Instruction for a wreath laying ceremony

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Instruction for a wreath laying ceremony
Protocol is very important on Remembrance Sunday. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images News/Getty Images)

Every November 11 the UK remembers the lives lost by members of our armed forces in Remembrance Day ceremonies. Timed to coincide with the end of World War I there are similar ceremonies held across Europe to remember the dead from the two world wars and from the conflicts since. Wreaths of poppies are left at war memorials across the country and at the Cenotaph in London. The Royal British Legion has guidelines for these ceremonies, but they are flexible to suit local resources and conditions.

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Act of Remembrance

The Act of Remembrance ceremony may be held at a war memorial or in a church or chapel and usually includes hymns and prayers. However, there are only three elements that are essential to an Act of Remembrance – the exhortation, the silence and the laying of the wreaths. Non-essential, but encouraged, elements are the playing of “The Last Post” and “Reveille” by buglers.

The exhortation

This is when a member of the clergy or member of the Royal British Legion says: "They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old. Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember them." To which the congregation says: "We will remember them." It is usually after this that "Reveille" is played.

The silence

Two minutes’ silence is held after this, during which people are encouraged to remember those lost in conflict. It is customary for members of the congregation to bow their heads during the silence.

Laying of the wreaths

The wreaths are laid one by one – usually by community figures, members of the Royal British Legion, servicemen and women and politicians, but not exclusively. When laying the wreath the person walks slowly up to the memorial, stops, leans forward to put the wreath down, straightens up, steps backwards and then bows their head. They then turn and walk away and may be followed by others. A commitment, dedication, prayer and hymn follow.

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