Armistice Day: What it is and why it is celebrated

Image of Remembrance Sunday service at the Cenotaph in Whitehall, London.

Image of Remembrance Sunday service at the Cenotaph in Whitehall, London. Credit: Wikipedia/Sgt Dan Harmer, RLC/MOD, OGL v1.0

ON November 11 every year, Armistice Day is commemorated in memory of the end of World War One.

Also known as Remembrance Day, it is a solemn occasion celebrated in many countries around the world to honour the historic signing of the armistice agreement between the Allies and their last remaining enemy, Germany.

In the Commonwealth it is more commonly known as Remembrance Day, while in the United States, it is called Veterans Day.

When was the armistice signed?

It was officially signed by the Allied Supreme Commander, French Marshal Ferdinand Foch, at 5:45 am on November 11, 1918, at Le Francport near Compiègne in northern France.

The armistice came into force at 11 am Central European Time (CET), on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. It represented a commitment to cease fighting between both sides and brought an end to hostilities that had been going on since 1914 on land, sea, and air.

How did WWI start?

Increasing diplomatic tension between the European powers reached breaking point on June 28, 1914, when Gavrilo Princip, a Bosnian Serb, assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne.

As a result, Austria-Hungary held Serbia responsible, and declared war on July 28 of the same year. Russia quickly came to the defence of Serbia which dragged Germany, France, and Britain into the conflict by August 4. In November that year, the Ottoman Empire also joined in.

Honoring Veterans on Armistice Day

Armistice Day serves as a poignant reminder of the sacrifices made by countless individuals during World War I and to all military personnel who have sacrificed their lives for their countries in subsequent conflicts.

The traditional British, Canadian, South African, and ANZAC commemoration is for two minute’s silence to be held on the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month.

Observances typically include ceremonies at war memorials, military parades, and the laying of wreaths to honour the fallen.

In Great Britain, the National Service of Remembrance is always held on the nearest Sunday to November 11 at the Cenotaph on Whitehall in London. This year, it will take place on Sunday 12.

Starting at 11am, the service will commemorate the contribution of British and Commonwealth military and civilian servicemen and women involved in the two world wars and later conflicts.

Why are poppies recognised as a symbol of remembrance?

Inspired by the famous war poem ‘In Flanders Fields’, written by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, red poppies are often worn as a symbol of remembrance.

After seeing poppies growing in the battle-scarred fields of Ypres in Belgium, the Canadian doctor composed the now famous poem in the spring of 1915, shortly after losing a friend.

As described on the Royal British Legion’s website, red poppies are a show of support for the Armed Forces community, those currently serving, and ex-serving personnel and their families. They also serve as a symbol of remembrance for all those who have fallen in conflict.

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Written by

Chris King

Originally from Wales, Chris spent years on the Costa del Sol before moving to the Algarve where he is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at