In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
John McCrae, May 1915
11-11-11 - Armistice Day
The fighting ceased at a time easy to remember in future years the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, in the year 1918. Americans fell in the last hour — in the last fifteen minutes, while tidings of peace were being flashed around the globe to thrill the people of every land. The brave fellows who went to graves and hospitals in the closing hours were the greatest martyrs of them all. New England units were among those ordered to attack that morning. I saw the victims buried next day. It was one of the saddest spectacles of the war. A few minutes more and they might have joined their comrades in celebrating the armistice as their relatives and friends did in a delirium of joy at home. But orders had come to straighten the lines and some units attacked and gained small strips of ground. Before others could obey, orders were rescinded, renewed and rescinded. Obviously there had been a confusion of orders somewhere.
On 01 July 1918 Count von Roon, a member of the Prussian House of Nobles, had delivered himself unofficially of an ultimatum of terms upon which Germany would consent to peace. Until its conditions were realized, he said, there should be no armistice and no cessation of submarine warfare. The conditions in detail were: the annexation by Germany of Belgium, including the Channel coast as far as Calais; the annexation of the Briey and Longwy Basins and the Toul, Belfort, and Verdun regions eastward; the restitution to Germany of all her colonies, including Kiaochow; Great Britain to cede to Germany such naval bases and coaling stations as Germany desired; Great Britain to cede her war fleet to Germany, to restore Egypt to Turkey, and the Suez Canal to Turkey; Greece to be reestablished under the former King Constantine; Austria and Bulgaria to divide Serbia and Montenegro; Great Britain, France, and the United States to pay all of Germany's war costs.
The soldiers and people of the European countries had fought and endured for more than four years. The United States had been in the conflict something more than a year and a half. With Turkish forces in Palestine virtually annihilated, Americans and French pressing on victoriously in the Champagne and the Argonne, and British advancing in the direction of Cambrai, Prussianism everywhere on the defensive, or in retreat, President Wilson could have desired no more suitable opportunity for giving, as in October 1918, in his armistice correspondence with Germany, point and emphasis to the great doctrine that this was a people's war which could be ended only by a people's peace. Official Germany had as yet no conception of that truth. It was still living in the days of the Congress of Vienna when nationalities and peoples were bartered about like cattle. It still believed possible a negotiated peace, in which diplomatists would adjust the differences of governments, arrange the strategic requirements of great powers and begin a new game of imperialism under the rules of the old.
Bulgaria signed an armistice on 29 September 1918, accepting unconditionally all the terms the Allies laid dowm which virtually rendered her incapable of any further operations. Three days later Prince Maximilian of Baden was announced as the new German Chancellor. Prince Max being from Baden, was from one of the liberal strongholds of Germany. He had made moderate speeches, and was known as a wealthy Junker who had begun to see the ruin of his class through further prolongation of the war. The Hohenzollern monarchy was threatened with a crisis such as it had never known before. It faced the anger of a weary and desperate people, a people it had misled and betrayed. Only six months before, exponents of German opinion had been talking in terms of huge indemnities and large territorial acquisitions. Vanquished nations were to be bled white and Germany was to vault easily, and inevitably, into a position of world-supremacy.
Germany, on 05 October 1918, sought peace. The text of a note forwarded by the new Chancellor, Prince Maximilian, to President Wilson through the Swiss Government was as follows: "The German Government requests the President of the United States to take in hand the restoration of peace, acquaint all the belligerent states of this request and invite them to send plenipotentiaries for the purpose of opening, negotiations. It accepts the program set forth by the President of the United States in his message to Congress on January 8th and in his later pronouncements, especially his speech of September 27th, as a basis for peace negotiations. With a view to avoiding further bloodshed, the German Government requests the immediate conclusion of an armistice on land and water and in the air."
"Victory first, then peace," was the way French civilians, returning to their shell-wrecked homes in northern France, exprest themselves on the subject. The same idea ran through the Allied armies, where men who had seen their comrades die felt that they would have died in vain unless victory became absolute.
President Wilson on October 14 informed Germany that it "must be clearly understood that the process of evacuation and the conditions of an armistice are matters which must be left to the judgment and advice of the military advisers of the Government of the United States and the Allied Governments, and the President feels it his duty to say that no arrangement can be accepted by the Government of the United States which does not provide absolutely satisfactory safeguards and guaranties of the maintenance of the present military supremacy of the armies of the United States and of the Allies in the field."
It became known on 19 October 1918 that the German decision to reply affirmatively to President Wilson's note was taken at a dramatic meeting of the Crown Council in Berlin, where Ludendorff made a gloomy report on the military situation—the situation being such that Germany might be invaded within a few weeks. Germany's three allies, Bulgaria, Turkey, and AustriaHungary, had now laid down their arms, ceased hostilities and accepted terms which made it impossible for them to renew the war. History was being made with such lightning-speed that people failed to comprehend the full significance of changes, any one of which would have startled the world five years before. The terms granted to Turkey had almost automatically called into being an independent Arabia, an autonomous Armenia, a free Palestine, with Syria and Mesopotamia as French and British protectorates, and Persia liberated forever from the pressure of German intrigue and Turkish penetration.
Germany also knew that another offensive would be launched on the Lorraine front on 14 November 1918 by 600,000 men under Castelnau. American and French troops had been concentrated between Briey and ChateauSalins, supported by 3,000 guns of all calibers and 300 tanks on a front of forty-five miles. The German commander on this front had available approximately only 160,000 men, with 1.000 guns. The Allied attack" would have carried the war into German Lorraine and Rhenish Prussia and threatened to cut from its base the German army in Belgium and the Ardennes. The German command had averted that catastrophe by pleading for an armistice.
On November 8 the nervous tension of years of war was suddenly broken in America by a false report that Germany had that day signed the armistice. Joyful enthusiasm pent up through the long ordeal broke forth only to be lost on a 'fake." All over the country sirens, whistles and bells ro-e in a resounding clamor about one o'clock in the afternoon, carrying news of the supposed signing and the cessation of hostilities. Men and women of all ages and all stations, in every part of New York and many other cities, with unspoken accord, suddenly stopt business and poured out into streets to join all that afternoon and until midnight in a delirious carnival of joy beyond comparison with anything ever seen before. The false report went to villages, small towns and great cities, where celebrations as enthusiastic as those in New York took place. Afternoon papers which carried the false news were snatched off the stands by eager crowds.
No attention meanwhile was paid to the less romantic reports of a steady advance of Allied armies, of the taking of Sedan by French and Americans, or of the outbreak of a revolution in Germany. It was not till late afternoon that papers declared the report false. Even then the celebrating went on just the same until far into the night. The United States had got into the war last, and now it was getting out first.
Paris on November the eleventh, 1918, was the stage of such scenes as occur once in the history of the world. They had no rehearsal and they can have no repetition. The Armistice came to France as it could come to no other nation, for no other nation had so suffered. It came as a great revivifying stream bringing new life, new hope, new strength and relief from the heaviest burdens and the deepest sorrows that a people had ever borne. The sun burst radiantly upon a nation that for four years has lived in darkness; a great mass of humanity was lifted in the twinkling of an eye from distress and mourning to a state of joy so elated, so overwhelming as to be actually painful.
Within a few days the American Third Army, otherwise known as the Army of Occupation, crossed the German lines and advanced unmolested through the Duchy of Luxembourg, along the valley of the Moselle and across the Rhine at the heels of the retreating German forces. But the Armistice was a cease fire, not an end to the war, which only came with the Versailles Treaty, signed 28 June 1919.
November 11th was celebrated as Armistice Day starting in 1919 and became a legal federal holiday in the United States in 1938. After World War II and the Korean War, Armistice Day became Veterans Day in the United States. November 11 is still celebrated as Armistice Day in France and Belgium, but is called Remembrance Day today in the British Commonwealth of Nations, and is known as the Day of Peace in the Flanders Fields. While Veterans Day is typically a tribute to America’s living veterans, it is always appropriate to include a moment of silence in respect for those who gave their lives for their country.
Honor veterans past and present by pausing for a minute of silence at 11am on 11/11, “the eleventh hour on the eleventh day on the eleventh month.”
Armistice Day is also called Remembrance Day and they both refer to November 11th, which the US chose to call Veterans Day. In Britain, it is tradition to pause for a two minute silence at 11am on November 11 to remember those killed in the two world wars and the British servicemen killed or injured since 1945. Poppies became the symbol of the Royal British Legion when it was formed in 1921. King George V issued a proclamation calling for a two minute silence, it said: "All locomotion should cease, so that, in perfect stillness, the thoughts of everyone may be concentrated on reverent remembrance of the glorious dead." To celebrate the centenary of the outbreak of war, the Tower of London was adorned by a monumental work composed of 888,246 ceramic poppies - one for each soldier of the Crown who fell during the Great War. The suggested donation is £1 per poppy. The British public usually buy nearly 45 million poppies each year.
While the red poppy is worn in specifically in honour of the armed forces and is distributed by the Royal British Legion, the white poppy, given out by the Peace Pledge Union (PPU), a pacifist organisation, serves as an alternative. James McLean, the West Brom winger, received death threats in 2014 for playing a match without an embroidered poppy on his shirt, but has continued to avoid the symbol, saying: “The poppy is used to remember victims of other conflicts since 1945 and this is where the problem starts for me.”
The Peace Pledge Union stated, “The white poppy was not intended as an insult to those who died in the First World War — a war in which many of the white poppy supporters lost husbands, brothers, sons and lovers — but a challenge to the continuing drive to war.” The Cornflower of France [Bleuet de France], national symbol of Remembrance and Solidarity, helps veterans and their younger brothers in arms, their wives, children and families in the event of injury or death as well as victims of attacks. Besides the symbol of life that continues despite the shelling, "blueberries" was the nickname that gave the hairy new soldiers, arriving with their uniform of blue still pristine horizon. It was in 1925 that the appellation becomes a badge, at the initiative of two nurses: Charlotte Malleterre and Suzanne Leenhardt create the "Bleuet de France" , which aims to collect funds to come in help the mutilated the Great War. Resident Invalides can create their own blueberries tissue then sold for profit.
The National Office for Veterans and Victims of War (ONACVG) is the major operator of the Ministry of Defence’s policy for the remembrance of veterans. It is responsible for local actions in respect of the topics associated with the commemorative calendar. Since its creation, the National Office for Veterans and Victims of War (ONACVG) has had the task demonstrating the Nation’s gratitude to persons affected by war through the allocation of entitlements and cards. The flower of the field has become a symbol of solidarity towards all generations of soldiers left for the front whatsoever.
The "poppy" of the tradition persists, particularly in the UK, where it would be frowned upon if a politician made an appearance during the week before November 11 without wear his poppy. Proof of its popularity: the money collected in Britain graze each year to 50 million euros, against just over a million in France. Both wild flowers continued to grow in the land ravaged by the battles of the First World War. And both echo a poem, the "Bleuets of France" and "In Flanders fields".
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