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Remembrance Sunday is commemorated in England on the second Sunday of November, which is the Sunday nearest to 11th November, the anniversary of the end of First World War hostilities at 11.00 AM in 1918. As in most countries, the ceremonies are marked by two minutes’ silence. Wreaths of poppies are laid on war memorials all round the country as can be seen here in this photo of the memorial in Adlestrop church (taken and donated by Ingrid), as well as at the Cenotaph in Whitehall, London. The latter is attended by the Queen and other members of the Royal Family, but in small towns and villages up and down the country the practice is observed by members of the Royal British Legion (a charity for retired servicemen and women), local dignitaries and representatives of local organisations.
The day is also sometimes referred to as Poppy Day, because of this laying of wreathes, and because small paper poppies are sold by the Legion to support their charitable work and worn in lapels as a token of remembrance of and gratitude for the sacrifice made by those who dies in the various wars. But why poppies?
I have talked elsewhere on this page about Edward Thomas, one of the great English poets of the First World War. Another poet of that period was John McCrae, a doctor serving in Flanders with the Canadian Armed Forces. He is much less well known, other than for this one pathos-laden poem:
In Flanders' Fields
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.
John McCrae, 1915
These fields of poppies growing in the soil where young men had fallen and been buried came to symbolise their sacrifice, and also the hope offered by new growth.
To read more about World War One and Flanders, have a look at this excellent, and moving, VT page by leics (aka Jane).
Updated Apr 4, 2011
As in many other parts of England, especially those frequented by tourists, you'll find lots of tea shops and cafés here offering what was originally a West Country tradition, a cream tea. This may sound like a cup of tea with cream in it, but is in fact tea served with a scone (or scones!) which are eaten with jam (traditionally strawberry) and thick cream. In the West Country the latter would be clotted cream, but here as elsewhere you'll be served with regular double cream.
On this occasion we found a cosy café in Stow on the Wold to satisfy our urge for a cream tea. As with many places these days, there was a selection of teas available to accompany the scones (I had Earl Grey) and you could also choose coffee, although for tradition it should really be a pot of typical English Breakfast tea.
It may be bad for the waistline, but it's a really delicious treat and should be tried once at least on any visit to the English countryside. To indulge like a local, split the scone and spread first with the jam (no butter - that would be over-doing it!) and then with a generous dollop of the cream.
Ingrid managed to resist taking a bite long enough to take this picture of her scone ;-)
Updated Aug 8, 2008
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