"In Flanders' fields the poppies blow..." On Sunday 11th November, Remembrance Day services will be held in villages, towns and cities across the Commonwealth of Nations. Including a two-minute silence held at 11 a.m. precisely, the services commemorate the contribution of Commonwealth military and civilian servicemen and women involved in both World War I (1914–18) and World War II (1939–45), as well as later conflicts. This year, Remembrance Day falls on the 100th anniversary of the Armistice, 11th November 1918, the day on which fighting in World War I came to an end. What led to the end of hostilities? Why does the two-minute silence begin at 11 a.m.? And why do we wear red poppies to mark the event?
French soldiers in a trench on the Western Front, 1917
World War I
World War I began with a German advance into northern France in August 1914. This was halted by British and French troops at the Battle of the Marne in September. By the end of the year, fighting along the Western Front had turned into stalemate, with neither side able to make headway.
Weapons such as machine guns, grenades and long-range artillery (field guns and mortars) proved devastatingly effective. As a defence against them, soldiers on both sides dug deep ditches in the ground, which expanded into a system of trenches that stretched from the English Channel to Switzerland.
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