Remembrance Day

November 09, 2018

Armistice Day, and Remembrance Day

On 11 November 1918 (at 11 am Paris time), after more than four years of continuous warfare in what was then called 'The Great War', later 'World War I', the guns of the Western Front fell silent. This was due to the armistice (suspension of fighting) – an agreement reached between the Allies and Germany early that morning declaring a cessation to hostilities on the Western Front, effective from the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month (of 1918).

Armistice Day is also Remembrance (and Red Poppy) Day across the Commonwealth of Nations – inaugurated by King George V in 1919 – and in other non-Commonwealth countries too, in commemoration of the lives lost (and blood spilt) in WWI and in conflicts since.

The red poppy depicts the flowers in the Flanders Fields around the Western Front and is a symbol of the countless bloodshed during the devastating conflict. It was thought to be the 'Great War', the “war to end all wars”, which:

  • led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel (60 million Europeans)
  • caused the death of almost ten million combatants and eight million civilians as a direct result of the war (with perhaps a third of the slain soldiers with no known grave)
  • coincided with a number of genocides and the 1918-19 “Spanish Flu” pandemic (which killed another 20-40 million people), and
  • worldwide, was responsible for over 50 million deaths

making it one of (if not) the largest and bloodiest wars in human history, certainly for Western civilisation.

For Australia, WWI remains the costliest conflict in terms of deaths and casualties with more than 60,000 killed and 156,000 wounded, gassed, or taken prisoner from the 416,809 men that enlisted for the war. It bears noting that our national population of less than five million meant nearly a fifth of all Australian men enlisted to serve, a truly staggering number, demonstrating Australian and Commonwealth courage, patriotism and sacrifice.

Commemorate the centenary of the WWI armistice – and Remembrance Day – by:

Further details on the Armistice and Remembrance (Red Poppy) Day

When the guns fell silent, Allied soldiers and civilians alike rejoiced. The armistice initially expired after a period of 36 days (mid-December 1918) but hostilities (approaching the European winter) did not resume, and a series of armistice prolongations were agreed until a lasting peace could be officially reached.

A formal peace agreement – the Treaty of Versailles, officially ending WWI – was eventually reached and signed on 28 June 1919. The treaty was thrashed out between the victorious, principal Allied Powers (France, Britain, Italy, Japan and the US) and the defeated Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Ottoman Turks and Bulgaria) after more than five months at the Paris Peace Conference, which also gave birth to the League of Nations.

Since the Battle of Hamel on 4 July 2018 – astutely commanded by Australia’s Sir John Monash – and especially from the Battle of Amiens (8 August, beginning the 100 Days Offensive), the Allied armies had increasingly had the upper hand on the Western Front, inflicting heavy defeats on the German invaders and driving them back. In the weeks and days leading up to the armistice, German supplies to maintain the war effort had gotten so dire, and losses so heavy – with each of the other three key partners in the Central Powers having already agreed armistices – that a German delegation was sent across the frontline to negotiate an armistice with the Allies.

After several days of negotiation (and soon after the news that the German Emperor (Kaiser) had abdicated the throne and gone into exile in the Netherlands), an unconditional German surrender was agreed with the Allies in a train carriage in the forest of Compiègne (60 kms north of Paris). This “Armistice of Compiègne” was signed soon after 5 am on the morning of the eleventh of November 1918, with all hostilities to cease at 11 am that morning – as they faithfully, and lastingly, did.

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