorial Cross, on behalf of all mothers who lost children in any of Canada's armed conflicts. The viceregal and/or royal group return to the dais to receive the playing of the Royal Anthem of Canada, "God Save the Queen", prior to the assembled Armed Forces personnel and veterans performing a march past in front of the viceroy, bringing about the end of the official ceremonies. A tradition of paying more personal tribute to the sacrifice of those who have served and lost their lives in defence of the country has emerged since erection of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the War Memorial in 2000: after the official ceremony the general public place their poppies atop the tomb.

Similar ceremonies take place in provincial capitals across the country, officiated by the relevant lieutenant governor, as well as in other cities, towns, and even hotels or corporate headquarters. Schools will usually hold special assemblies for the first half of the day, or on the school day prior, with various presentations concerning the remembrance of the war dead. The largest indoor ceremony in Canada is usually held in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, with over 9,000 gathering in Credit Union Centre in 2010; the ceremony participants include old guard (veterans), new guard (currently serving members of the CF), and sea, army, and air cadet units.

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