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November 12, 2018

Red Poppy Day commemorated


November 12, 2018

Today November 11th is ‘Remembrance Day’ or ‘Red Poppy Day,’ originally known as ‘Armistice Day.’ Since November 2nd, which is ‘All Souls Day’ you may have noticed that expatriates, especially the British, are wearing a synthetic/paper red poppy on their lapels or whatever dress or tee shirt they may have donned for the day. This day commemorates the sacrifices of all members of the armed forces and of civilians in times of war - no matter which caste or creed they belong to - specifically since the First World War. It is observed to recall the end of World War I on this day in 1918 - major hostilities of World War I were formally ended "at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month" of 1918 - with the signing of the Armistice.

The day was specifically dedicated by King George V, on 7 November 1919, to the armed forces who were killed during war. The poppies are worn because in WW1 the Western Front contained thousands of poppy seeds in the soil, all lying dormant. They would have lain there for years more, but the battles being fought there churned up the soil so much that the poppies bloomed like never before, while one of the bloodiest battles was fought here.

In many parts of the world, people observe two consecutive minutes of silence at 11:00 a.m. local time as a sign of respect - in the first minute for the roughly twenty million people who died in the war and in the second minute dedicated to the living, generally wives, children and families deeply affected by the conflict. From the outset, many veterans in several countries have also used silence to pay homage to departed comrades. Rawalpindi has a veteran’s graveyard which is looked after by a society in London. A very touching ceremony used to be held here but not anymore – I hear it is held at the British High Commission ever since 9/11. The graveyard is distinctive because of its neat rows of graves and an edifice dedicated to the memory of the fallen soldiers.

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