Armistice Day 2020: Nation falls silent to salute those who lost their lives in conflict

11 November 2020, 08:41 | Updated: 11 November 2020, 13:36

Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

The UK fell silent for two minutes this morning to remember the nation's war dead on Armistice Day despite the coronavirus pandemic limiting public services.

Every year at 11am the UK observes a two-minute silence to commemorate the lives of people who have been killed in wars across the world.

This year, Brits were encouraged to mark the moment by standing at their doorsteps or windows on Wednesday morning due to the ongoing coronavirus lockdown.

Covid-19 restrictions have disrupted public events for 2020, forcing last weekend's Remembrance Sunday service at the Cenotaph to be scaled back.

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London's Westminster Abbey hosted an invitation-only service to mark the centenary of the burial of the Unknown Warrior - a British serviceman whose body was brought back from Northern France after the First World War and who represents all those who lost their lives in the conflict.

The event was attended by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall and was shown on television.

Wednesday also marks 100 years since the inauguration of the permanent version of the Cenotaph memorial on Whitehall in central London.

Elsewhere, more than 100 poppy wreaths were placed on board early-morning train services heading to London and at 7pm people are being encouraged to look to the night sky from their homes in another collective moment of remembrance.

Why do we hold a two-minutes silence?

On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918, a peace treaty was signed between the Allies (including the British Empire, France and the USA) and the German forces following the First World War.

This signalled the end of the brutal and bloody four-and-a-half-year conflict which saw roughly 40 million military personnel and civilians die.

Exactly one year after WWI ended, King George asked the general public to observe a silence at 11am to honour the war dead.

He did this to ensure the "thoughts of everyone may be concentrated on reverent remembrance of the glorious dead."

What is Armistice Day?

Armistice Day, also known as Remembrance Day, sees tributes and commemorations take place across the UK and in many other countries across the world.

It is an opportunity to remember those who fought in the wars and their reasons for heading into battle. It follows Remembrance Sunday which is always held on the second Sunday of November in the UK.

The phrase "lest we forget" is commonly associated with Armistice Day. Its meaning is a plea not to forget past sacrifices made by those who have come before us.

What is the Poppy Appeal?

Part of the build up to Armistice Day includes the Poppy Appeal, fronted by the Royal British Legion. It is the charity's biggest fundraising campaign, providing financial, social and emotional support to members and veterans of the British Armed Forces, their families and dependants.

The history of the poppy goes back to World War One, where fighting, bombing and destruction took place on the Western Front.

Amid all the bleakness, bright red Flanders poppies flourished in the middle of Flanders fields, blooming in the battlefields and growing in their thousands.

Shortly after losing a friend in Ypres, Belgium, a Canadian doctor, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, was moved by the sight of these poppies and that inspiration led him to to write the now-famous poem 'In Flanders Fields'.