It is the 11th hour on the 11th day 100 years after the Armistice.
The strength of support for Remembrance is tremendous. The similarity with ANZAC Day in Australia is phenomenal and the pride of the nation for its fallen servicemen is tangible. Everywhere there is silence as we remember those soldiers, sailors, and airmen sacrificed for the security and stability that British people enjoy today.
We feel we have been part of this remembrance and glad that we have involved ourselves. Our involvement started with assisting the British Legion with its Poppy Day fund raising through the Rotary Club of Nottingham. For two hours we sold Poppy Day mementos at Broadmarsh Shopping Centre in Nottingham. Our shift, 4.00pm to 6.00pm meant that we saw people of Nottinghamshire coming home from work (the rail station is accessed through the shopping centre) all stopping to donate or buy a poppy, badge or wrist band. One of the styles of poppies on sale was a knitted poppy. We had not seen these before. All individual but based on a standard pattern. We learned that these had been created by members of the public following a request by one of the local radio stations that 11,000 be knitted for the 11,000 Nottinghamshire soldiers lost in WW1.
Kerry delighted in relaying this story to the many women who picked through these poppies looking for the right one. I am not sure if they were interested in the poppies or just wanted to hear the Australian talking. We were visited by one surprised Aussie who heard the accent and had to ask what the hell we were doing raising money for the British Legion.
We were visited by Val Lievers, a past District Governor for this Rotary District. Val is one of the originators of the project and she continues with organisation for the British Legion and has cemented the relationship between the organisations. Busy and bubbly, Val was surprised to have a couple of Aussies on the stand. Below are the snaps of us on the stand courtesy of Val. According to Val tens of thousands of pounds will be raised through this effort by the Legion and Rotary.
Val also told us that the response from the public to supply the knitted poppies was overwhelming with more than 100,000 poppies being donated from Nottingham.
We also had present servicemen visit and donate. One in particular stopped with his wife and family to talk to me as we shared a common interest – it is probable that he encountered our son Adam serving with the Australian Defence Force in Afghanistan. This fellow is currently in his 30th year in the service, having started as a Private and risen in the ranks to Major and having served a number of times in Afghanistan, Iraq and Falklands.
Our next encounter was when we went to the Tower of London to see our Poppy. For those of you who are not aware the British Legion has arranged the sale of hundreds of thousands of ceramic poppies (almost 900,000 in fact, designed and made right here in Derbyshire) to represent the British soldiers, sailors and airmen lost in the WW1. The poppies have been planted in the moat of the Tower. These poppies are about 4 feet tall and cost 25 pound. We hope to receive ours in January 2015 as the display will be dismantled after today. The vision of these poppies is spectacular and has been visited by over 4 million people according to press reports. A picture is worth a thousand words or so the saying goes. I agree in this case and here are my photos.
Here in Britain they remember on Remembrance Sunday. This is the Sunday before the anniversary of Armistice Day and they have two minutes silence at 11.00am on the 11th as well. I was not aware of this and by accident came across the Long Eaton Memorial parade and service returning from Tescos. On returning to the flat, I told Kerry and both of us hurried back to the Memorial. Marketplace Rd and Tamworth Rd were closed and now filled with people. We had missed the parade but the formal service and wreath laying was taking place. There were dignitaries on the official dais beside the Memorial in the centre of town. It was hard to see what was happening from the back of the crowd but the audio was crystal clear. I don’t know who everyone on the dais was but there was clearly a priest who conducted the service and probably the Mayor for the borough in mayoral regalia. There were representative units from the Army, Navy, Air force and Commandos, and other community organisations laying wreaths.
The priest gave a moving and interesting address about the first two minutes silence. Someone, and I cannot remember who, put the idea to King George V shortly before the first anniversary of the armistice. The King approved of the idea and through the Times requested that on the 11th hour of the 11th day that everyone stop their daily activities for two minutes silence in remembrance of the fallen. Even with the short notice, the country came to a standstill. Traffic stopped. Trains delayed their departure. Pedestrians stood still in the streets. And every year thereafter this ritual of remembrance was performed until Remembrance Sunday was announced for the remembrance of those lost in war, as well as the two minutes silence on the anniversary. With the completion of the ceremony the parade reformed and marched out down Tamworth Rd. I have captured some of it for you.
Lest we forget.