Remembrance Sunday, which falls on the second Sunday in November (the nearest to Armistice Day which is 11th November), is held to commemorate the British and Commonwealth military and civilian service men and women who fought in the two world wars, and other conflicts since.
The Royal British Legion has been selling red remembrance poppies, as a symbol of Remembrance Sunday, to raise funds for ex-service men and women since 1921. Poppies became a symbol of hope and renewal after they bloomed in the earth of battlefields across Europe.
The national ceremony of remembrance is held at the Cenotaph on Whitehall in London each year, with two minutes of silence commencing at 11am, first initiated by King George V, to commemorate the fallen. Numerous regional ceremonies take place at war memorials around the country.
There has, in the past, been criticism of the notion of remembrance as somehow glorifying war. The key message of remembrance, however, is that it is about people rather than conflict. This is one of the reasons why just about every subject on the curriculum can explore remembrance; it is not just for history departments!
Resources for Remembrance
There are a number of useful resources for schools to use as they mark remembrance with their pupils. So many of these possibilities for schools can usefully be adapted for context. Here are some examples, but by no means an exhaustive list:
- Royal British Legion assembly: The Royal British Legion is bringing children together across the country with a live interactive Remembrance assembly on 11th November 2022. The assembly has been co-produced with the National Literacy Trust and is aimed at Key Stage 2 children. It features art, film, music, and interviews and will end with a two-minute silence at 11am. You can register for the live assembly here: Remembrance Live Assembly | National Literacy Trust
- Royal British Legion resources: The Royal British Legion also has numerous lesson plans, bite-sized activities and assemblies for all key stages that teachers (and parents) can use to support their teaching and marking of remembrance. These lessons and activities are free and linked to the national curriculum: Teaching Remembrance | Learning Resources | Royal British Legion
- The National Memorial Arboretum resources: The National Memorial Arboretum, which is home to over 400 memorials and diverse woodland, has extensive activities on its website around issues such as women at work in World War 1, children in the Second World War, rationing in the Second World War, the art of remembrance, music and remembrance, and much more. You can find out more here: Learning From Home | Visiting for Learning and Training | National Memorial Arboretum (thenma.org.uk)
- BBC Bitesize: There is a wide range of resources for remembrance on the BBC Bitesize website, including assembly packs and audio series of, for example, Private Peaceful and War Horse: Remembrance Day - Teaching Resources - BBC Teach
- Church connections: Remembrance Sunday falls in the liturgical period of Allsaintstide in the Church of England, offering links for assemblies and collective worship: Prayers for Remembrance | The Church of England
- Local connections: Find out what is going on in your locality, perhaps at your local war memorial. Visit it to find out more about who is remembered there. Perhaps this can be a starting point for learning.
- National Archives: you may be able to find out about local people who lost their lives in conflict from the National Archives. This can greatly enrich learning about remembrance: The National Archives
- War Poetry: The War Poetry website has a large section of remembrance resources Remembrance | Remembrance poems in a traditional vein. (warpoetry.uk). Poems can be used to explore attitudes to war, or to compare wars over time.
- Cemeteries: Up until the middle of the last century, the bodies of the fallen were buried close to the battlefields where they died. Since then, the bodies of those killed in action are repatriated where possible. You can explore British war graves around the world through this website: WW1 Cemeteries.com - A photographic guide to over 4000 military cemeteries and memorials - World War One Cemeteries - A photographic guide to over 4000 military cemeteries and memorials. You can also explore the Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstones, and the differences between them: War Grave Headstones | Types of CWGC Headstones | CWGC
- Walter Tull: The story of Walter Tull, a professional footballer who died at the Battle of the Somme, is worth exploring with your classes. Find out more here: Walter Tull: The incredible story of a football pioneer and war hero - BBC Sport; Who was Walter Tull and what did he do? - BBC Bitesize
- The Historical Association: The Historical Association website carries extensive ideas and resources for marking remembrance in schools: Search Results / Historical Association (history.org.uk)
- White poppies: In the mid-1930s, pacifism gained publicity and popularity and the first white poppies for peace and remembrance were sold by the Co-operative Women’s Guild in 1933. The Peace Pledge Union explains that white poppies stand for remembrance of all victims of war, challenging war and militarism, and a commitment to peace. Find out more here: Remembrance & White Poppies | Peace Pledge Union (ppu.org.uk)
About the author
After graduating with a degree in Politics and International Relations from the University of Reading, Elizabeth Holmes completed her PGCE at the Institute of Education, University of London. She then taught humanities and social sciences in schools in London, Oxfordshire and West Sussex, where she ran the history department in a challenging comprehensive. Elizabeth specialises in education but also writes on many other issues and themes. As well as her regular blogs for Eteach and FEjobs, her books have been published by a variety of publishers and translated around the world. Elizabeth has also taught on education courses in HE and presented at national and international conferences.