Military History

Remembrance Day | 11 Nov 2020

By The Cove November 10, 2020

Although Remembrance Day is different this year, we encourage everyone to observe one minute silence at 11am wherever they are in memory of those who served to honour their spirit.

Remembrance Day falls on the 11th of November each year. On the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month, a minutes’ silence is observed and dedicated to those soldiers who died fighting to protect the nation. 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 One. The day continues to be commemorated in allied countries. After World War Two, 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.

What is the origin of Remembrance Day?

11 November is universally associated with the remembrance of those who had died in the First World War. This conflict had mobilised over 70 million people and left between nine and 13 million dead and as many as one third of these with no grave. The allied nations chose this day and time for the commemoration of their war dead.

At 11 am on 11 November 1918, the guns on the Western Front fell silent after more than four years of continuous warfare. The allied armies had driven the German invaders back, having inflicted heavy defeats upon them over the preceding four months.

In November, the Germans called for an armistice (suspension of fighting) in order to secure a peace settlement. They accepted the allied terms of unconditional surrender. The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month attained a special significance in the post-war years and became universally associated with the remembrance of those who had died in the war.

What is the significance of the period of Silence?

The Deputy Chiefs of the Navy, Army and Air Force salute the Stone of Remembrance, 2011.

On the first anniversary of the armistice in 1919, two minutes’ silence was instituted as part of the main commemorative ceremony at the new cenotaph in London. Australian journalist Edward Honey proposed the silence. At about the same time, a South African statesman made a similar proposal to the British Cabinet, which endorsed it. King George V personally requested all the people of the British Empire suspend normal activities for two minutes on the hour of the Armistice 'which stayed the worldwide carnage of the four preceding years and marked the victory of Right and Freedom'. The two minutes' silence was popularly adopted and it became a central feature of commemorations of Armistice Day. 

The Unknown Soldier

On the second anniversary of the Armistice on 11 November 1920, the commemoration was given added significance when it became a funeral, with the return of the remains of an unknown soldier from the battlefields of the Western Front. Unknown soldiers were interred with full military honours in Westminster Abbey in London and at the Arc de Triumph in Paris. The entombment in London attracted over one million people within a week to pay their respects at the unknown soldier's tomb. Most other allied nations adopted the tradition of entombing unknown soldiers over the following decade. 

In Australia on the 75th anniversary of the Armistice in 1993, Remembrance Day ceremonies again became the focus of national attention. The remains of an unknown Australian soldier, exhumed from a First World War military cemetery in France, were ceremonially entombed in the Australian War Memorial's Hall of Memory. Remembrance Day ceremonies were conducted simultaneously in towns and cities all over the country, culminating at the moment of burial at 11.00am and coinciding with the traditional two minutes' silence.

Why is this day special to Australians?

In 1997, Governor-General Sir William Deane issued a proclamation formally declaring 11 November to be Remembrance Day, urging all Australians to observe one minute silence at 11.00am on 11 November each year, to remember those who died or suffered for Australia's cause in all wars and armed conflicts. This year on Wednesday 11 November at 11.00am, we will commemorate the  silencing of the guns on the Western Front and reflect on the significance of that event. We also pause to remember all of the men and women of the Australian Defence Force who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

We will remember them. Lest we forget.

From the RSL:

Here are the Top 5 things you can do;

 1. Remember To Remember – Observe one minute’s silence and personal reflection at 11am on November 11 and pay tribute to all Australians who have served or are currently serving. Visit for guidance on services, to assist setting up reminders and to learn more about the importance of Remembrance Day.

2. Donate to the Poppy Appeal online  Plant a virtual poppy in the RSL Poppy Appeal Remembrance Day garden and leave a message of thanks for a Veteran here

3. Tune into live services and virtual commemorative services – This includes the official livestream of the service at the Cenotaph in Martin Place that will be available via the RSL NSW Facebook page and NSW Government home page.

4Attend a BBQ to Remember- Get your mates together over a BBQ this Remembrance Day (within your State or Territory local social distance requirements) and make it a day to remember. 

5. Reach out to a veteran – On Remembrance Day, reach out to a veteran you know or in your community to offer your thanks. Share a message of remembrance by tagging a Veteran on your state RSL Facebook page and use the hashtag #remembertoremember.



The Cove

The home of the Australian Profession of Arms.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.

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