Armistice Day

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Armistice Day
Observed by Belgium, France, New Zealand, Serbia, United Kingdom and many other countries that use a different name
Significance Commemoration of the armistice signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany at Compiègne, France, for the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front of World War I
Observances World's first official observance at Buckingham Palace, London, on 11 November 1919
Date 11 November
Next time 11 November 2016 (2016-11-11)
Frequency annual
Related to Coincides with Remembrance Day and Veterans Day; and related to Remembrance Sunday
Front page of The New York Times on Armistice Day, November 11, 1918.
Armistice Day celebrations in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on November 11, 1918.

Armistice Day is commemorated every year on November 11 to mark the armistice signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany at Compiègne, France, for the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front of World War I, which took effect at eleven o'clock in the morning—the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" of 1918. The date was declared a national holiday in many allied nations, and coincides with Remembrance Day and Veterans Day, public holidays.


The first Armistice Day was held at Buckingham Palace, commencing with King George V hosting a "Banquet in Honour of the President of the French Republic"[1] during the evening hours of 10 November 1919. The first official Armistice Day events were subsequently held in the grounds of Buckingham Palace on the morning of 11 November 1919. This would set the trend for a day of Remembrance for decades to come.

In 1919, South African Sir Percy Fitzpatrick proposed a two-minute silence to Lord Milner.[2] This had been a daily practice in Cape Town from May 1918 onward, and within weeks it had spread through the British Commonwealth after a Reuters correspondent cabled a description of this daily ritual to London.[3] People observe a one or more commonly a two-minute moment of silence at 11:00 a.m. local time. It is a sign of respect for, in the first minute, the roughly 20 million people who died in the war, and in the second minute dedicated to the living left behind, generally understood to be wives, children and families left behind but deeply affected by the conflict.[citation needed]

Similar ceremonies developed in other countries during the inter-war period. In South Africa, for example, the Memorable Order of Tin Hats had by the late 1920s developed a ceremony whereby the toast of "Fallen Comrades" was observed not only in silence but darkness, all except for the "Light of Remembrance", with the ceremony ending with the Order’s anthem "Old Soldiers Never Die".[citation needed] In Australia, the South Australian State Branch of the Returned Sailors & Soldiers' Imperial League of Australia developed during the interwar period a simple ceremony of silence for departed comrades at 9 p.m., presumably to coincide with the traditional 11:00 a.m. time for Armistice ceremonies taking place in Europe due to the ten-hour time difference between Eastern Australia and Europe.[citation needed] Veterans in New Zealand have used silence to pay homage to departed comrades in general at veteran functions, as the toast of "Fallen" or "Absent Comrades".[citation needed]

In Britain, beginning in 1939, the two-minute silence was moved to the Sunday nearest to 11 November in order not to interfere with wartime production should 11 November fall on a weekday.[citation needed]

After the end of World War II, most member states of the Commonwealth of Nations, like United Kingdom and (as Canada in 1931), moved most Armistice Day events to the nearest Sunday and officially began to commemorate both World Wars. They adopted the name Remembrance Day or Remembrance Sunday.[citation needed]

Other countries also changed the name of the holiday just prior to or after World War II, to honor veterans of that and subsequent conflicts.[citation needed] The United States chose All Veterans Day, later shortened to 'Veterans Day', to explicitly honor military veterans, including those participating in other conflicts.[4]

21st century[edit]

In Britain and Commonwealth countries[edit]

Both Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday are commemorated formally. In recent years Armistice Day has become increasingly recognised, and many people now attend the 11:00 a.m. ceremony at the Cenotaph in London – an event organised by Royal British Legion, a British charity dedicated to perpetuating the memory of those who served in the First World War and veterans of all subsequent wars involving British and Commonwealth troops.[5] In New Zealand and Australia observance ceremonies take place, but the day is not a public holiday.[citation needed]

In Canada, 11 November is a time to honor living veterans. Patriotic displays are created annually,[6] and veterans (sometimes including active duty personnel, family members, or an assistant) are offered free transit and cab rides in a number of cities, including Halifax, Ottawa, Toronto, Mississauga, London, Calgary, and Vancouver.[7]

In the United States[edit]

In the U.S., the function of Veterans Day is subtly different from that of other 11 November observances. Instead of specifically honoring war dead, Veterans Day honors all American veterans living and dead. The official national remembrance of those killed in action is Memorial Day, originally called 'Decoration Day', from the practice of holding parades featuring veterans wearing their military decorations, which originated in the years immediately following the American Civil War.[citation needed]

In other allied countries[edit]

"Armistice Day" remains the name of the holiday in France and Belgium, and it has been a statutory holiday in Serbia since 2012. In Italy the end of World War I is commemorated on 4 November, the day of the Armistice of Villa Giusti.

In other countries[edit]

In the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway, the end of World War I is not commemorated as the three countries remained neutral. Denmark is instead keeping "Flagday" on the 5th of September in commemoration of both living and dead soldiers who served in any conflict.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Banquet in honour of The President of the French Republic, Monday 10 November 1919 at the Royal Collection.
  2. ^ Adrian Gregory, the Silence of Memory (1st edition, 1994), pp 9–10.
  3. ^ Royal Canadian Legion Branch # 138."2-Minute Wave of Silence" Revives a Time-honoured Tradition. The Royal Canadian Legion. Undated. Accessed on 5 June 2014.
  4. ^ "History of Veterans Day". United States Department of Veterans Affairs. 2007-11-26. Retrieved 2008-11-06.
  5. ^ The Western Front Association Annual Service of Remembrance at the Cenotaph 2010 – official photographs.
  6. ^ Sunnybrook veterans to wake up to 'sea of red and white' on Remembrance Day, CityNews, 10 November 2015
  7. ^ Free Calgary Transit rides approved for veterans and family on Remembrance Day, CBC News Calgary, 9 November 2015