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The armistice declaration saw great rejoicing in Britain. This set the tone for the early annual celebrations held by ex-servicemen whose boisterous commemoration marked their victory and survival. In the early 1920s, hotels hosted Armistice Balls, known for their rowdy festivities.
However, given the huge casualties suffered, there was a great national sense of loss and grief. Armistice commemoration gradually become more solemn. The Cenotaph and grave of the Unknown Warrior became focal points of grief for those whose loved ones were buried overseas. Originally a temporary structure for the peace parade of 1919, the Cenotaph’s popularity led to a permanent monument being erected in 1920. In that same year 1.25 million people visited the open grave of the Unknown Warrior.
People began to make pilgrimages to the battlefield cemeteries erected by the Imperial War Graves Commission, tasked with commemorating and caring for the dead in perpetuity. Survivors were also not forgotten, with the first Poppy Appeal held in 1921, raising money to help ex-servicemen in need.
In Britain these rituals of remembrance are perhaps the most enduring of the legacies of the First World War. Today we still observe these acts to show respect to all those who have fought for their country.
Study for The Cenotaph, 1919, by Sir Edwin Lutyens. A sketch of Sir Edwin Lutyens’s proposed design for the Cenotaph with explanatory notes. This design was for the original wood and plaster structure which was unveiled in 1919.