Our History with Remembrance Day

What is Remembrance Day?

Remembrance Day is the Memorial Day observed across Britain and the rest of the Commonwealth which recognises the sacrifices of those who lost their lives in the Armed Forces.

This day sees the official Remembrance service, which brings together communities in a two-minute silence to remember servicemen and women and those from allied nations who gave their lives during the First World War and in conflicts since.  

Remembrance Day is an annual service of commemoration for those who have lost their lives fighting for our country. The Sunday after Remembrance Day, known as Remembrance Sunday, sees the government and the public congregate at the Cenotaph in Whitehall, London. The Cenotaph is the national memorial for Britain's war dead.

The event, on the 11th November, is marked by a two-minute silence at 11am, and there is also a ceremony where wreaths are laid.


How did Remembrance Day start?

The tradition of Remembrance Day first began in the November of 1919 – one year on from the signing of the Armistace of World War one and the same year Royal British Legion Industries was established.

The first formal Remembrance Day came at the request of King George V who held a banquet with the King of France to recognise the anniversary of the end of the First World War. A letter which had been published in the London Evening News earlier in the year suggested that silence should observed to remember those who died during the conflict.

This suggestion reached the King, who took it upon himself to share the suggestion with the nation:

“All locomotion should cease, so that, in perfect stillness, the thoughts of everyone may be concentrated on reverent Remembrance of the Glorious Day.”

And so, the first formal Remembrance Day Service in Great Britain and the rest of the commonwealth was born on 11th November 1919.


What is the Tommy?

RBLI’s iconic Tommy figure was first established in 2018 in line with the commemoration of the end of the First World War. The figure was created to represent, in physical space, the 886,000 British military personnel who died during the First World War. 

Since then, the Tommy has come to represent not just those who made the ultimate sacrifice during the First World War, but all service personnel who have given their lives whilst serving in the British Armed Forces.

Today, the Tommy figure has become a national symbol of veteran and military support which has raised millions for the country’s most disadvantaged ex-servicemen and women and their families.

Every Remembrance, thousands of Unknown Tommy figures are placed in churches, parks, schools and roundabouts. For Remembrance 2022, the team of veterans working in RBLI’s social enterprise factory, Britain’s Bravest Manufacturing Company have developed a new Remembrance product range, enabling the public to commemorate and recognise those who made the ultimate sacrifice.


Why is it called the Tommy?

Tommy represents where RBLI began in 1919, supporting British soldiers returning from WW1. The story goes that German soldiers would call out to “Tommy” across no man’s land if they wanted to speak to a British soldier. Since then, RBLI has supported many wounded, injured and sick ex-Forces personnel. We commemorate those who sacrificed for our freedom and help to look after our veterans of today.

Tommy is a hero and a symbol of hope. He has saved the day many times over the past one hundred years. During the coronavirus pandemic he was RBLI’s saviour, helping us to raise vital funds and keep veterans and people with disabilities in paid work. Tommy has been truly heroic for RBLI.


Why should you support the Tommy for Remembrance 2022?

Through RBLI’s newly-launched Tommy Remembrance product range, you can directly support the country’s most disadvantaged veterans.

Whether it’s by purchasing Tommy figures, such as the Unknown Tommy, which provide meaningful employment to injured veterans in our factories, or by buying Tommy pin badges which sees all funds raised go directly to supporting RBLI’s wide range of activities.

As the cost of living crisis continues to take hold, disadvantaged and injured military veterans will be amongst the hardest hit in society. So, this Remembrance Sunday, you can play a vital role in supporting this community by purchasing a Tommy product.


How it helps

Royal British Legion Industries provides support to more than 11,000 people every year. Through employment, welfare and accommodation support, RBLI gives disadvantaged military veterans the tools to change their own lives.

The charity runs a 75-acre village, based in Kent, which provides a home to more than 300 veterans and their families. Every November, the village holds a Remembrance Service for its resident veterans.

RBLI runs two social enterprise factories, one based in Kent and the other in Glasgow. These two factories employ more than 120 – more than 70% of whom are veterans and people with disabilities. It is these teams who will be producing the 2022 Remembrance Day products.