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Remembrance Day and Britain’s Greatest Generations

When Remembrance Day occurs on the 11th day, many of us will cast a thoughtful memory back to the men and women who have sacrificed their lives in defence of the country.As we mark another year, let's take a moment to recognise the contributions of everyone who helped pull the nation through our various wars and conflicts.

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I am very pleased with my stairlift, it has really helped me. I never thought I would be able to go upstairs again and now I am so pleased I can. Special thank you to my project Manager Sophie who looked after me from start to finish.

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Mrs Fletcher | Staffs

Remembrance Day and Britain’s Greatest Generations

When Remembrance Day occurs on the 11th day, many of us will cast a thoughtful memory back to the men and women who have sacrificed their lives in defence of the country.As we mark another year, let's take a moment to recognise the contributions of everyone who helped pull the nation through our various wars and conflicts.

As the calendar flips to November, the gradual and steady appearance of the poppy should give us all a moment’s pause. When Remembrance Day occurs on the 11th day, many of us will cast a thoughtful memory back to the men and women who have sacrificed their lives in defence of the country.

And, although respect for service in the military knows no age, there are many who recognise the importance of Remembrance Day as a way to honour our older, wartime generations as well. For those who lived, served, or grew up in the UK during World War II, they were marked by those times and it inspired them to rise to the level of the “Greatest Generation”. Now in years of advanced age, they have seen governments come and go; they have seen the creation and development of the NHS; and they have witnessed the march of technology to redefine the future and extend the lives of all of us.

The wartime generation now faces a wide range of challenges. From medical care for the ageing, to mobility and independence issues, being elderly in the UK takes hard work. There may be communities established to support them, funds to help with the cost of stairlifts, and mobility scooters to help them lead independent lives, but growing old in the UK is an effort. But as they did in times of war, this generation has proven they are up to the challenge.

As we mark another Remembrance Day, take a moment to recognise the contributions of everyone who helped pull the nation through our various wars and conflicts.

The origins of Remembrance Day

It was originally started as a reflection of the vast sacrifices made during World War I. When peace was eventually declared on Armistice Day in 11 November 1918, Britain and the rest of Europe awoke from a nightmare of war and death. A year later, to mark the end of the war, the Manchester Guardian proclaimed the day was “Peace Day”.

Two minutes of silence took place at 11 am – on the 11th day of the 11th month.

Last year, we entered the years marking a century since World War I. Started in 1914, the war lasted four years and cost the lives of more than 17 million military and civilian casualties. The UK suffered over 900,000 casualties. Almost 20 years later, some of the same mistakes were made again and the world found itself at war. During World War II, over 60 million were killed as result of the conflict. For the UK, nearly half a million people lost their lives.

Living through these events created some of the strongest individuals in the world, and collectively, they joined together and the modern world was built out of the ashes of World War II. The term “Greatest Generation” was coined, and they have been revered ever since. Earlier this year, the BBC created a series of documentaries to help highlight their significance.

Nowadays, each year, the Royal Family along with leading politicians and religious leaders gather at The Cenotaph in Whitehall, London for a service. It is there that all branches of the civilian and military services are represented in ceremonies throughout Britain and the Commonwealth.

The Poppy

The most enduring symbol of remembrance in the UK is the poppy. The flower has become the symbol for remembering all those who have given their lives in the service of their country. The actual flower is the scarlet corn poppy, and it grows naturally across Western Europe.

The image associated with fallen soldiers traces back to the French Napoleonic Wars in the 1800s.

After World War I, across the bloodied battlefields, it was said that the poppy was one of the only plants to grow on the otherwise barren land. The significance of the poppy became more symbolic with the publishing of In Flanders Fields by Canadian surgeon John McCrae.

It was adopted by The Royal British Legion as the symbol for their Poppy Appeal, in aid of those serving in the British Armed Forces, when it was formed in 1921.

The Greying of the UK

Now even the children of the Greatest Generation have moved on into pensioner age. According to statistics gathered by the Royal Geographical Society, from 1946 to 1964, Britain saw a period of rapid population growth. The number of Baby Boomers born during that period was more than 17 million. The effects of that period of expansion were felt in 2007, when the number of pensioners exceeded the total number of children under 16 for the first time ever. In 2012, the total number of people over 65 surpassed 10 million for the first time.

The NHS is taking these numbers seriously, and earlier this year saw the completion of a mandate into the on-going effects of ageing on the NHS’ ability to provide care to the elderly.

“The NHS must focus on compassionate care, where patients are put first,” said Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health. “I have profound admiration for NHS and social care staff who have already started this culture shift.

“One of the biggest challenges facing the NHS today is an ageing population,” he said. “People over 75 make up around 30 per cent of emergency hospital admissions, and because they can be the most vulnerable, this can be distressing for them and their families. It also puts undue strain on A&E and hospitals. And already one quarter of the population is living with a long-term condition, which may require extra attention because their needs are complex.

“This mandate now challenges the NHS to build on all the great work it has already done to put patients at the heart of everything it does in order to be recognised globally as having the highest standards of care,” he said.

Image Credit: James Best, Elizabeth M, Matt Buck, Defence ImagesElliott Brown (flickr.com)

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