Armistice Day

Gibraltar commemorates both Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday. This year as 11 November fell on a Sunday, there were two commemoration ceremonies on the same day.

Armistice Day is normally commemorated at 11am in the lobby of Parliament House. Exceptionally this year, the ceremony was moved back to 1.15 pm to allow people to attend the earlier Service of Remembrance at the Cross of Sacrifice at midday.

Partner managed to get some photographs of the Armistice Day Commemoration Ceremony, although not lots, he reported there was tight security and he was not allowed to leap around like a proper-photojournalist (I’ll never get him trained).

While I was reading around the topic to see what currently happened everywhere I was interested to read about the two-minute silence.

I thought it had fallen by the wayside but according to the internet, it is still going strong. As I was in Spain at the time, I have no idea what happened here in Gib.

I seem to remember we used to do it in school but it was a traditional private girls’ school so it was obviously the done thing.

My parents lived through the Second World War (they were in their early teens when it started), my father and his brother joined the navy, and my mother’s two older brothers joined the air force and the army. (Her younger brother later went on to join the air force and stayed in for his full term). The older brother in the air force was killed when his plane was shot down, not too long before the end of the war.

Consequently every year my mother would sit in front of the television watching every programme about the war, and all the commemoration services and ceremonies. She cried her eyes out. It didn’t help that he had been her favourite brother – or maybe in her mind he had become the favourite because he was no longer around. At least he had stood up for her when the middle brother hit her and made her nose bleed. And tried to fight for her to stay at grammar school when her mother wanted her to leave early and help with the household chores.

She couldn’t tear herself away from the annual commemoration programmes, they were obviously something she felt she shouldn’t miss. Maybe she thought if she didn’t watch them she would be showing disrespect for her older brother who had died so young – leaving a widow and a baby. Yet every year she became so very upset. So I loathed Remembrance Sunday/Armistice Day with a passion (my mum often called it Armistice Day I guess because that’s what she had grown up with). I would ignore the television and, with the callousness of someone young who had no idea what my mum was going through, I would tell her to stop watching it if it made her so upset.

I think I’ll be keeping away from any ceremonies. My mum died a few years ago and I can imagine watching a ceremony, thinking about her, and promptly ending up in tears. Doing exactly what I told her not to do.

Anyway here are a few photos, showing the guard of honour, the arrival of the Cardinal and the arrival of the Governor’s car at Parliament House.




And here is a poem by Wilfred Owen, the war poet and First World War soldier. We studied him at school and his poetry left a lasting impression on me. He died a week before the end of the war and as the bells were ringing out for Armistice Day at 11am, his parents received the telegram telling them of their son’s death. He was posthumously awarded the Military Cross for his courage and leadership.

Anthem for Doomed Youth

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
– Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs, –
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of good-byes.
The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

Sources: gibfocus, partner for photos, and my memories. Here is a site with more Owen poetry.

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7 comments on “Armistice Day

  1. An interesting insight!My experience with my mother was very different. She loved the military, the freedom the war gave, she regreted its end in some way because brought back conformatty. She lived & loved then, every thing afterwards was second best… So we, watched the Rememberance services with nostalgia! Not that she didn’t loose loved ones, the only man I know she loved a married Canadian Officier!Blue.

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  2. I remember this Wilfred Owen poem well – I had to study it for English Literature all those years ago.It seems strange living in Spain (with no Armistice day) seeing the odd lost expat or tourist with a poppy in their lapel.

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