Remembrance Day is a memorial day in which the Commonwealth nations remember and pay their respects to the brave men and women of the armed forces, who gave their lives in the line of duty. In most countries it takes place on 11th November, signifying the end of all hostilities in World War I at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.
The red remembrance poppy has become the iconic emblem associated with Remembrance Day. The poppy came to be associated with this day due to the actions of a professor at the University of Georgia named Moina Michael, who penned the poem ‘We Shall Keep the Faith.’ Michael swore to wear a poppy each year as a symbol of remembrance for those who had lost their lives in the war. The custom rapidly spread across the world and to this day the red poppy is worn not only as a symbol of remembrance but also to represent the blood spilled in the war.
It has been about 100 years since the First World War ended and 71 years since the Second World War ended. We still remember, and stories of those days are still told, whether in the form of history lessons, memoirs, or memories passed down from one generation to the next.
With the passing of time comes change. The meaning that Remembrance Day holds for those closely linked to the First and Second World Wars may be very different to that held by their grandchildren or great-grandchildren.
So, the question arises: after so many years have passed, and with the pains of the past perhaps being dulled by time, what meaning does Remembrance Day have to the generations after?
In order to answer this, we posed two questions to Story Terrace staff member Robert Desmond, who has very close ties to the past. Robert’s maternal grandmother was part of the Women’s Air Force in the Second World War and his grandfather was part of the bomber command. Additionally, his family’s Jewish heritage meant that his paternal grandmother and her children were forced to evacuate eastern Europe in order to escape the Nazis.
Robert, what does Remembrance Day mean to you?
“Remembrance Day is incredibly important to me. It’s not just about remembering those who were brave enough to risk and give their lives for the state of the modern world, to fight the evil regime of the Nazis, but also to remember the genocide that happened and what was prevented from being spread across the globe.”
“As I enjoy my life with the freedom to travel across this country and Europe, I always remember that people died for this freedom and it did not come lightly. It is so important that we remember those who fought to let this happen, as without the collective strength of this country and its allies, who knows where we would be living and what we would be doing.”
How important is it to save the stories and memories of that time?
“It is incredibly important that we never forget what happened, and it is the first-hand accounts that are key to making sure that the stories do not die with human death. These stories must live on forever, not just to understand what was going on in Europe at that time, but also to know the lengths that people went to to keep us from the horrors.”
“History has a habit of repeating itself and we see war is still going on in many parts of the world. Genocide is actively still happening and we must learn from the past, or we are sure to be doomed to repeat our past mistakes.”
“To hear a witness is to become a witness.”
Robert’s testimony shows that even with the passage of time, Remembrance Day still holds a very strong meaning for people. It is very important to continue sharing the stories of the past so that lessons may be learnt from it. Lessons that enable us to grow and develop. Lessons that stop us from making the same mistakes. Lessons that help us to remember.