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KS3/4 History: TB - Remembrance Day (1925)

An introduction to Remembrance Day

Main image of KS3/4 History: TB - Remembrance Day (1925)
Author Gemma Starkey, BFI
TopicRemembrance Day
Curriculum linksNC KS3 History A World Study after 1900; GCSE World War One

A short Topical Budget newsreel item about Remembrance Day in 1925, showing the King and war widows lay wreaths at the Cenotaph.

"On the stroke of eleven the whole Empire was hushed into the Seventh Great Silence." So proclaims the opening text-plate of this short newsreel item - produced by Topical Budget, one of the three major newsreels of the silent era. This short film offers teachers a useful starting point for exploring the significance of Remembrance Day over 80 years later as well as a means of introducing the Armistice of 1918.



Before showing students the newsreel item, read them the following extract:

The first stroke of eleven produced a magical effect. The tram cars glided into stillness, motors ceased to cough and fume, and stopped dead, and the mighty-limbed dray horses hunched back upon their loads and stopped also, seeming to do it of their own volition.

Someone took off his hat, and with a nervous hesitancy the rest of the men bowed their heads also. Here and there an old soldier could be detected slipping unconsciously into the posture of 'attention'. An elderly woman, not far away, wiped her eyes, and the man beside her looked white and stern. Everyone stood very still. The hush deepened. It had spread over the whole city and become so pronounced as to impress one with a sense of audibility. It was a silence which was almost pain ... And the spirit of memory brooded over it all. (Manchester Guardian, 12th November 1919)

What do students think this article refers to? Encourage them to think about the clues in the article - what is the significance of the silence? What is the significance of the date.

Follow this discussion by watching the short film. Do students know the meaning of the term 'Cenotaph' and the significance of the use of poppies in the wreaths laid by the royal family and war widows? You may want to give some help or encourage them to find out themselves online (Cenotaph: monument built to honour people whose remains are interred elsewhere or whose remains cannot be recovered. Poppies: association with Flanders Fields)

Finally, ask students to consider how has the meaning of Remembrance Day has evolved since this newsreel item was produced. Challenge them to write a short script for a narration over a one minute news item for broadcast today, which shows similar images of the Queen and others at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday, but explains the various different people the day now commemorates.


Some more ideas

  • Ask students to write a narration for the newsreel item from the perspective of a contemporary historian, using it as part of a documentary programme about the impact of WWI. What details might he/she draw audience's attention to? What themes might he/she be able to expand on?
Video Clips
Complete Film (2:50)

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