How do we remember World War One?

Many people felt it was wrong to celebrate at the end of the war because so many had died.

When the church bells struck 11 o’clock on 11 November 1919, one year after the war, people all over the country bowed their heads.

  • Buses and trains stopped moving.

  • Shopkeepers stopped serving.

  • The electricity was cut off to stop trams from running.

Ever since the first Remembrance Day, people have followed the same tradition. Every year on 11 November they stop for a short moment of reflection.

School children visiting the Tyne Cot Cemetery near Ypres in Belgium in the present day
School children visiting Tyne Cot near Ypres, Belgium. The largest Commonwealth war grave cemetery in the world.

What do people use to remember the war?

Photograph of Remembrance Day service at The Cenotaph in London, 1920s and present day


When the Cenotaph in London was built in 1920, people laid flowers there in memory of loved ones. The tradition continues to this day.

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What was War Poetry?

The war was so unusual and horrific that it inspired people, especially soldiers, to write poems.

They wanted to describe the war so that people at home could understand how it felt. They also wanted to make sure people never forgot.

Laurence Binyon was an English poet. In 1914, he wrote 'For the Fallen'.

He later travelled to France and helped wounded soldiers as a volunteer at a British hospital.

Watch and listen to 'For the Fallen' by Laurence Binyon. The poem's fourth verse is known as 'Ode of Remembrance'. It is often carved into monuments and spoken at remembrance services.

Rupert Brooke was one of the first British war poets.

  • He was patriotic and thought it was very important to do your duty for your country.

  • His famous poem 'The Soldier' said, "If I should die, think only this of me: that there's some corner of a foreign field that is forever England".

  • Whilst fighting he was bitten by a mosquito which caused an infection. He died in 1915.

Siegfried Sassoon was another British soldier poet.

  • He did not believe that war was necessary and thought it was wrong for humans to fight each other.

  • When his friend died fighting beside him, he became angry and upset.

  • He wrote in a poem called 'A Letter Home' that "war's a joke" and described it as "hell".

Wilfred Owen was another war poet who agreed with Siegfried's feelings.

Portraits of World War One poets Rupert Brooke and Sigfried Sassoon
Left: Rupert Brooke. Right: Sigfried Sassoon.

Why do we wear poppies?

'In Flanders Fields' by John McCrae was a famous wartime poem. It says, "We shall not sleep, though poppies grow in Flanders Fields".

Many battles took place there. Soldiers got hurt and sometimes died, but the poppies still grew.

A French woman called Madame Guerin liked the poem so much that she started to sell poppies for charity in America.

In Britain George Howson made a simple poppy design so that people who had been disabled by the war could make them. He said: "I do not think it can be a great success but it is worth trying".

The poppy is still worn by millions of people every November.

A silhouetted soldier on a poppy-filled hill

Then and now: how has life changed?

A modern park with a pond merged with early 1900s families sailing toy boats

People in the early 1900s enjoyed the green open spaces of parks and countryside, as they do today. These children are sailing a model yacht. It’s before the war so their fathers are with them.

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Photographs can tell us all kinds of things about people’s lives. They capture moments of history from years gone by.

The pictures in our slideshow mix the modern day with life in the early 1900s. You can see that some things stay the same, other things are very different.

A field of headstones for soldiers who died in World War One

Where next?

World War One