The poppy is worn around the time of Remembrance Sunday
|Date||Second Sunday in November|
|2014 date||November 9|
|2015 date||November 8|
|2016 date||November 13|
|2017 date||November 12|
Remembrance Sunday is held in the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth 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". It is held on the second Sunday in November, the Sunday nearest to 11 November, Armistice Day, the anniversary of the end of hostilities in the First World War at 11 a.m. in 1918.
Across The United Kingdom, Remembrance Sunday 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.
National ceremony in the United Kingdom
Two minutes' silence is held at 11 a.m., before the laying of the wreaths. The silence represents the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918, when the guns of Europe fell silent. This silence is marked by the firing of a field gun on Horse Guards Parade to begin and end the silence, followed by Royal Marines buglers sounding Last Post. RAF buglers sound The Rouse.
The first wreath is laid by the Queen, followed by the Duke of Edinburgh. Wreaths are then laid by other members of the Royal Family including the Prince of Wales, the Duke of York, the Princess Royal, the Duke of Kent, the Earl of Wessex, the Duke of Cambridge, the Prince Harry. Other members of the British Royal Family watch from the balcony of the Foreign Office. Some members of the Royal Family may be abroad or in other parts of the United Kingdom where they will lay wreaths at local ceremonies. Wreaths are then laid by the Prime Minister, leaders of major political parties and former Prime Ministers, the Foreign Secretary, the Commonwealth High Commissioners and representatives from the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force, the Merchant Navy and fishing fleets and the civilian services.
A short religious service of remembrance is then conducted by the Bishop of London. The hymn "O God Our Help In Ages Past" is sung, led by the massed bands and the choir of Her Majesty's Chapel Royal.
Before the ceremony, military bands (Army, Marine & RAF) play live music each year, following the list of the Traditional Music of Remembrance (see below).
After the ceremony, as the bands play, a huge parade of veterans, organised by the Royal British Legion, marches past the Cenotaph. Each contingent salutes the Cenotaph as they pass and a great many wreaths are handed over to be laid at it. They salute the Cenotaph (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
Significant ceremonies also take place in the capitals of the nations and across the regions of the United Kingdom. Most notably at the Scottish National War Memorial, in Edinburgh in the grounds of Edinburgh Castle, the Welsh National War Memorial in Cardiff and at the Northern Ireland War Memorial and Cenotaph in Belfast in the grounds of the Belfast City Hall.
The ceremony has been televised each year by the BBC since 1946. It is the joint-longest-running live televised annual event in the world, the record being shared with the Chelsea Flower Show. When first shown in 1937 it was the second live outside event to be broadcast, the first being the procession that followed the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth earlier that year.
The 1947 telerecording of the ceremony is the oldest surviving record of a broadcast of a live outside event.
Remembrance Week is a week-long series of special programmes commemorating the ceremony, transmitted on BBC One Daytime. It is made by production company Fever Media and is presented by Gethin Jones. It was first transmitted in 2010 and returned in November 2011 for a second series.
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.
In Northern Ireland, Remembrance Sunday has tended to be associated with the unionist community. Most Irish nationalists and republicans do not take part in the public commemoration of British soldiers. 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.
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.
Each year, the programme of music at the National Ceremony remains the same, following a programme finalised in 1930:
- Rule, Britannia! by Thomas Arne
- Heart of Oak by William Boyce
- The Minstrel Boy by Thomas Moore
- Men of Harlech
- The Skye Boat Song
- Isle of Beauty by Thomas Haynes Bayly
- David of the White Rock
- Oft in the Stilly Night by John Andrew Stevenson
- Flowers of the Forest
- Nimrod from the Enigma Variations by Edward Elgar
- Dido's lament by Henry Purcell
- O Valiant Hearts by Charles Harris
- Solemn Melody by Walford Davies
- Last Post – a bugle call
- Beethoven's Funeral March No. 1, by Johann Heinrich Walch
- O God, Our Help in Ages Past – words by Isaac Watts, music by William Croft
- Reveille – a bugle call
- God Save The Queen
Other pieces of music are then played during the unofficial wreath laying and the march past of the veterans, starting with Trumpet Voluntary and followed by It's A Long Way To Tipperary, the marching song of the Connaught Rangers, a famous British Army Irish Regiment of long ago and by the Royal British Legion March, the official march of the official organizer of the ceremony, The Royal British Legion, which is a medley of marches of the First and Second World Wars.
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. 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.
- "[ARCHIVED CONTENT] Department for Culture Media and Sport – remembrance sunday". Retrieved 10 November 2010.
- 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.
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- Jeffrey Richards, Imperialism and Music: Britain 1876–1953, Manchester University Press 2001, ISBN 0-7190-4506-1 (pp.155–156)
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- Helen Robinson, 'Lest we Forget? The Fading of New Zealand War Commemorations, 1946–1966', New Zealand Journal of History, 44, 1 (2010).