Remembrance Day

Photo of officers in the Australian army, navy and air forces laying wreaths at a remembrance day service

Photo by Gnangarra on Wikimedia Commons

11 November is Remembrance Day, when Australia remembers servicemen and women who have served and died in all conflicts and peacekeeping operations since 1914.

Why is Remembrance Day on 11 November?

On 11 November, 1918 the armistice was signed to mark the end of the First World War. Remembrance Day is observed every year in Australia, New Zealand, the UK and other Commonwealth countries. In the United States 11 November is called Veterans' Day. The closest Sunday to 11 November is Remembrance Sunday.

What is Remembrance Day?

Remembrance commemorates the service and sacrifice of men and women who have served in Australia's armed forces, many of whom were volunteers who signed up to fight in the World Wars, Korea and Vietnam without any previous experience in the military.

Remembrance started in Australia as a commemoration for the unprecedented casualties suffered by its forces in the First World War.

416,809 Australians enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) during the First World War and more than 60,000 died. Australians served in the army, navy and air force in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Photo of Australian soldiers at a camp in North Africa during the First World War

Photo by unknown source on Wikimedia Commons (public domain)

The First World War produced unprecedented volumes of photography and written records, which made many of the symbols of the Australian army,such as the slouch hat and the rising sun badge become iconic..

Close up of Australian soldier wearing a slouch hat with the rising sun badge on the side

Photo by Gnangarra on Wikimedia Commons

Australian Women also enlisted in the AIF as nurses, drivers and interpreters. Many women who stayed at home in Australia also provided a vital service by filling in for men who left their jobs to serve in the armed forces.

People of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent have served in every conflict that Australia has participated in since the First Boer War in South Africa.

Until the end of the Second World War 11 November was more commonly called Armistice Day in Australia, but was renamed Remembrance Day after the Second World War to commemorate servicemen and women who have died in other conflicts.

Which conflicts have Australians served in since the First World War?

Australians have served in many major conflicts and peacekeeping operations since the end of the First World War, especially in the Pacific and South East Asia:

  • Second World War (1939-1947)
  • Malayan Emergency (1948-1960)
  • Korean War (1950-1957)
  • Vietnam War (1962-1975)
  • Indonesia Confrontation (1962-1966)
  • Somalia (1992-1996)
  • East Timor (1999-2013)
  • Iraq (2003-2013)
  • Afghanistan (2001-present)

You can find more information about operations that Australians have served in, including conflicts before the First World War, on the Australian War Memorial's Roll of Honour.

What does Australia do for Remembrance Day?

Poppy appeal

The poppy has become a symbol of remembrance in Australia, the UK, New Zealand and Canada since they were observed growing en masse on sites scarred by the battles of the First World War.

The Returned and Services League of Australia (RSL), which supports Australian veterans and their families, raises millions of dollars every year from the sale of remembrance poppies across the country.

The RSL also sells badges in April to commemorate Anzac Day.

One minute silence

At 11 am on 11 November Australians are encouraged to observe a one minute silence wherever they are, in remembrance of all Australians who have died in conflict or because of injury or illness caused by it.

Remembrance Day National Ceremony

The Remembrance Day National Ceremony is an annual commemoration at the Australian National War Memorial. The ceremony features military parades and an address by the Governor-General of Australia. Wreaths are laid by dignitaries, including the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition.

Photo of Australian army band on parade

Photo by John on Flickr

There are many Remembrance Day ceremonies around the country, including other Australian war memorials.