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In the years that followed the first Armistice Day the shape, significance and meaning of the ceremonies changed and adapted to the changing public mood and distance from the war’s end. In time it was noticed that ex-servicemen were vastly outnumbered by women at the ceremonies and by the late 1920s this created a picture of the bereaved as primarily women.

‘It was an impressive sight to watch the faces of that expectant crowd of people with the brilliant sunshine radiating upon their faces, though doubtless many of their hearts were sad at the thought of those dear ones they had once loved and now lost. Fond memories must have stirred of former days when hand clasped the hand it would clasp no more…’


Description of visits to the tomb of the Unknown Warrior in the Methodist Recorder gave the same impression:
‘Mothers' prayers at warrior’s tomb
‘There were many mothers in that long file; some gripped at the wooden rail a little as they half turned to look at the tomb. Some bent and laid wreaths or bunches of flowers. One woman with a sad suffused face drew from her bosom a single white rose and laid it at the tomb; another placed three bunches of violets. Occasionally a woman knelt and said a short prayer.’


A recruiting poster from 1914/15. One wonders
what the mothers who encouraged their sons to
join felt when they received the notice of their death.


Gradually, through the language used by the church, the state and the press to describe the meaning of armistice at the annual ceremonies, the ‘sacrifice’ made by the dead began to incorporate the ‘sacrifice’ of the bereaved. The grief and pain of the parents became every bit as valid as the death of the soldier. They both contributed to the saving of the country, the empire and the destruction of militarism. The dead and the bereaved both contributed to the victorious outcome.