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On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month….

Armistice Day is on 11 November and is also known as Remembrance Day. It marks the day World War One ended, at 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month, in 1918. A two-minute silence is held at 11am to remember the people who have died in wars. Remembrance Sunday is held every year on the second Sunday in November. This was yesterday and there were ceremonies held across the country at war memorials, cenotaphs, churches here in the UK and also abroad. This anniversary isn’t just to remember all those who died in World War One but also those who gave their lives in World War Two, The Falklands War, The Gulf War and also conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq to name but a few.

The first two-minute silence in Britain was held on 11 November 1919, when King George V asked the public to observe a silence at 11am. This was one year after the end of World War One. He made the request so “the thoughts of everyone may be concentrated on reverent remembrance of the glorious dead”.

Last year we featured the hard work of the poppy sellers and how important it was to keep this part of history fresh in our minds and over the last few weeks there have been so many remarkable tales but we couldn’t include an article about the ravages of war without mentioning 93 year old D-Day Veteran Harry Billinge. Harry was featured on the BBC previously and during his interview on the D-Day beaches he brought BBC presenter Naga Munchetty to tears. Harry was determined to raise  £22,442 for a memorial to all those that lost their lives during the D-Day landings. He said £1 for each of those lost servicemen. Hearing the interview with Harry was truly inspirational. To see him collecting money where he lives and his courage and conviction to complete the task was an interview I will never forget. The target has been reached and the memorial that was a dream has been started and is now becoming a reality. Footage of the memorial was shown to Harry for the first time and the emotion was clear to see. The vociferous ex Sapper was literally stunned and lost for words. Harry says he was no hero and that the true heroes were lost in battle. I am sure that all those soldiers would view Harry as a true inspiration and brand him a hero like the rest of the nation appears to have done. Harry Billinge – we think you are a hero.

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The meaning of the Poppy…

During the First World War (1914–1918) lots of the fighting took place in Western Europe. Land that was once beautiful countryside was turned to muddy landscape after the bombings and the battles that occurred there. Due to the mud and bad conditions, hardly any plants could grow and it soon became a baron landscape.

The only flowers that could grow, were the bright red Flanders poppies and these grew in their thousands. These flowers were associated with the First World War and since this time have been worn as a mark of remembrance for those who have died in battle.

Poppies are currently available all across the country and money raised from the sale of these goes to help The Royal British Legion who in turn help servicemen and their families. We spoke to one such volunteer Karen Fisher from Hornchurch in Essex, who gave up her time to collect donations in her local Sainsbury’s. Karen said

“I met some lovely people with great stories to tell. One old lady told me that her mum worked on the radios in the First World War and that she couldn’t walk past a poppy donation box without putting money in”

It is thanks to these volunteers who give up their time to help raise much needed funds and to keep the emblem of the poppy alive and in the forefront of people’s minds.

Both the English and the German national football teams will be wearing black arm bands bearing the poppy emblem at their friendly match tonight at Wembley as a mark of respect.

Do you know the significance of the poppy?

The RED represents the blood of the fallen and injured soldiers, the BLACK represents the mourning for the soldiers who never returned home and the GREEN leaf represents the grass and crops growing a future prosperity.

How should the poppy be worn?

The leaf should be positioned at 11 o’clock which represents the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the time of which WW1 ended. The poppy should also be worn on the left hand side positioned over your heart.

IN FLANDERS FIELDS

In Flanders’ fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place: and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders’ fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe;

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high,

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders’ Fields.

Lest we forget.