Lest we forget

Ruth Griffiths

Remembrance Day has been observed on Nov. 11 for over a century. It was begun as a memorial to members of the armed forces who died in the line of duty during the First World War. Today, Canadians pause at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month to honour war dead from many conflicts since that “war to end all wars” ended in 1919.
In Canada, Remembrance Day is a public holiday except in Nova Scotia, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec. Canadians wear red poppies, a symbol of bloodshed in the poem “In Flanders Fields” written by Canadian physician Lt. Col. John McCrae. Two minutes of silence are observed on Nov. 11 at 11 a.m.
The largest indoor Remembrance Day service in Canada in 2019 was in Saskatoon where 10,000 gathered. Large crowds traditionally gathered at the Armoury in Prince Albert but the pandemic has curtailed in-person indoor ceremonies. This year a brief but meaningful ceremony will be held on Nov. 11 at 11 a.m. in Memorial Square in front of City Hall.
The red poppy lapel pin can be worn from the last Friday in October until the Nov. 11 ceremony. The Royal Canadian Legion in Prince Albert presented the first poppy of the season to Ramsay Bellisle, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan. Bellisle is representative of the men and women who have seen active duty in the years since the armistice we celebrate on Nov. 11. Today’s youngest veterans have served in a way that was never dreamed of in 1919. They are no less deserving of honour on Remembrance Day.
In the United Kingdom, although two minutes of silence are observed on Nov. 11, the main observance is on the second Sunday of November, Remembrance Sunday. Ceremonies are held at local war memorials, usually organized by the Royal British Legion.
In Australia, Remembrance Day is not a public holiday, but services are held on Nov. 11 at schools and war memorials. However, ANZAC Day (April 25) is a national holiday that honours the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who fought at Gallipoli.
In the United States, Veterans Day is observed on Nov. 11 as a holiday in all states. Veterans Day is observed with memorial ceremonies, salutes at military cemeteries and parades.
In Poland, Nov. 11 is a public holiday called Independence Day, as the ending of First World War allowed Polish people to regain the freedom and unity of their country after a century of being divided. Members of the government place flowers on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. There are other public ceremonies and church services and school celebrations.
In France and Belgium Nov. 11 is a national holiday to commemorate the armistice signed between the Allies and Germany. Armistice Day is one the most important military celebrations in France, since it was a major French victory and the French paid a heavy price in blood to achieve it. In France the blue cornflower (Bleuet de France) is used symbolically rather than the poppy.