Open main menu

Remembrance Sunday is held in the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth of Nations as a day "to commemorate the contribution of British and Commonwealth military and civilian servicemen and women in the two World Wars and later conflicts".[1] It is held on the second Sunday in November, the Sunday nearest to 11 November, Armistice Day,[2] the anniversary of the end of hostilities in the First World War at 11 a.m. in 1918.

Remembrance Sunday
Royal British Legion's Paper Poppy - white background.jpg
The poppy is worn around the time of Remembrance Sunday (traditionally from All Souls' Day (November 2) until the latter of Remembrance Day (November 11) or Remembrance Sunday)
Official name Remembrance Sunday
Observed by Commonwealth Nations
Liturgical Color (Red or green)
Observances Parades, silences
Date Second Sunday in November
2017 date November 12  (2017-11-12)
2018 date November 11  (2018-11-11)
2019 date November 10  (2019-11-10)
2020 date November 8  (2020-11-08)
Frequency annual
Related to Remembrance Day and Armistice Day

Across The United Kingdom, Remembrance Sunday is marked by ceremonies at local war memorials in most cities, towns and villages, attended by civic dignitaries, ex-servicemen and -women (many are members of the Royal British Legion and other veterans' organisations), members of local armed forces regular and reserve units (Royal Navy and Royal Naval Reserve, Royal Marines and Royal Marines Reserve, Army and Territorial Army, Royal Air Force and Royal Auxiliary Air Force), military cadet forces (Sea Cadet Corps, Army Cadet Force and Air Training Corps as well as the Combined Cadet Force) and youth organisations (e.g. Scouts, Boys' Brigade, Girls' Brigade and Guides). Wreaths of remembrance poppies are laid on the memorials and two minutes' silence is held at 11 a.m. Church bells are usually rung half-muffled, creating a sombre effect.


National ceremony in the United KingdomEdit

The ceremony at the Cenotaph
Group of wreaths laid during the Remembrance Sunday ceremony in London

The national ceremony is held in London at the Cenotaph on Whitehall.

Two minutes' silence is held at 11 a.m., before the laying of the wreaths. The silence represents the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918, when the guns of Europe fell silent.[3] This silence is started by Royal Marines buglers sounding Last Post and ended by Royal Marines buglers sounding The Rouse. Gunners of the Royal Horse Artillery fire a gun salute at the end of the silence.

The first wreath was traditionally laid on behalf of the nation by the Queen but, beginning in 2017, Prince of Wales, as the queen's representative, lays the first wreath. Wreaths are then laid by senior members of the Royal Family. Formerly this included the Duke of Edinburgh, however, since his 2017 retirement he now watches alongside the queen from the Foreign Office balcony while an equerry lays a wreath on his behalf. The Prince of Wales then lays his own wreath followed by further wreaths being laid by the Duke of Cambridge, the Duke of Sussex, the Duke of York, the Earl of Wessex, the Princess Royal, and the Duke of Kent. Other members of the Royal Family watch the ceremony from the Foreign Office balcony. Some members of the Royal Family may be abroad or in other parts of the United Kingdom where they will usually lay wreaths at local ceremonies.

Wreaths are then laid by the Prime Minister (and other Commonwealth leaders if they are present[4]), the Leader of the Opposition and the leaders of the other major political parties; the Foreign Secretary; Commonwealth High Commissioners; the Irish Ambassador (since 2014);[5] representatives from the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force; the Merchant Navy and fishing fleets; and finally, the civilian emergency services.

A short religious service of remembrance is then conducted by the Bishop of London in their capacity as Dean of the Chapel Royal. The hymn O God Our Help In Ages Past is sung, led by the massed bands and the Choir of the Chapel Royal.[6] The national anthem God Save the Queen is then sung, before the royal party depart.

Before the ceremony, military bands (Army, Marine, and RAF) play live music each year, following the list of the Traditional Music of Remembrance (see below).

After the ceremony, as the bands play, a huge parade of veterans, organised by the Royal British Legion, marches past the Cenotaph. Each contingent salutes the Cenotaph as they pass and a great many wreaths are handed over to be laid at it. They salute the Cenotaph (Empty Tomb in Greek) as they are paying tribute to all those it represents, to all those who died and who lie buried elsewhere.

As the veterans march back to Horse Guards Parade a member of the Royal Family takes their salute in front of the Guards Memorial.

Regional and local ceremoniesEdit

The Remembrance Sunday parade in Oxford in 2011.

Significant ceremonies also take place in the capitals of the nations and across the regions of the United Kingdom.[7] Most notably at the Scottish National War Memorial, in Edinburgh in the grounds of Edinburgh Castle,[8] the Welsh National War Memorial in Cardiff[9] and at the Northern Ireland War Memorial and Cenotaph in Belfast in the grounds of the Belfast City Hall.[10]

Television coverageEdit

The ceremony has been televised each year by the BBC since 1946. It is the joint-longest-running live televised annual event in the world, the record being shared with the Chelsea Flower Show. When first shown in 1937 it was the second live outside event to be broadcast, the first being the procession that followed the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth earlier that year.

The 1947 telerecording of the ceremony is the oldest surviving record of a broadcast of a live outside event.

Remembrance Week is a week-long series[11] of special programmes commemorating the ceremony, transmitted on BBC One Daytime. It is made by production company Fever Media and is presented by Gethin Jones. It was first transmitted in 2010[12] and returned in November 2011 for a second series.[13]

British Overseas TerritoriesEdit

In the past, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs laid a wreath on behalf of all the British overseas territories. However, since 2001 there has been a campaign by Britain's Overseas Territories Association for the right to lay a wreath themselves at the annual service at the Cenotaph. In 2008 the Labour Government agreed that one wreath could be laid for all 14 territories by a representative of the territories.[14][15]

Northern IrelandEdit

In Northern Ireland, Remembrance Sunday has tended to be associated with the unionist community. Most Irish nationalists and republicans do not take part in the public commemoration of British soldiers. However, some moderate nationalists have attended Remembrance Day events as a way to connect with the unionist community. In 1987 a bomb was detonated by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) just before a Remembrance Sunday ceremony in Enniskillen, killing eleven people. The IRA said it had made a mistake and had been targeting soldiers parading to the war memorial.

Other ceremoniesEdit

From 1919 until 1945, Armistice Day observance was always on 11 November itself. It was then moved to Remembrance Sunday, but since the 50th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in 1995, it has become usual to hold ceremonies on both Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday.

In 2006, then Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown proposed that in addition to Remembrance Sunday, a new national day to celebrate the achievements of veterans should be instituted. The "Veterans Day", to be held in the summer, would be similar to Veterans Day celebrations in the United States. This has now been renamed "Armed Forces Day", to include currently serving troops to Service families, and from veterans to cadets. The first "Armed Forces Day" was held on 27 June 2009.

Submariners hold an additional remembrance walk and ceremony on the Sunday before Remembrance Sunday, which has The Submariners Memorial as its focal point.

Traditional musicEdit

Each year, the programme of music at the National Ceremony remains the same, following a programme finalised in 1930:[16]

Other pieces of music are then played during the unofficial wreath laying and the march past of the veterans, starting with Trumpet Voluntary and followed by It's A Long Way To Tipperary, the marching song of the Connaught Rangers, a famous British Army Irish Regiment of long ago and by the Royal British Legion March, the official march of the official organizer of the ceremony, The Royal British Legion, which is a medley of marches of the First and Second World Wars.

Outside the United KingdomEdit

Outside the United Kingdom Anglican and Church of Scotland churches often have a commemorative service on Remembrance Sunday. In the Republic of Ireland there is an ecumenical service in St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin, the Church of Ireland's national cathedral. Since 1993 the President of Ireland has attended this service.[17] The state has its own National Day of Commemoration (held in July) for all Irish men and women who have died in war. In the United States it is celebrated by many Anglo-Catholic churches in the Episcopal Church. The Anglican Church of Korea also celebrates the day to commemorate, in particular, the Commonwealth soldiers who fought in the Korean War with a service at the Seoul Anglican Cathedral.

In New Zealand an attempt was made to change Armistice Day to Remembrance Sunday after World War II but it was a failure, partly owing to competition from Anzac Day.[18]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "[ARCHIVED CONTENT] Department for Culture Media and Sport – remembrance sunday". Retrieved 10 November 2010.
  2. ^ These two statements are in effect the same: the second Sunday is always between 8 and 14 November inclusive, so the second Sunday is no more than three days away from 11 November, and therefore always the Sunday nearest to 11 November.
  3. ^ "Remembrance – The two minutes' silence". Retrieved 11 November 2007.
  4. ^ "War dead honoured at the Cenotaph". BBC News. 12 November 2006. Retrieved 14 November 2016.
  5. ^ "Irish ambassador lays wreath at London ceremony".
  6. ^ "The Chapels Royal".
  7. ^ Nation unites to remember fallen.
  8. ^ Services held to honour war dead.
  9. ^ Army band heads remembrance event.
  10. ^ War dead are remembered across NI.
  11. ^ Guardian (28 June 2010). "BBC1 announces Remembrance Week plan".
  12. ^ Digital Spy (28 June 2010). "BBC announces 'Remembrance Week' plans".
  13. ^ BBC Press Office (26 June 2010). "BBC One Daytime to commemorate Remembrance Day in a week of special programmes".
  14. ^ Brady, Brian (2 November 2008). "British territories demand right to lay Cenotaph wreaths". The Independent. Retrieved 29 August 2009.
  15. ^ Rosindell, Andrew. "British Overseas Territories And Remembrance Sunday". Early Day Motion. Parliament of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 29 August 2009.
  16. ^ Jeffrey Richards, Imperialism and Music: Britain 1876–1953, Manchester University Press 2001, ISBN 0-7190-4506-1 (pp.155–156)
  17. ^ Sørensen, Nils Arne (2003). "Commemorating the Great War in Ireland and the Trentino: An Essay in Comparative History". Nordic Irish Studies. Centre for Irish Studies in Aarhus and the Dalarna University Centre for Irish Studies. 2: 137. JSTOR 30001490.
  18. ^ Helen Robinson, 'Lest we Forget? The Fading of New Zealand War Commemorations, 1946–1966', New Zealand Journal of History, 44, 1 (2010).

External linksEdit