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Remembrance Day

Updated: Dec 2, 2022

Early in the morning of November 11th, 1918, an armistice was signed between the Allied powers – France, Great Britain, the United States, and others – and their only remaining opponent, Germany.[1] As stipulated in the armistice, all operations were set to come to an end six hours later at 11:00 a.m. Fighting across the front carried on throughout the morning until 11:00 am, at which point it mostly died down. In some areas, momentum and poor communications made it possible for the fighting to continue well after the fact.


Still, it is 11:00 am, November 11th, 1918, that marks the official end of combat in the First World War. The First World War itself cannot be said to have ended until the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on June 28th, 1919. Later that year and with the war over, the first formal Armistice Day was observed in Great Britain on November 11th, 1919.


In Canada, the Armistice Day Act of 1921 formally set the date for Armistice Day as the Monday of the week of November 11th.[2] Armistice Day shared that Monday with Thanksgiving Day until 1931, at which point the Armistice Day Act was amended to change the name to Remembrance Day and the date for observance was set to November 11th.[3] Similar renaming would occur in several other countries that observed Armistice Day throughout the middle of the twentieth century.


Today, the observance of Remembrance Day involves more than just remembering the soldiers who died in the First World War. Since then, Canadian soldiers have regularly served abroad for the sake of their country and many of them have died for it. Canadian soldiers who died before the First World War also received recognition, as have the Newfoundlanders who served and died before Newfoundland joined Confederation. All of those who have died are codified within the eight Books of Remembrance, traditionally located within the Memorial Chamber of the Parliament Buildings.[4]


The eight Books of Remembrance commemorate the over 120,000 Canadians who have died in uniform from the War of 1812 to the present: the War of 1812 Book of Remembrance contains the names of the over 1,600 individuals who died serving Canada while a colony of Great Britain; the South African War/Nile Expedition Book of Remembrance contains the names of the nearly 300 Canadians who died during the Nile Expedition between 1884 and 1885 and the South African War between 1899 and 1902; the First World War Book of Remembrance contains the names of the over 66,000 Canadians who died in that conflict between 1914 and 1918; the Second World War Book of Remembrance contains the names of the over 44,000 Canadians who died in that conflict between 1939 and 1945; the Merchant Navy Book of Remembrance contains the names of the more than 2,170 Canadians that served in the Merchant Marine who died during the First and Second World Wars; the Newfoundland Book of Remembrance contains the names of the over 2,300 Newfoundlanders who died in the First and Second World Wars before Newfoundland joined Confederation in 1949; the Korean War Book of Remembrance contains the names of the 516 Canadians who died during that conflict between 1950 and 1953; and the In the Service of Canada Book of Remembrance contains names of the currently over 1,900 Canadians who have died since 1947 outside of the Korean War.[5]


It seems impossible to remember the soldiers who have died without also remembering the causes that they died for. War is not, and has never been, fought for nothing. There is always some fundamental point of contention, some difference, perhaps many such points and differences, between those involved that one or more of the participants decided to resolve through violence. Outside of why their nation went to war, soldiers themselves will have their own, individual motivations for going to war. Perhaps they were motivated by love for their country, or perhaps through force of law, or perhaps something completely different.


In the end, Remembrance Day is the time to mourn the fallen and remember the sacrifices of the past and the present. It is the time to consider why it was that Canada fought and why it continues to fight, why it was that those who sacrificed fought and why those who are prepared to sacrifice fight still.[6]


By: Dillon A. J. Chicoski

 

[1] The image used in relation to this post: In Flanders Fields, photograph, Royal British Legion, n.d., https://www.britishlegion.org.uk/get-involved/remembrance/about-remembrance/in-flanders-field. [2] “History of Remembrance Day,” Canada.ca, last modified June 21st, 2019, https://www.canada.ca/en/department-national-defence/services/military-history/history-heritage/remembrance-ceremony/2.html. James H. Marsh, “Remembrance Day in Canada,” The Canadian Encyclopedia, last modified November 4th, 2021, https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/remembrance-day. [3] Government of Canada, “History of Remembrance Day”. James H. Marsh, “Remembrance Day in Canada”. [4] “History of the Books of Remembrance,” Veterans Affairs Canada, last modified May 25th, 2021, https://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/memorials/books/history. [5] Veterans Affairs Canada, “History of the Books of Remembrance”. [6] In addition to all of the above, see also “A Day of Remembrance,” Veterans Affairs Canada, last modified July 11th, 2019, https://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/history/a-day-of-remembrance.

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