The commemorations

Various commemorative ceremonies were organized in the years after the war. Here officials, grieving families and veterans gathered. The celebration of the Armistice, on November 11th, 1920, was particularly significant. France and Great Britain decided to honour their fallen soldiers by choosing the body of one unknown soldier from several unidentified bodies. The British had grouped several bodies that were never identified at Saint-Pol-sur-Ternoise (Pas-de-Calais). One of these soldiers was chosen and buried in Westminster Abbey in London. On the French side, the selection ceremony took place in Verdun, and the body was buried under the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

Several ceremonies commemorating battles or other important events during the First World War are still organized today: on April 22nd (1915) the Belgians commemorate the first gas attack launched by the Germans near Ypres, while July 1st (1916) marks the beginning of the British offensive in the Somme or for example April 16th (1917) refers to the Battle of Chemin des Dames (Aisne).

Finally symbolic objects crop up repeatedly during these commemorative events. While the cornflower which has come to symbolize French soldiers is not frequently used in French commemorations the British poppy has come to be associated with World War I. This is a paper poppy, which is placed on the graves or on memorials which pay tribute to the fallen soldiers.

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  • "The Epic of Vimy" compiled by W. W. Murray, 1937, book, coll. Linge © P&K Linge

    During the years after the war many books were published describing the pilgrimages to various sites where some of the great battles in which Commonwealth soldiers fought, took place. Here the taking of Vimy Ridge on April 12th, 1917 is commemorated.

  • Husson Léon (1898-1983), 20th anniversary of the Armistice, 1938, poster, coll. Historial de la Grande Guerre, Péronne © Y. Medmoun

The Epic of Vimy20th anniversary of the Armistice