From 1919, the UK and all the countries of the Commonwealth held a day of remembrance on 11 November each year to commemorate the contribution of British and Commonwealth military and civilian servicemen and women in the two World Wars and later conflicts.
At the end of the Second World War In 1945, remembrance was moved to the second Sunday in November nearest to 11 November and renamed ‘Remembrance Sunday’, probably to allow more people to attend and to regularise it. Tomorrow will be Remembrance Sunday.
Since the 50th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in 1995, it has become usual to hold ceremonies on both Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday.
Some people think there is some spooky significance in the fact that the Armistice took effect at the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month. However this is just coincidence.
In 1918, Germany realised that, for various reasons, not least the fact that the USA had joined in to support the Allies, it was losing the war. The German Navy refused to fight and Germany was short of manpower and supplies and faced imminent invasion. Consequently, the leaders of the German Army told the German government to end the fighting. On 9 November Kaiser Wilhelm abdicated and, two days later, Germany signed the Armistice at Compiègne in Northern France. Officially the war did not end until the Treaty of Versailles, which was signed on 28 June 1919.
Most treaties instituting a significant alteration in the relationship between countries are set to occur at a significant time, either noon or midnight. India gained its independence at the midnight before 15 August 1947 (6:30 pm in the UK).
The Armistice was set to take affect at noon (Western European Time) on 11 November 1918 (all the countries involved were using Daylight Saving Time). But that was 11 am in the UK. It was just an accident of time zones that Britain celebrated the Armistice at ‘the eleventh hour’, a phrase that probably comes from Matthew 20:6,9.
The anniversary of the Armistice is not observed in Germany, although since 1952, it has observed a national day of mourning (Volkstrauertag, a secular public holiday) on the Sunday closest to 16 November. In France and Belgium, 11 November is a national holiday. Many other countries hold similar observance on that day.
Next year, Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday will coincide on 11 November 2018, the centenary of the Armistice.