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   Veterans Issues - Remembrance


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Intoduction - What Is Remembrance?.....................cont
The two minutes' silence to commemorate the first anniversary of the ceasefire of 11 o'clock on 11 November 1918 was almost as much of a surprise to the general public as the ceasefire itself had been. The decision to mark the first anniversary of the Armistice with a silent pause in the life of the nation was taken very close to the anniversary itself.' [5] The origins of the silence can be found in a minute dated 4th November 1919, submitted to the War Cabinet by Sir Percy Fitzpatrick, former High Commissioner to the Dominion of South Africa, His son had been killed in France in 1917. The War Cabinet discussed Fitzpatrick's proposal on 5th November and approved a 'Service of Silence' on Armistice Day. This was approved by the King and the first silence on 11th November 1919 was well observed the length and breadth of the UK. 'For two minutes after the hour of eleven had struck yesterday morning Plymouth stood inanimate with the nation… Two minutes before the hour the maroons boomed out their warning in one long drawn out note… As the hour struck a great silence swept over the town. People halted in their walks, chatter ceased as if by magic, traffic stopped and the rumbling note of industry stayed'. [6] From that day on, the silence became inseparable from Remembrancetide. It is a central feature of the national ceremony held on Remembrance Sunday at the Cenotaph. Recent years have seen the reintroduction of a two-minute silence at 1100 hours on the 11th November itself, regardless of the day of the week. While not universally recognised, according to the Royal British Legion 73% of the population respected this gesture of remembrance in 2001.

In the aftermath of the Great War, discontent amongst veterans led to the formation of a number of veterans organisations. These merged in 1921 to form The British Legion. Since its inception, this organisation has been dedicated to the care and welfare of those who have served in the Armed Forces and their dependants. It currently has more than 600,000 members and more than 4,500 branches in the UK and overseas. Some 13 million people in the UK are eligible to approach it for assistance. The poppy is the symbol of this organisation and is universally recognised in Britain as the symbol of remembrance. After four years of continuous bombardment on the Western Front, the poppy was the only thing that grew in the devastated moonscape. Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, a doctor serving with the Canadian Army, wrote the poem In Flanders' Fields in response to his experiences. Moina Michael, an American war secretary with the YMCA and a writer, was touched by McCrae's work. She bought some red poppies, wore one herself and sold the remainder to her friends, giving the money raised to ex-Servicemen. And so a tradition began. Major George Howson, a decorated veteran was deeply moved by the plight of ex-servicemen who had been disabled in the war and founded the Disabled Society. The variety of wounds that had been inflicted by the technology of modern warfare was immense and had produced over 240,000 major amputees. [7] Howson thought that the making of artificial poppies might offer opportunities to the Disabled Society and approached the Legion with this suggestion. And so the British Legion Poppy Factory was established. Now located at Richmond, it employs many disabled people making poppies, wreaths and other items associated with the Poppy Appeal. The funds raised from the sale of the 36 million poppies and 98,000 wreaths that are sold by a network of volunteers in the weeks before Remembrance Sunday, go towards the charitable works of the Legion. In the year 2000 £20.1M was raised. In that year, the Legion spent £43 million on its charitable works in the ex-Service community. In 2002 the Legion assisted 1,000 people to visit war graves overseas, over 300,000 calls for help were answered, 54,000 people were assisted with war pensions claims and appeals, 100,000 visits were made to the housebound and those in hospital and 5,000 people were helped with a stay in the Rest and Recuperation Legion's homes. On its 50th birthday in 1971, it became the Royal British Legion.


[5] Adrian Gregory The Silence of Memory.
[6] Western Morning News and Mercury 12th November 1919.
[7] Winter, The Great War and the British People, p. 275.

   

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