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...at the going down of the sun and in the morning we shall remember them.
I bought a poppy the other day, and proudly pinned it to the lapel of my jacket, as I do every year around this time.
Many of you reading this from outside the British Commonwealth, will be unfamiliar with this 90 year old British tradition, but it is our way of commemorating, with this poignant symbol, all those who gave their lives in the defence of this country during the first and second world wars, and sadly, many who, since 1945 continue to fight and die for our beliefs and freedoms.
So it is right and the minimum we can do, that every year at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month (the exact time and date of the end of the First World War in November 1918), the country pauses in two minutes silence to remember 'the fallen'. This occurred yesterday (Friday, November 11th at 11.00am) when, at the first strike of Big Ben, the country fell silent.
The more formal observance of remembrance focusses on the Cenotaph in London, where Her Majesty the Queen leads our nation in a simple but moving ceremony during which she, and many others, lay wreaths of bright red poppies at the foot of this our primary monument to our war dead,. I urge you to watch this on BBC 1 TV tomorrow morning.
I found a moving account of how the first two minute silence was observed in London in 1919, only a year after World War One ended. This was reported in the Manchester Guardian on 12 November 1919 as follows:-
"The first stroke of eleven produced a magical effect. The tram cars glided into stillness, motors ceased to cough and fume, and stopped dead, and the mighty-limbed dray horses hunched back upon their loads and stopped also, seeming to do it of their own volition. Someone took off his hat, and with a nervous hesitancy the rest of the men bowed their heads also. Here and there an old soldier could be detected slipping unconsciously into the posture of 'attention'. An elderly woman, not far away, wiped her eyes, and the man beside her looked white and stern. Everyone stood very still ... The hush deepened. It had spread over the whole city and become so pronounced as to impress one with a sense of audibility. It was a silence which was almost pain ... And the spirit of memory brooded over it all."
I'm not going to introduce any commercial links or references into this blog, as it would be wholly inappropriate, but I will say that we at Country Attire Ltd are enormously proud of our British heritage. Many of us in the company have family and friends who served, several of whom never returned home. But I think we should also remember those who fought, suffered horrendous experiences in these conflicts, before returning to resume their normal lives - our parents, grandparents, relations and friends, without whom we simply wouldn't exist to enjoy the benefits of peace and freedom that they wrought for us.
So I do urge all my British readers to turn on their televisions to BBC 1 about 10 minutes or so before 11.00am tomorrow (Sunday) morning, and proudly take part by simply listening and remembering those of our compatriots who are captured perfectly, in that hauntingly beautiful quotation...