Every year we as a nation unite to remember those who have fallen fighting for our country. This year celebrations will be a little different due to Covid. The annual Remembrance Sunday March past at the Cenotaph, where up to 10,000 War Veterans take part in London did not take place this year. The ceremony was still broadcast live on BBC1 at 10:15am. The closed ceremony was attended by the likes of The Prime Minister and Members of The Royal Family. Attendees laid Poppy wreaths at the Cenotaph. Armistice Day 2020 will take place on Wednesday 11th November. On November 11th 1918 the armistice was signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany. This stated an end to any conflict and an end to the war. This was signed at 11am, “on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.” In many of the Allied nations, and France, this is a national holiday. All over the world people stop to observe a two minutes silence at 11am on the 11th of November. Poppies are worn as a symbol of respect and a tribute to those who fell during the Wars. Socially distanced ceremonies took place on Sunday on a much smaller scale due to Covid. The local councils advised much smaller outdoor ceremonies. We are advised to keep numbers down to those wishing to lay wreaths. Buglers are able to perform outdoors. Any communal singing must be outdoors and is limited to the national anthem and one additional song.
This year marks the 75th Anniversary of VE, or Victory in Europe Day. On 8th May 1945, Winston Churchill made an announcement on the radio at 3pm after enemy forces had surrendered the previous day. He said, “My dear friends, this is your house.” This year on the 8th May 2020 it will be 75 years since the guns fell silent and marked the end of World War II. To commemorate the event, this year’s May Day Bank Holiday has been moved. Usually the May Day Bank Holiday is the first Monday of May, however this year the date has been moved to Friday 8th May to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day. Events will take place around the country over weekend from the 8th May to the 10th May 2020 to mark the enormous sacrifice, courage and determination shown by those who served and the millions who lost their loved ones in the conflict. If you wish to find out more information on how you can take part in celebrating the 75th anniversary of VE Day click here. Ensure your uniform is ready to take part in the parades and remembrance duties. You can find all your uniform accessories on our website.
Remembrance Sunday, will be held on Sunday 10th November. The National Service of remembrance will be held at the Cenotaph at Whitehall in London at 11am. The service honours the service and sacrifices of the Armed Forces who fought in the two World Wars and any other conflicts. This yearly remembrance ensures no one is forgotten and honours those who sacrificed themselves to protect our freedom. Every year up to 10,000 veterans, current serving Armed Forces personnel and bereaved spouses and first generation descendants take part in the March Past. From 9am on the 10th November the Royal British Legion detachments form up on Horse Guards Parade. At 10am the March Past begins then at 11am there is a two minute silence in which the whole country falls silent to remember those who gave their lives. The beginning and the end of the silence is marked at 11.00 and 11.02 by the firing of guns by the Kings Troop at Horse Guards Parade The 11th November marks Armistice Day. This year will mark 101 years since the end of the First World War. On November 11th 1918 the armistice was signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany. This stated an end to any conflict and an end to the war. This was signed at 11am, “on the eleventh house of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.” In many of the Allied nations, and France, this is a national holiday. Remembrance does not glorify war. Its symbol, the red poppy, is a sign of remembrance and the hope for a peaceful future. The poppy is greatly appreciated by those who it is intended to support and shows your respect. This well-established symbol is one that carries a wealth of history and meaning. During WW1, much of the countryside on the front in Western Europe was repeatedly bombarded by artillery shells. This turned the landscapes into bleak and barren scenes where nothing could grow, apart from the poppy flower. The Flanders poppy flourished in the middle of all the destruction, growing into tens of thousands. Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, saw the poppies which gave him his inspiration to write the famous poem ‘In Flanders Fields’. This poem led America academic, Moina Michael to adopt the poppy into the memory of those who had fallen in the war. Anna Guerin, in 1921, sold the poppies in the UK where she met Earl Haigh , the founder of the Royal British Legion. He was persuaded to adopt the poppy as the emblem for the Legion in the UK and so in 1921 they ordered nine million poppies and sold them that year. They raised £106,000 to help the veterans which became the first ‘Poppy Appeal’. In today’s Poppy Appeal, 40,000 volunteers distribute 40 million poppies. Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day offer us all a chance to remember not just those who fought, but what they fought for. Today in the UK, remembrance is very different to how it was 100 [...]
This year, the 17th of September, marked the 75th anniversary of Operation Market Garden. This World War II mission was fought in the Netherlands from 17th – 25th September 1944. Market Garden consisted of two sub operations. Market was an airborne assault to seize key bridges and Garden which was a ground attack moving over the already seized bridges creating the salient, or inroad into enemy held territory Up until that point, this attack was the largest airborne operation, in World War II. The operation was the idea of General Bernard Montgomery. It began with heavy air raids, with para troopers landing around 13:00 hours. The initial phase of the operation was a success as the Germans were taken completely by surprise. Even though the resistance by the Germans was heavier than expected, most of the bridges were captured. The most important bridge, Arnhem, was the most strategically placed and in order for this mission to be successful the ground forces needed to capture the bridge. Unfortunately the German SS pounded the paratroopers and eventually they were forced to surrender. Operation Market garden achieved all objectives apart from the capture of the Bridge at Arnhem. The operation failed for a few reasons. Many felt that Montgomery’s plan was too optimistic. The paratroops were lightly armed and without the support from the ground force they couldn’t hold out for long. The general also failed to understand the terrain the men were fighting on. He assumed the tanks could make their way to the landing zones by only using the roads which was no longer the case. The roads became clogged with burned out tanks and vehicles which delayed the vehicles. Another reason the operation failed was due to intelligence. The Germans anticipated an offensive would be launched to seize Arnhem. Although the British had intelligence with compelling proof that the Germans had significant forces in that region, it was not believed by Montgomery. Lastly, the Germans had been driven back by the British and Americans as they dominated the skies and harassed the Germans. During this time the Germans lost some 90,000 killed or wounded soldiers and 200,000 had been taken prisoner or missing in action. The Germans regrouped in the Netherlands, after the British army failed to encircle the German army in the Scheldt Estuary. Due to German intelligence, and the regrouping of the German army, this meant the SS units were positioned in Arnhem. On a more positive note, Operation Market Garden did lead to the liberation of large areas of southern Netherlands, including the cities of Eindhoven and Nijmegen, however it failed to secure the key bridge at Arnhem which delayed any other planned invasion of Germany and hopes of ending the war by Christmas in 1944. The river remained a barrier to invasion until offensives at Remagen, Oppenheim, Rees and Wesel in March 1945.
Roger Bennett, a police diver from the Yorkshire and Humber Regional Marine Unit, was searching for a murder weapon at the bottom of the River Loxley just to the North of Sheffield. During his dive he found what he first thought was an old coin, but when Mr Bennett resurfaced, realised he had actually found a medal. And with help from Clifton Park Museum in Rotherham determined that the medal belonged to Lance Corporal Stephen Smith the York and Lancaster Regiment. The young soldier fought in Gallipoli in Turkey on 2 July 1915 and died from wounds he received at Suvla bay on 9 August 2015. “I initially thought it was a coin, but as soon as I realised that it was medal I was amazed. We quickly made the decision to attempt to reunite the medal with Stephen’s family. Our research started within hours of us finding it. We put a couple of photos on social media and the rest is history…” The family of Lance Corporal Smith got in touch after seeing pictures of the newly polished medal on Twitter and Roger added that: “We were thrilled to track down Stephen’s family and it was fantastic to learn more about his story, despite it being such a sad ending. I’m so pleased that we have been able to reunite them with such a precious and important part of their family history” Lance Corporal Smith’s family agreed to donate the medal to the Clifton Park after a genealogical search traced 22 living family members with some living as far away as Canada.Reverend Julian Cliff, who was Lance Corporal Smith’s great nephew, never knew his grandmother had any other family and the 22 family members met for the first time at the museum more than a century after Lance Corporal Smith’s death. Julian told the South Yorkshire Police “At first I thought it was a hoax, but once things started to fall in to place I was so grateful that Roger and the team had decided to find us. They went beyond the call of duty and they have brought a family together - most of us have never met before today.”
International Women’s Day started in 1910 when Clara Zetkin (a famous German advocate for Women’s rights) suggested the day become an international day of celebration. America already celebrated a National Women’s Day in 1908 after 15,000 women marched through New York City in demanding the right to vote and better pay and this sowed the seeds for what later became International Women’s day. Every year on the 8th of March women celebrate how far women have come in society, politics and economics. In countries like Russia, the day is a national holiday, where the sales of flowers double. Women currently make up about 10% of British Army personnel. They are, for the first time ever, working alongside their male counterparts in such roles as engineers, mechanics, lawyers and educators. Today, International Women’s Day, celebrates the achievements of women all over the world. The British Army now seeks to promote equality throughout all ranks and trades. Although women have served alongside men on the battlefields as dog handlers, medics and carrying weapons, they were not allowed to take part in roles of close combat until 2016. There are many success stories throughout the British Military. Lieutenant Commander West became the first women to be given Command of one of the Navy’s major warships. In September 2016 WO1 Esther Freeborn became the first female bandmaster for the Household Cavalry, and Lieutenant Catherine Ker was the first female to qualify as a Royal Navy Mine Clearance Officer. This year an International Women’s Day Campaign has taken on the theme of #BeBoldForChange and there are women going on strike in more than 30 countries.
The Royal Tank Regiment or RTR is the oldest tank regiment in the world. The RTR was formed as early as 1916 during the Great War by the British Army. Originally formed from the Machine Gun Corps, the pioneers of armoured warfare became the Tank Corps, who formed 8 battalions by the start of 1919. During the Second World War, the RTR, had 25 battalions fighting all over the world. Currently the regiment is based at Tidworth and is equipped with Challenger 2 tanks. Their official uniform is unique to the rest of the Royal Armoured Corps; instead of the standard-issue blue beret, the RTR wear a black one. Their uniform of black coveralls is also reserved especially for the Regiment. Soldiers in the RTR also wear a cap badge which shows an image of an early Royal Tank Regiment tank. Their motto is ‘Fear Naught’. During the First World War, walking sticks were often used by officers to probe the ground in front of their tanks to test the firmness. Often, the commanders led their tanks into action on foot. More recently to commemorate this, officers of the Regiment carry ash plant sticks instead of the short cane customary to other arms.
Soldier Wearing Poppy and Afghanistan MedalBritain will fall silent for two minutes to remember the end of the First World War on Friday the 11th of November. This tradition of holding a silence was started by King George V to ensure that the ‘thoughts of everyone may be concentrated on reverent remembrance of the glorious dead.’ This day is called Armistice Day, Remembrance Day or sometimes more informally Poppy Day. From 2014 to 2018 this day has an added significance from the fact that this period marks the centenary of the First World War. From 1919 until 1945, Armistice Day was always on the 11th of November. In 1946 it was moved to Remembrance Sunday. Since the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II in 1995 it became usual to have ceremonies on both days. In 2006 Veterans Day was also created to help celebrate the achievements of the veterans. Today this is named Armed Forces Day and held annually. This year Remembrance Sunday falls on the Sunday nearest the 11th of November, which is the 13th. Every year memorial services and two minute silences are held at 11am all over the country at cenotaphs and churches. It is a time to remember the dead from all wars, not just WWI. During the war when the soil was churned up by endless fighting, poppies still managed to flourish leading the red poppy becoming a symbol of remembrance for the First World War. The poppy is also seen as a symbol to honour the millions of current servicemen and women who fight in our Armed Forces. John McCrae recognises the poppy in the Poem ‘In Flanders Fields’. In Flanders Fields, John McCrae (1872-1918) 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. The Cenotaph Whitehall, London Following the Remembrance Day Parade in 2010 The first wreath is laid by the Queen on behalf of the nation and before other senior members of the Royal Family, including the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince of Wales and Prince Harry follow suit. Wreaths are then laid by the Prime Minister and leaders of major political parties, and lastly, by representatives from the Armed Forces: Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and the Army. The British Legion also organises a cenotaph service and parade at Whitehall. Groups such as the British Red Cross, St John Ambulance, Civil Defence Association and the Salvation Army, as well as a huge parade of veterans also pass the [...]
The Household Cavalry (HCav) is made up of the Life Guards and the Blue and Royals - the most senior regiments of the British Army. These two regiments are the Queen’s official bodyguard and are divided into two with the Armoured Regiment (HCR) being stationed at the Combermere Barracks in Windsor and the Mounted Regiment (HCMR) at Hyde Park Barracks in London. The Household Cavalry is classed as a corps and dates back to the 1660s. With the Life Guards being formed by King Charles II in 1660 and the Blues and Royals both being formed in 1661. The Blues and Royals were amalgamated into one unit in 1969. The two units of the Household Cavalry have very different roles: The first is the Household Cavalry regiment (HCR). This has an active operational role and serves using armoured fighting vehicles meaning the HCR are often at the forefront of the nation’s conflicts. The Household Division have been required to take part in special tasks as the Sovereign’s personal troops. The second unit is the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment (HCMR). As the name suggests they are a mounted troop and carry out ceremonial duties on Royal occasions. They are most commonly known for the Trooping of the Colour ceremony on the Queen’s birthday. The regiment has been based at Hyde Park Barracks since 1795. Before World War II, recruits were required to be at least 5 feet 10 inches tall but could be no taller than 6 feet 1 inch. Non-commissioned officers (NCOs) and warrant officers (WOs) in the Household Cavalry do not wear rank insignia on their full dress uniforms. Rank is indicated by the style of the aiguillettes. The ceremonial uniform for the Household Cavalry is different to that of other soldiers. They wear a shiny silver helmet with a long horsehair plume. When they are on mounted guard duty they also wear metal chest armour called a cuirass. The two regiments can be distinguished between by their jackets and the plumes on their helmets. The Life Guards wear red tunics or jackets with a white plume. The Blues and Royals wear blue tunics and have red plumes to their helmets. The Household Cavalry is regarded as the most prestigious unit in the British Army. Officers and soldiers were often drawn from the British aristocracy as they were in such close proximity to the reigning sovereign. The Household Cavalry still maintains a connection with the Royal Family and in recent years both Prince William and Prince Harry were commissioned into the Blues and Royals.
WRNS Checking Cockpit Equipment During the First World War, members of the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS) and the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) worked on air stations. The decision was then taken to merge the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) to form the Royal Air Force (RAF). It was thought that a separate women’s air service was needed which led to the formation of the WRAF in 1918. Civilian enrolment into the WRAF was huge in 1918 and personnel who were already in the WRNS and the WAAC were given the choice of changing roles to the WRAF. This meant that the number of members soared to 32,000 people. The minimum age for joining was 18 and there were a number of health checks which meant that candidates from polluted cities were excluded. Those that enrolled from upper class families were made officers. The original idea was for the female mechanics to free up men for service in the First World War. The women in the WRAF had many roles including clerks, household and welders. By 1920 there were over 50 trades open to women including, tailoring, photography and catering. This meant that the men were free to enter into combat. There were very strict rules in the WRAF and they were listed in the published Standing Orders booklet. Uniform requirements were listed and bans on actions such as smoking while on duty were listed. They became known as the most professional and disciplined of all the women’s services. The WRAF’s were split into two groups. The first was the Immobiles who lived at home and worked at their local station. The second group was the Mobiles who lived on, or near to their workplace and were open to transfer. On the 24th of March 1919 the first group from the WRAF arrived to serve in France. A year later the second group was sent to Cologne in Germany. They were employed as clerks, nurses and drivers which meant men were free for the forces. The WRAF was disbanded in 1920 after the First World War. In 1948 the Army and Air Force (Women’s Service) Act was passed which created opportunities for women in the Armed forces. All new members were enlisted into the Royal Air Force and took the same oath as men and endured the same conditions. Women were still unable to undertake combat duties. Despite their non-combat status the WRAF were posted in post-war-conflict places such as Kenya and Cyprus where they helped with vital support. In 1970 the first females were admitted into the RAF College Cranwell. The WRAF merged with the RAF during 1994 and the number of trades open to women grew rapidly. In 1989 women became eligible to pilot Royal Air Force combat aircrafts. The last surviving war veteran from the WRAF, Florence Green, died in February 2012.