Pause for Thought: Memorials
Remembrance Day is on 11 November
by Alan M. Barker (revised, originally published in 2012)
Suitable for Whole School (Pri)
To reflect on the significance of national and local war memorials.
Preparation and materials
- You will need the PowerPoint slides that accompany this assembly (Pause for Thought: Memorials) and the means to display them.
- Have available a recording of the ‘Last Post’ and the means to play it during the ‘Time for reflection’ part of the assembly. An example is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=naIQKdvkFiI (1.46 minutes long)
- Show Slide 1.
Refer to the National Service of Remembrance, which is held on Remembrance Sunday at the Cenotaph in London. Explain that the Cenotaph was unveiled on 11 November 1920, which was known as Armistice Day. It was the anniversary of the ceasefire that ended the First World War in Europe in 1918.
Traditionally, Armistice Day was observed at 11 a.m. on 11 November. However, during the Second World War, the observation of two minutes’ silence was moved to the Sunday nearest to 11 November. In the years since, this became known as Remembrance Sunday. More recently, Armistice Day has also become more widely observed.
- Show Slide 2.
Explain that, during Remembrance services up and down the country, two minutes of silence are kept. It is sometimes said that the first minute is for remembering the millions of people who were killed in the conflict, and the second is for being mindful of the needs of their families and other survivors.
Show Slides 3 and 4.
Poppy wreaths are laid around the memorial, which bears the inscription ‘The Glorious Dead’.
Show Slide 5.
The ceremony ends with a march-past. Those who have served with the armed forces (known as ‘veterans’) show their respect for their fallen comrades.
- Invite the children to consider why such a memorial was thought to be important.
Reflect that a lasting monument, such as the Cenotaph, helps to ensure that those who are killed in war are remembered. A monument also provides a place where people can gather to remember. The word ‘cenotaph’ literally means ‘empty tomb’ in Greek. It is a very special and solemn place.
- Ask the children to identify where any local war memorials can be found and mention any local services of remembrance. Observe that, after 1918, war memorials were erected in almost every village and town. They are of different sizes and design.
Many war memorials bear the names of local people who died. Illustrate the significance of this. As the list of those who had died was read during services of remembrance in the years following the First and Second World Wars, local people would hear names that had been familiar to them, often from hearing them during the calling of the school registers. Some families lost two or more children, mainly sons.
- Observe that local war memorials are special and solemn places. Refer to the need to respect and care for them. Not only does a war memorial honour those who have died, it is also a place where the living can remember.
Time for reflection
Show Slides 6 and 7.
Invite a child to read the traditional words of remembrance and ask everybody to say the final words: ‘We will remember them.’
Show Slide 8.
They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
Response: We will remember them.
Play the recording of the ‘Last Post’.
The ‘Last Post’, available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=naIQKdvkFiI (1.46 minutes long)
‘We’ll meet again’ by Vera Lynn, available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T5C4meGkNyc (1.34 minutes long)