Why we should never forget
Armistice Day takes place on the 11th November and is also known as Remembrance Day. It marks the day World War One ended, at 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month, in 1918. On this day, we share our respect and remember those who were lost in the War by holding a two-minute silence and by wearing a red poppy.
The poem "In Flanders Fields" written by Canadian physician Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae has made the poppy a symbol of remembrance. After reading the poem, Moina Michael, a professor at the University of Georgia, wrote the poem, "We Shall Keep the Faith," and swore to wear a red poppy on the anniversary. The custom spread to Europe and the countries of the former British Empire and Commonwealth within three years. Madame Anne E. Guerin tirelessly promoted the practice in Europe and the British Empire. In the UK Major George Howson fostered the cause with the support of General Haig. Poppies were worn for the first time at the 1921 anniversary ceremony. At first real poppies were worn. These poppies bloomed across some of the worst battlefields of Flanders in World War I; their brilliant red colour became a symbol for the blood spilled in the war.
At 11am this Sunday the nation will fall silent in honour of all our fallen soldiers who fought in the War from countries around the world including the Indian subcontinent and many African Nations.
Elderly grandparents will watch the Cenotaph Service on television, thinking about friends, fiancés and fathers lost in service. The pain will be all the more raw for the families who have lost loved ones in more recent years. Grief is the normal and natural reaction to the loss of someone special to us, but it doesn’t just have to be someone we know, loss on this scale would impact us all, we all feel the loss of life, and share the grief of those left behind. It is ever present in our lives in varying degrees. Grief and stress are stored in our bodies; this is where yoga can help us loosen the emotional and physical tightness in our bodies caused by grief, the practice of yoga addresses self-care and helps to integrate the experience of loss, aiding the healing process.
But our image of the First World War, after which the first Remembrance Day events started taking place, is in danger of losing its sharpness. With first-hand recollection all but gone it is more important than ever for us to share the realities of the Great War – the poems, the paintings, the global narratives and the artefacts – with every child in every part of Britain.
Remembrance is at the forefront of our national consciousness, especially thanks to the Royal British Legion and their Poppy Appeal, which aims to raise millions of pounds a year for veterans and their families. You can hardly see a buttonhole without a splash of red at this time of year. Regardless of race, gender, cultural and religious beliefs, the unity displayed across the country and world is testament to humankind and the one global community.
So as we come together to reflect this Sunday, let’s also think of our duties and opportunities: duties to educate future generations of our forebears’ sacrifices; and opportunities that arise when our nation comes together to remember their heroism.