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RSA marks 11/11/11 around the country

Media Release
10 November 2011

RSA marks 11/11/11 around the country

"News came through late last night that armistice had been signed, and hostilities ceased at 11 a.m. Thank God!"

So the Commander of the New Zealand Division, Major-General Sir Andrew Russell, wrote in his diary on 11 November 1918.

After four years of the greatest conflict then known in human history – involving 100,000 New Zealanders and the cost of 18,000 lives – the Armistice meant soldiers no longer had to dream of home-comings but could finally dare to believe they would actually see home and loved ones again. The subsequent process of return was not simply about soldiers coming home but about their longer-term return to health and productive lives. In fact, General Russell would take two years to recover his health before dedicating the next decade and a half to supporting the rehabilitation of his men in his role as RSA dominion president.

Fledging RSAs provided camaraderie and compassion for tens of thousands and the start of a long and proud tradition that continues to this day. And the need continues.

“At 11 am we remember those who have served and fallen during the First World War and subsequent wars, and we also think of our troops currently serving overseas and remember those who have recently fallen,” says RSA National President Don McIver.

Interest in the First World War grows with new books, films and documentaries despite the passing of all World War One veterans.

“They are now the “Lost Generation” forever but never forgotten,” says Mr McIver.

This year uniquely falls on “the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the eleventh year of the Millennium” (11/11/11). Around the country RSAs are arranging Remembrance Services and related events to mark the 93rd anniversary.


Information about Armistice Day

Significance of Armistice Day
Armistice Day — 11 November — marks the anniversary of the Armistice in 1918 that ended hostilities and commemorates the sacrifice of those who died serving New Zealand in this and all wars and armed conflicts.
It is commemorated today by wreath-laying ceremonies at the National War Memorial in Wellington and at many local war memorials throughout the country. The central feature of these ceremonies is the traditional two minutes silence observed at 11am on 11 November in memory of those New Zealanders who died while serving their country.
History of Armistice Day
At 11 a.m. on 11 November 1918, the signing of the Armistice marked the moment when hostilities ceased on the Western Front. The “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” thereafter became universally associated with the remembrance of those who had died in the First World War.
1919: Introduction of the Two Minutes Silence
A few days prior to the first anniversary of the Armistice, 11 November 1919, HM King George V personally requested that throughout the British Empire normal activities be suspended for two minutes on the hour of the Armistice in remembrance of the dead. The two minutes silence was generally observed in New Zealand in 1919 and thereafter became a central feature of commemorations on Armistice Day.
1920: Tomb of the Unknown Warrior
On the second anniversary of the Armistice, 11 November 1920, the commemoration was given added significance with the interment of the remains of an unknown soldier from the battlefields of the Western Front with full military honours in Westminster Abbey in London. The Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey attracted over one million people within a week to pay their respects.
1919–45: Armistice Day in New Zealand
While eventually overshadowed by Anzac Day, it was marked solemnly in New Zealand during the interwar period with the traditional two minutes silence at 11 am when pedestrians and traffic stopped in the streets to observe the silence. The observance of two commemorative days symbolised New Zealanders' emerging sense of national identity, albeit within the wider context of the empire: Armistice Day was shared with the empire; Anzac Day belonged to New Zealand (and Australia).
1946: Introduction of Remembrance Day
After the Second World War, the British and Dominion governments, including New Zealand, agreed to change the name and date of Armistice Day to Remembrance Day, now to be observed on the Sunday nearest to 11 November. Armistice Day was no longer viewed as an appropriate title for a day which would commemorate the war dead of both World Wars. In short, Remembrance Day "Sundayised" the observance of Armistice Day.

For the first observance of Remembrance Day in 1946, New Zealanders were requested to attend traditional wreath-laying services and to observe two minutes silence at 11 a.m., when citizens and vehicles were to halt in the streets. On the whole, Remembrance Day was observed in this manner during the late 1940s.
By the mid 1950s, however, the public had largely lost interest in commemorating Remembrance Day despite the best efforts of the RSA, including an unsuccessful approach to government to revert back to an observance on 11 November. The RSA believed that the decline of Remembrance Day was a result of its ‘Sundayisation’ and the loss of the association with the eleventh hour of the 11 November.
Armistice Day Again
Since the 1990s, with a renewed interest in the First World War, many countries have returned to commemorate Armistice Day because the ‘eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month’ has so much significance. In 1995, for example, the Royal British Legion embarked on a campaign for the reintroduction of two minutes silence at 11 a.m. on 11 November, which steadily gained momentum to the point where today it is estimated that three-quarters of the population of the United Kingdom participate in the observance. In Australia, meanwhile, the interment of an Unknown Soldier at the Australian War Memorial on 11 November 1993 brought renewed attention to the Day and in 1997 Australia's Governor-General issued a proclamation declaring 11 November as Remembrance Day and urging all Australians to observe one minutes silence at 11 am on 11 November each year.

In New Zealand too, since the 75th Anniversary of the Armistice in 1993 the RSA has been promoting the observance of 11 a.m. on Armistice Day with remembrance services at the National War Memorial and local war memorials throughout the country.

The interment of an Unknown Warrior at the National War Memorial on Armistice Day 2004, together with the approaching centenary of the First World War in 2014, is providing a catalyst for a new appreciation of Armistice Day.

Researched by Dr Stephen Clarke, RNZRSA Chief Executive

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