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What is the meaning and significance behind Armistice Day?

A pro-Palestinian march is set to take place in central London on Armistice Day this weekend.

People pause to observe a two-minute silence at the Cenotaph, Whitehall, as part of remembrance commemorations in London, Britain, November 11, 2021. REUTERS/Peter Cziborra
People pause to observe a two-minute silence at the Cenotaph on 11 November, 2021. (Getty Images)

A pro-Palestinian march is set to take place in central London on Armistice Day despite the prime minister attempting to pressure the police to stop it from happening.

Armistice Day is observed on 11 November each year to commemorate the end of the First World War and to honour British and Commonwealth military personnel who fought in the conflict.

The pro-Palestinian march's organisers have said their protest on Saturday will avoid the Cenotaph in Whitehall, but Rishi Sunak claimed there was a risk war memorials could be "desecrated", branding the march "provocative and disrespectful".

Sunak has said he will hold the Met Police commissioner Sir Mark Rowley "accountable" for his decision to let the demonstration take place.

Meanwhile, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has accused the prime minister of "cowardice" for "picking a fight" with the Met Police over its decision to permit the pro-Palestinian demonstration.

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What is Armistice Day?

Armistice Day is also known as Remembrance Day and takes place on 11 November to commemorate the end of the First World War on that date in 1918.

Each year, a two-minute silence is observed across the country at 11am to remember those who died in the conflict.

There is also a daytime and evening Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall, with royals usually in attendance.

Many people wear a red poppy as a symbol of remembrance, and there are usually parades and ceremonies held across the country to mark the occasion.

The Royal British Legion's annual Poppy Appeal helps to raise funds for veterans and their families.

What does 'Armistice' mean?

Armistice refers to a formal agreement between two opposing sides in a war to stop fighting for a certain period.

It is usually a temporary truce or ceasefire that marks the end of hostilities, and it can be used to negotiate the terms of a peace treaty or other settlement.

The term is often associated with the armistice that ended the First World War.

Britain's main opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer (L) and Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (R) come out to lay wreaths at The Cenotaph during the Remembrance Sunday ceremony on Whitehall in central London, on November 13, 2022. - Remembrance Sunday is an annual commemoration held on the closest Sunday to Armistice Day, November 11, the anniversary of the end of the First World War and services across Commonwealth countries remember servicemen and women who have fallen in the line of duty since WWI. (Photo by Stefan Rousseau / POOL / AFP) (Photo by STEFAN ROUSSEAU/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak laid wreaths at The Cenotaph during Remembrance Sunday last year. (Getty Images)

How is it different to Remembrance Sunday?

Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday are both related to the same occasion and involve the act of remembrance, but they are observed differently.

The nation observes Remembrance Sunday on the second Sunday in November as a day to pay tribute to the military and civilian servicemen and women who fought in the two World Wars and other conflicts for Britain.

A two-minute silence marks Armistice Day, which always falls on 11 November, while Remembrance Sunday is marked by a national service and a parade in London, as well as local services and parades across the UK.

The National Service of Remembrance is held at the Cenotaph in London and is attended by senior members of the Royal Family, including King Charles, as well as representatives from the government.

One of the highlights of the event is the March Past, which involves around 10,000 veterans.

People pause to observe two minutes' silence at Waterloo Station, as part of Armistice Day remembrance commemoration, in London, Britain November 11, 2020. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez
People pause to observe two minutes' silence at Waterloo Station in 2020. (Getty Images)

The historical significance

The armistice that ended the First World War was signed on 11 November, 1918, and it came into effect at 11am on that day, which is why Armistice Day is observed on that date and at that time.

The armistice marked the end of four years of conflict and paved the way for the Paris Peace Conference and the Treaty of Versailles, which officially ended the war the following year.

King George V hosted a 'Banquet in Honour of the President of the French Republic' at Buckingham Palace on 10 November, 1919 to mark the first Armistice Day.

The next morning, on 11 November, 1919, the first official Armistice Day events were held on the palace grounds, including a two-minute silence for those lost in the war.