Lest we forget: Remembrance Day around the world

This Sunday, thousands of people across Britain and the Commonwealth will come together for two minutes of silence. (Featured image is by Lauren Cathy Turner)

They will be remembering and giving thanks to the scores of men and women who have given their lives in wars around the world.

It is a day when we can take a moment out of our busy lives to remember the bravery of soldiers in years gone by, and reflect on the tragedy of war.

Remembrance Day came about as a result of the end of the First World War, in which more than nine million soldiers lost their lives.

World War I ended in 1918, and a year later King George V declared 11 November a day of remembrance for those who lost their lives in the four-year conflict.

The date refers to the end of World War I, which formally ended ‘at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month’.

More than 90 years later and Remembrance Day has become a day for the armed forces past and present. Poppy Day, as it’s sometimes known, still holds the same power as it always did – and is more relevant than ever.

The tragedy of war has affected millions of people around the globe, and Remembrance Day is a chance to reflect and remember. So, how is this important day marked throughout the Commonwealth?

United Kingdom

The tragedy of two world wars is some the British public will never forget, so Remembrance Day is always widely observed.

Not only are two minutes of silence observed on 11 November, but the second Sunday of November is always earmarked as Remembrance Sunday.

Remembrance Sunday, which happens to fall on 11 November this year, sees ceremonies held at local war memorials up and down the country.

Usually organised by local factions of the British Legion, poppy wreaths are laid at memorials during the ceremonies by members of the armed forces, local civic leaders and ex-servicemen.

The national Remembrance Sunday commemoration is held in central London, and sees members of the Royal family and other dignitaries assemble at the Cenotaph for two minutes’ silence before ‘Last Post’ is sounded by buglers of the Royal Marines.

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In Canada, Remembrance Day is a national holiday to remember soldiers past and present, specifically those who fought in the First World War, World War II and the Korean War.

There is also a focus on educating the young people of Canada to understand and appreciate the contribution that servicemen and women made to the country, as most young Canadians have never experienced the sight of their country at war.

The national ceremonies are held in Ottawa, at the National War Memorial, and are attended by the Governor General of Canada, other dignitaries and occasionally members of the Royal Family.

After ‘Last Post’ is played, just before 11am, two minutes’ silence is observed, before a gun salute signals the end of the observance.


Remembrance Day is always observed on 11 November in Australia, regardless of what day it is. Some institutions observe two minutes’ silence, though most local war memorials and schools hold a one minute silence.

One of the key Australian remembrance ceremonies is held at the Eternal Flame war memorial in Kings Park, Western Australia.

South Africa

Across most of South Africa, Remembrance Day is held on the nearest Saturday to 11 November, though in Cape Town it is still held on 11 November itself.

Commemoration ceremonies usually take place the following Sunday, when people remember those who lost their lives in both World Wars and the Border War.

The largest ceremonies are held at the Voortrekker Monument and the War Memorial at the Union Buildings, both of which are in Pretoria.

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