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Ideas / Album / Remembrance Sunday
Photographs of the Remembrance Sunday ceremony in London

At 11am on November 11th 1918, an armistice (peace agreement) was signed which brought to an end the war between Britain and her allies and Germany. November 11th is called Armistice Day in Britain, and there is a two-minute silence at 11 o'clock. On either the Sunday before or the Sunday after Armistice Day (on a day known as Remembrance Sunday) there is a ceremony in London at which people remember those who have died or been injured in wars. The ceremony was first held in 1921. Over 1.75 million soldiers and sailors from Britain and the Commonwealth lost their lives in the two World Wars. Many other British forces have died in more recent conflicts (including those in Korea, Malaya, Suez, Aden, Northern Ireland, the Falkland Islands, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq).

In 2011 Remembrance Sunday is on Sunday 13 November
(for more details, see: Ideas/Events/November)

Music for Remembrance (CD album)
Artist: Band of the Irish Guards
Label: Bandleader
Date: July 2003

Keeping Faith: The History of the Royal British Legion
Author: Brian Harding
Publisher: Pen & Sword Books / Leo Cooper
Date: October 2001
The First World War In Colour
Date: September 2003
The World At War
(history of the Second World War)

Recommended music to listen to when reading this page: Elgar's Nimrod or In Flanders Fields or The Last Post (opens in a new window)
Rolf Harris has recorded a new version of Two Little Boys with the Froncysyllte Male Voice Choir to mark the 90th anniversary of the end of World War One (in 2008)


The Remembrance Sunday service is centred around a simple stone monument called the Cenotaph, which is in the middle of the road called Whitehall (map). It was built in 1919 to remember the dead of the First World War (1914-1919), and the start and end dates of this war are engraved on two sides (using Roman numerals). The start and end dates of the Second World War (1939-1945) were later added to the other sides of the Cenotaph.

Paying tribute to war victims

Flags of the armed services

The Cenotaph is the centre of the Remembrance Sunday ceremony

The front of the statue






Some members of the British Royal Family watch from balconies at the Foreign Office building. The event is widely reported in the press, and is shown live on BBC television (highlights are also shown in the evening). Members of the public watch from both sides of the road, supervised by London's Metropolitan Police.


Many members of the media attend

Metropolitan Police

Statue on top of the Foreign Office building


At about 10:15am military bands arrive on the road called Whitehall. The "Massed Bands of the Venerable Grenadier, Scots, Irish and Coldstream Guards" play music while members of the armed services and political and religious leaders assemble in the road. Some of the tunes played each year include Rule Britannia, Men of Harlech, the Skye Boat Song and Nimrod (one of Elgar's Enigma Variations).


Representatives of the army, navy and air force line up along Whitehall. At 11am you can hear the chimes of Big Ben (the large clock tower at the Houses of Parliament). A cannon is fired on Horse Guards Parade after the first strike of the bell: this marks the start of a two minute silence. The cannon is fired again at the end of the two minutes. After this the "Last Post" is played by buglers: this is often played when members of the armed services who have been killed are buried.

Soldiers are supervised by a member of the Guards

Navy, air force ...

... and army


The Queen (Queen Elizabeth the Second) attends, dressed in black. Other members of the Royal Family also take part in the ceremony.

Wreathes of poppies are laid - first by the Queen and Royal Family.
After this politicians leave wreathes, during which Beethoven's "Funeral March Number 1" is played

The Queen

Duke of Edinburgh

Princess Royal (Anne)

The British Prime Minister

Leaders of British political parties

High Commisioners (ambassadors) from almost 50 Commonwealth countries attend, and also lay poppy wreathes. 3 million soldiers from the Commonwealth fought in the First World War, and 5 million in the Second World War.

Commonwealth representatives

Representatives of the armed forces (the Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force), merchant navy and police service also lay wreathes.
The area in front of the Cenotaph is soon full of poppies, like the fields of Flanders after the First World War.

The Queen's wreath is in the centre

Members of armed services salute


A short service is led by clergy and choir members from the Chapels Royal. Representatives from many of the world's major religions attend the event.
"God save the Queen" is played and the Queen and officials leave Whitehall.


Finally, about 10,000 veterans (current or past soldiers) come out onto Whitehall and march past the Cenotaph. While they are marching, the public clap and the military band play popular patriotic tunes from the world wars (such as "Pack up your troubles", "There will always be an England" and "Colonel Bogey"). The veterans continue past the Guards Memorial statue on Horse Guards Road, before returning to Horse Guards Parade to take the salute.

Chelsea Pensioners

Saluting the Cenotaph

Remembering the dead

War veterans wear their medals

The Guards Memorial


During the First World War, many people died in the fields of France and Belgium. The fields in Flanders turned red because many poppies (a small flower which has red petals) suddenly appeared there. This seemed to symbolise the spirits of the dead soldiers, especially because the colour is similar to blood. The Canadian poet John McCrae wrote a poem called In Flanders Fields which drew people's attention to the poppies (you can read or listen to this poem: here). It is common for poppy seeds to remain in the ground for a long time and for the flowers to grow after the ground has been disturbed, as had happened because of the war.

The widows of dead soldiers suggested that poppies be sold to raise money for people who were in need of help because of the death or injury of someone in the war. Each year (at the beginning of November) you can buy a poppy from a collector - the amount you want to pay is up to you. People wear the poppy from early November until 11th November. The money is used to help families affected because of service in all wars - not just the World Wars.

Poppy wreathes at the Cenotaph

Poppy seller

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Royal British Legion poppy appeal:
Commonwealth War Graves Commission:
Armed Forces Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum, Staffordshire:

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Events in the UK in November: Ideas/Events/November
British royal family: Britain/Countries/Royalty
Modern British history: Britain/History/Modern
Pictures from other traditional events in Britain: Ideas/Album
Photos from Trooping the Colour: Ideas/Album/TroopingTheColour
State Opening of Parliament: Ideas/Album/StateOpeningOfParliament

Home page: Home

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