Every year, on 11 November at 11 am – the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month – we pause to remember those men and women who have died or suffered in all wars, conflicts and peace operations. Initially this day marked the end of World War One (WWI).
At 5am on 11 November 1918, three German government representatives accepted the Armistice terms presented to them by an allied commander, General Foch of the French Army. The demands of the Armistice included the withdrawal of German forces to the east bank of the Rhine within 30 days; immediate cessation of warfare; and surrender of the German fleet and all heavy guns with no further negotiations until the signing of the peace treaty.The cease-fire was made permanent in 19119 when members of the Commonwealth and the League of Nations signed the Treaty of Versailles.
Each year since Remembrance day has commemorated the end of WWI and acknowledged the enormous suffering and loss of life resulting from all wars .
World War I began in 1914 and lasted for four years. More than 416 000 Australians volunteered for service in World War I. Of these, 324 000 served overseas. More than 60 000 Australians were killed, including 45 000 who died on the Western Front in France and Belgium and more than 8 000 who died on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey. As well as Australian soldiers, many nurses in the Australian Army Nursing Service served on the Western Front. These nurses worked in overcrowded hospitals for up to 16 hours a day, looking after soldiers with shocking injuries and burns. Those who worked in hospitals close to the fighting were also in danger of being shelled by the enemy.
In Australia and other allied countries, including New Zealand, Canada and the United States, 11 November became known as Armistice Day – a day to remember those who died in World War I. The day continues to be commemorated in Allied countries.
After World War II the Australian Government agreed to the United Kingdom’s proposal that Armistice Day be renamed Remembrance Day to commemorate those who were killed in both World Wars. Today the loss of Australian lives from all wars and conflicts is commemorated on Remembrance Day.
In October 1997 the then Governor-General issued a Proclamation declaring 11 November as Remembrance Day – a day to remember the sacrifice of those who have died for Australia in wars and conflicts.
Badge, Australia, 1940-1955, poppy, paper, maker unknown. Red poppy with white tag, `United Returned Soldiers Fund 1950 Lest We Forget Poppy’.Collection: MAAS
The Red Poppy also has special significance for Australians. Worn on Remembrance Day on November 11 each year, the red poppies were among the first to flower in the devastated battlefields of northern France and Belgium in the First World War. The vivid red of the poppy symbolises the blood of fallen soldiers.
Written by Anni Turnbull, Curator