11 November 2017
Armistice Day marks the armistice, signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. The armistice was signed at Compiengne, France and is now remembered each year as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day. Many nations have 2 minutes silence (at 11am) as a mark of respect for those who served in WWI and in some countries 11 November is a public holiday.
In the UK Remembrance Sunday is the formal commemoration of the signing of the armistice with a ceremony held at 11am at the Cenotaph in London. In 2006 when I was part of the parliamentary delegation attending the unveiling of the NZ Statue in Hyde Park Corner, it was fortunate that the timing co-incided with Remembrance Sunday. Our delegation was invited to view the ceremony and parade (similar to our ANZAC Day parades but much bigger) with dignitaries from the UK parliament. At the morning tea afterwards I met and had a short conversation with former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
We don’t observe such formalities in New Zealand, ANZAC Day being our official day of commemoration, but many do stop at 11am to remember those who delivered us the freedoms we have today.
I recently came across the article below, an archived copy of Heather Roy’s Diary which I wrote in 2005. It is relevant to today and also to the events of the past week, with the opening of the new Parliament, some historical perspectives included. Lest We Forget.
Heather Roy’s Diary, Friday 11 November 2005
Today I attended the Armistice Anniversary Ceremony at the National War Memorial. At 11am we remembered the signing of the Armistice at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, 1918 that signaled the end of World War I.
It is of course co-incidental that this anniversary fell in the same week as the opening of the 48th Parliament but a timely reminder to an incoming government that the freedoms our servicemen and women fought so hard for should not be taken for granted.
Parliament resumed this week with the accompanying traditional ceremonies at the start of the new Parliamentary term. On Monday all Members of Parliament were “sworn in”. Before any member can speak or vote in Parliament they must take the oath of allegiance or affirmation.
This is normally an upbeat ceremony but was this time a sombre occasion due to the sudden death of Green Party co-leader Rod Donald. The swearing in was followed by the election of the speaker. Margaret Wilson was re-elected to the position and then as tradition dictates presented herself to the Governor General at Government House.
On Tuesday we had the State Opening of Parliament. The Governor General summons the MPs from the debating chamber by sending the messenger Black Rod – so named because of the black rod he carries – to knock on the door of the debating chamber and deliver the directive. MPs then file through to the Legislative Council Chamber to hear the “Speech from the Throne”, written by the Prime Minister but delivered by the Governor General.
The speech traditionally outlines the government’s programme for the next three years. The speech was unremarkable with little detail and no great vision for the future. Next week when the house sits again we will have the Address and Reply debate. This debate lasts for 19 hours and will consist of speeches from all parties in response to the Speech from the throne and will also include the maiden speeches of all new MPs – 4 Labour, 20 National and 3 Maori Party.