World War I and Remembrance Day
What are World War I and Remembrance Day?
World War I lasted from 1914-1918. Since World War I ended, every year on 11 November we remember the people in the armed forces who died in battle. This is called Remembrance Day. It also marks the day that World War I ended in 1918.
World War I involved two main sides: the Allied Powers, which included Great Britain and France, and the Central Powers, which included Germany and Austria-Hungary. Many people were killed or wounded in World War I.
Top 10 facts
- World War I began on 28 July 1914 and ended on 11 November 1918.
- World War I was called ‘The Great War’ until World War II began in 1939, which also involved countries from all around the world.
- An Armistice was signed that ended World War I at 11:00am on 11 November, 1918. This meant that the countries that were fighting against each other agreed to stop.
- The peace treaty that ended World War I is the Treaty of Versailles – this was signed in 1919.
- Remembrance Day is 11 November every year – the same day that World War I ended. It is also known as Armistice Day.
- Poppies became a symbol of World War I because they have grown around some of the places where battles were fought. A soldier named John McCrae wrote a famous poem, ‘In Flanders Fields’, which was inspired by seeing these poppies.
- Many people wear a red poppy pinned to their coat in honour of Remembrance Day.
- Every year, paper poppies are sold by the Royal British Legion to raise money to help people in the armed forces today.
- The Sunday before Remembrance Day is called Remembrance Sunday. There are special ceremonies around the country on this day, including one in London that the Queen takes part in.
- On Remembrance Sunday, wreaths of poppies are laid on the Cenotaph, which is a war memorial in London.
Did you know?
- To remember when World War I ended, think of the number 11. It ended on 11 November 1918 (the 11th day of the 11th month), at 11:00am.
- Remembrance Day is always 11 November, and the second Sunday in November is called Remembrance Sunday. Special ceremonies are held all around the country on this day.
- On Christmas Day in 1914, soldiers stopped fighting. They sang carols together, and even gave each other presents.
- Before World War II began, World War I was known as The Great War.
- World War I was the first war where tanks were used.
Browse through the gallery and see if you can spot the following:
- World War I soldiers in the trenches
- World War I British Army uniform
- Wreaths of poppies on a war memorial
- Map of Allied (Entente) and Central Powers in Europe
World War I didn’t just start overnight. Countries in Europe had been pretty angry at each other for a while, but what most people think was the last straw in this long argument happened in 1914. Franz Ferdinand, who was next in line to the throne of Austria-Hungary, was shot and killed in Sarajevo, Bosnia. Someone from Serbia did this, and Serbia was one of Austria-Hungary’s main enemies. Austria-Hungary eventually declared war on Serbia, but since Germany was allied with Austria-Hungary, they also declared war on Serbia. Russia was allied with Serbia, so the war had two countries on each side.
Great Britain got involved in the war because they had promised a while ago to protect Belgium, and Germany had declared war on Belgium.
Great Britain was on the side of the Allied Powers, which were also called the Entente Powers. Some of the other countries in this group were:
- The United States
On the other side were the Central Powers, which included:
- Ottoman Empire
World War I ended on 11 November 1918, when the Allies and Germany signed an Armistice that meant they each agreed to stop fighting. This went into effect at 11:00am.
During the months after this, Germany and the Allies agreed to terms of peace. These were laid out in the Treaty of Versailles, which was signed on 28 June 1919.
Over 16 million people died during World War I. One of the largest battles of World War I was the Battle of the Somme in France. It lasted from 1 July to 18 November 1916. Around 1 million people were killed or wounded during that time.
Remembrance Day, also called Armistice Day, is on 11 November every year since King George V declared it in 1919. It is a time to think about those in the armed forces who have died in battle, not just in World War I. At 11am on Remembrance Sunday (the Sunday before Remembrance Day), there is a two-minute silence. There are also special ceremonies on Remembrance Sunday all over the country, including one in London at the Cenotaph war memorial.
Poppies are a symbol of Remembrance Day because they grew all over the battlefields in Northern France and Flanders. Red poppies grow naturally in places in Western Europe where the soil has been turned over and mixed up. This happened in France because of all the fighting that had taken place there. A soldier named John McCrae was inspired by seeing all the poppies and wrote a poem about it called ‘In Flanders Fields’.
Names to know
David Lloyd George (1863-1945) – Prime Minister from 1916-1922, during the end of World War I
Field Marshal Douglas Hague (1861-1928) – a famous commanding officer during World War I
Franz Ferdinand (1863-1914) – Archduke of Austria, whose assassination led to Austria-Hungry declaring war on Serbia at the beginning of World War I
Herbert Henry Asquith (1852-1928) – Prime Minister from 1908 to 1916, during the beginning of World War I
John McCrae (1872-1918) – a soldier in World War I who wrote the famous poem ‘In Flanders Fields’, inspired by the red poppies he saw growing there
Kaiser Wilhelm II (1859-1941) – Leader of Germany during World War I
King George V (1865-1936) – King during World War I, who declared the first Remembrance Day in 1918
Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924) – President of the United States during World War I, who helped to draw up the Treaty of Versailles
Just for fun...
- Find out about life in a WWI trench in a BBC Bitesize virtual guide, then read more about how people communicated during WWI and the weapons used in WWI
- Test your battle tactics in this World War I trench warfare game
- Complete a trench mission in this interactive game
- Go over the top in this online game
- Bake a trench cake, plant poppies and 8 other ways to remember the Great War
- Listen to an abridgement of Michael Morpurgo's Private Peaceful in 13 episodes for free on the BBC Schools Radio site
- WWI stories, colouring in and top-secret missions to complete: it's all on the Home Front Legacy Guide site
Find out more
- BBC Schools: World War I
- Read some kids' historical fiction set in WWI
- World War I timeline
- See photos of life in the trenches
- November 11 1918
- Watch an animated video explaining some of the causes of World War I
- Find out why we wear poppies to remember World War I
- The Poppy Appeal
- First World War Centenary
- Find out how aeroplanes were used in WWI
- See an infographic about 'victory gardens' in WWI, including some recipes
- ‘In Flanders Fields’ poem
- Take a virtual tour of a trench where soldiers lived
- Find out about the Home Front in the BBC's free ‘World War One at Home’ interactive ebook, which uses original journalism, digital technology and archival film, sound, images and documents to reflect the lives of many people caught up in the conflict.
- Listen to soldiers talking about the 1914 Christmas Truce
- See a dogfight over the trenches in this reconstruction
- Watch animations about WWI life and find out more about important people from the time, such as Wilfred Owen and Edith Cavell, on the BBC Schools WWI Primary site
- Watch videos of soldiers' stories and accounts of the 1914 Christmas Truce
- Find out about remembrance in a BBC interactive timeline of how we have remembered WWI since 1918
Children's books about WWI
See for yourself
- The Cenotaph memorial in London
- Find a war memorial near where you live
- The Imperial War Museums
- The First World War Centenary is marked by a special exhibition at IWM North in Manchester (5 April 2014 to 31 May 2015). The From Street To Trench exhibition features more than 200 objects, photographs, letters, diaries, artworks, film clips and sound recordings from the conflict; many of the objects and stories are on public display for the first time.
- ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’, the ceramic art installation created by Paul Cummins and 'planted' by volunteers at the Tower of London, consists of 888,246 ceramic poppies, one for each British and Colonial fatality during the war. The exhibition has been so popular with visitors that The Weeping Window, which is made up of thousands of poppies cascading out of the Tower’s window, and The Wave, which rises over the causeway used by visitors to enter the castle, will then travel the country before being permanently installed at the Imperial War Museum in London and Manchester from 2018.
- How World War I started