The Significance of Remembrance Day
Remembrance Day marks the anniversary of the armistice which ended the First World War; the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month 1918.
World War I began in 1914 and lasted for four years. More than 416 000 Australians volunteered for service in World War I. Of these, 324 000 served overseas. More than 60 000 Australians were killed, including 45 000 who died on the Western Front in France and Belgium and more than 8 000 who died on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey; as well as Australian soldiers, many nurses in the Australian Army Nursing Service served on the Western Front
In Australia and other allied countries 11th November became known as Armistice Day – a day to remember those who died in World War I; after World War II the Australian Government agreed to the United Kingdom’s proposal that Armistice Day be renamed Remembrance Day to commemorate those who were killed in both World Wars.
In October 1997 the then Governor-General issued a Proclamation declaring 11th November as Remembrance Day – a day to remember the sacrifice of those who have died for Australia in wars and conflicts.
Red poppies are often worn on Remembrance Day; the tradition has its origins in a poem written in 1915 by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, a doctor in the Royal Canadian Medical Corps. Lieutenant Colonel McCrae noticed that, despite the devastation caused by the war to towns, farms and forests, thousands of small red poppies began growing everywhere in Spring.
This inspired his poem, In Flanders Fields:
In Flanders fields the poppies blow Between the crosses, row on row That mark our place; and in the sky The larks, still bravely singing, fly Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead. Short days ago We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Loved and were loved, and now we lie In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe; To you, from failing hands, we throw The torch; be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who die We shall not sleep, though poppies grow In Flanders fields.
Poppies were first sold in Australia on Armistice Day in 1921, and since then, wearing a poppy has enabled Australians to show they have not forgotten the more than 102,000 Australian servicemen and women who have given their lives in wars and conflicts during the past 100 years.
Today the loss of Australian lives from all wars and conflicts is commemorated on Remembrance Day.