With the intense media coverage of Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day it is hard to imagine that in the late 1980s there was serious talk of these events fading away and the wearing of the poppy was seen to be losing its importance. How times have changed. Anyone appearing in the media is expected to be wearing a poppy and there was a wave of criticism for a TV presenter who chose not to wear a one in the lead up to 11 November.
There is also the tasteless fashion of celebrities wearing glitter poppies. My fading memory remembers a time when a conscious decision was made to wear a uniform poppy. Those that choose to wear a white poppy to symbolise peace imply that the red poppy is somehow a celebration of war. This totally misses the point. The poppy was never intended as a martial symbol and respects those of all sides who were killed or wounded in combat, with the funds raised going to support the latter.
When the concept of Remembrance was fading 20 years ago the WFA, under the leadership of the then Chairman Tony Noyes, took the far-sighted decision to conduct a ceremony at the Cenotaph on 11 November. From small beginnings this has grown into a major event with thousands watching and observing an immaculate silence. The involvement of school children is an integral part of the ceremony and they represent the future continuation of this important act of remembrance.
The WFA's Cenotaph event this year reminded me of a report of the first Two Minute Silence reported in the Manchester Guardian on 12 November 1919:
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
The WFA is proud to play its part in continuing the tradition of remembrance.
WFA Vice Chairman