The first stroke of eleven produced a magical effect.
The tram cars glided into stillness, motors ceased to cough and fume, and stopped dead, and the mighty-limbed dray horses hunched back upon their loads and stopped also, seeming to do it of their own volition.
Someone took off his hat, and with a nervous hesitancy the rest of the men bowed their heads also. Here and there an old soldier could be detected slipping unconsciously into the posture of ‘attention’. An elderly woman, not far away, wiped her eyes, and the man beside her looked white and stern. Everyone stood very still … The hush deepened. It had spread over the whole city and become so pronounced as to impress one with a sense of audibility. It was a silence which was almost pain … And the spirit of memory brooded over it all.
That was how the Manchester Guardian reported the first ever Two Minute Silence which took place in London at 11am on 11 November 1919.
The day was specifically dedicated by King George V on 7 November 1919 as a day of remembrance for members of the armed forces who were killed during World War I. November 11 was chosen specifically to recall the end of hostilities of World War I on that date in 1918; hostilities formally ended “at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month”.
The poppy has been used since 1920 to commemorate soldiers who have died in war.
Inspired by the World War I poem In Flanders Fields, they were first used by the American Legion to commemorate American soldiers who died in the war. They were then adopted by military veterans’ groups in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
The video below, from 1941, shows a factory where injured men from both the First and Second World Wars were working to make poppies.
Today, the WI gets involved in making poppies and helping to mark this important date.
Woodville Whirlwinds WI (Derbyshire Federation) have been busy knitting, crocheting and sewing poppies for a wonderful tribute display commemorating local fallen heroes. The display at Sharpe’s Pottery Museum in Swadlincote, Derbyshire is on until 23rd November.
Woodville Whirlwinds WI display
Herts Belles St Albans WI (Hertfordshire Federation) have created their remembrance wreath made up of 236 mixed media poppies created by members.
Herts Belles St Albans WI wreath
A number of WIs across the country have contributed to the Wonderwool Wales poppy project. The aim of the project is to bring together textile makers to recreate the united determination of the WW1 volunteers and to mark the end of WW1. The ‘Curtain of Poppies’ includes 887,858 textile poppies, to commemorate each person from the UK who died serving their country.
Wonderwool Wales ‘Curtain of Poppies’
The Cornwall Federation of WIs will represent all its members on Sunday 12th November, by participating in the Remembrance Parade at the War Memorial on Boscawen Street in Truro at 2pm.
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.