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Americans have Veterans Day, the French call it Armistice Day and, in Britain, Nov. 11 is known as Remembrance Day.

The annual observance — to honor military veterans — began after a contingent of Allies signed an armistice with Germany that marked the end of World War I on Nov. 11, 1918.

A year later, Britain’s King George V asked for a two-minute silence at the 11th hour on the 11th day of November, a tradition that carries on to this day, according to the Web site http://encarta.msn.com.

In Britain, Remembrance Day is also referred to as Poppy Day, since many citizens wear artificial red poppy flowers bought from the Royal British Legion, a war veterans charity. Similar practices can be seen in the United States on Memorial Day in May.

The flowers were made famous in the poem “In Flanders Fields,” by Canadian Lt. Col. John McCrae, a World War I doctor who wrote of the rows of poppies blooming where numerous troops were buried. As the poem gained popularity, the red poppy became a symbol of death, renewal and life, according to www.worldwar1.com.

Numerous poppy flowers will be seen during Britain’s premier Remembrance Day ceremony at 11 a.m. at the Cenotaph on Whitehall in London.

Members of the royal family, the prime minister and military leaders attend the massive ceremony to honor the contributions of British and Commonwealth servicemembers who served in conflicts following WWI. There is also an hourlong marching parade, starting at Whitehall and ending at Horse Guards Parade.

Members of the public can show up to the free ceremony as early as 8 a.m. to get a good viewing spot. Photography is permitted but those who want to attend should be aware that bringing large bags is discouraged. For more information, go to www.culture.gov.uk/what_we_do/Historic_environment/remembrance_sunday.

— Sean Kimmons

Got a question about something you’ve seen or heard around the United Kingdom? E-mail us at: uknews@estripes.osd.mil

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