The basics
THE UK: Once you arrive

What is Remembrance Day in the UK?

We explain the history and significance of Remembrance Day in the UK, including why people wear poppies


If you’re studying abroad in a Commonwealth country, you may have noticed lots of people wearing a red flower called a poppy in the month of November. These poppies are a symbol that remembers all those who have fought and died in both world wars and culminate in Remembrance Day which happens on the 11th November.


What happens on Remembrance Day?

At 11am on the eleventh day of the eleventh month (November  11th), your university, college or school will most likely hold a minute’s silence to remember all those who fought in the wars. This happens all across the UK and also in other Commonwealth countries.


Special church services are also held, including a famous one in central London, attended by the Queen, other members of the royal family, politicians, war veterans and serving members of the armed forces. The service is televised and many tune in to watch these important figures lay wreaths of poppies at the foot of the Cenotaph.

The first official Poppy Day was held in Britain on 11 November 1921. Poppy wreaths are also often laid at war memorials. The remembrance poppy is especially prominent in the UK. In the weeks leading up to Remembrance Sunday, they are distributed by The Royal British Legion in return for donations to their "Poppy Appeal", which supports all current and former British military personnel.


Why do people wear poppies?

The remembrance poppy, typically worn on the coat, is especially prominent in the UK. In the weeks leading up to Remembrance Sunday, you can purchase a poppy the Royal British Legion, a charity and organisation that supports all current and former British military personnel. The selling of these poppies is known as ‘The Poppy Appeal’.


The origin of the poppy comes from a famous poem by Canadian doctor, Lt Col John McCrae, called ‘In Flanders Fields’. He was inspired to write the poem after seeing poppies growing in battle fields after many of his friends had died.


It doesn’t matter your religion, race or background, wearing a poppy is a nice way of supporting a great charity and remembering those who fought in the wars. You can buy a poppy in most supermarkets, and members of the Royal British Legion can often be found outside stations selling them.

If you buy a poppy from a Royal British Legion member, why not ask them the history of the poppy? They will most likely be delighted to tell you about the origins of the poppy, and often they have a personal tale to tell themselves.


Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red


In 2014 to commemorate since the war, British artists Paul Cummins and Tom Piper created a spectacular display of ceramic poppies at the Tower of London. Between July and November, 888,246 ceramic poppies, each representing a soldier who died, were added to the Tower's famous moat to create the final masterpiece. After the poppies were taken down, members of the public were able to buy them, with proceeds going towards six service charities, the Royal British Legion, Help for Heroes, Coming Home, Combat Stress, Cobseo and SSAFA. Artist Tom Piper even received an MBE from the Queen in her New Year Honours List. Watch the video here.


Photo: Sharon Day.

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About Author

Katie Duncan is Editor of Hotcourses Abroad and is an NCTJ-qualified journalist and University of Exeter graduate. Having worked at an English language school in the UK, as an educational consultant in Spain and as a reporter in the international education sector, she is well placed to guide you through your study abroad journey. Katie grew up in Australia, which perhaps explains her unusual reptile collection, comprising of a bearded dragon (Bill) and tortoise (Matilda).


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