The rituals and events that go to make up what is Remembrance Day have a timeless quality which is taken for granted by some and regarded indifferently by the majority of contemporary British society.
Nevertheless the cenotaph, the red poppy, the tomb of the unknown warrior, the Field of Remembrance, and the thousands of town, parish and village memorials, together with the ritual language, religious worship and associated ceremony used throughout Britain only came into being shortly after the end of the First World War. For example the two minutes' silence to commemorate the first anniversary of the cease-fire came as much of a surprise to the general public as the cease-fire itself had been a year earlier, it was 'invented' by a government committee.
The significance given to the marking of Remembrance Day in recent years by the media and others is in stark contrast to the views of those who originated it. No thought had been given by the government to mark the first anniversary of the end of the war until it was pressed on it less than four weeks before the 11th - the anniversary date. Perhaps unsurprisingly the 11th of November was not even seen as a particularly significant date since only a few months earlier a huge victory parade had taken place in London. What more could anyone want?
Strictly speaking the 11th November, Armistice Day and now Remembrance Day, symbolise the fact that the war did not end, which perhaps is the central but concealed truth at the heart of the ceremonies.
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"The Legion is committed to ensuring that the ‘Torch of Remembrance’ is passed on to today’s school children. Our children are the world’s future - it is important that they understand the lessons of history so that the same mistakes may never be repeated." BL 2005
What exactly does all this mean? What is the 'Torch of Remembrance' and why should we care about it? What are the 'lessons of history' and which lessons should we 'understand'? What mistakes should not be repeated? Behind this bland statement lie the politics of war.