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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.'  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'.  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.  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.
Gregory The Silence of Memory.
Morning News and Mercury
12th November 1919.
Great War and the British People,