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Remembrance Day; The Women in War

Updated: Nov 10, 2021

The first Remembrance Day in 1919 was observed throughout the British Commonwealth and continues to be observed by the Commonwealth of Nations member’s states every year. This day represents the First World War ending on Monday 11th November, 1918, at 11am - 100 years ago.

On Thursday 11th November at 11am the nation will be silent for 2 minutes to remember those soldiers who died in battle, not only in the First World War, but also the Second World War and other conflicts since, where lives have been given for us to have our freedom. These 2 minutes are barely enough time to think about what has happened in times of conflict and what could have happened if these wars had ended differently.

We think a lot about the men that lost their lives but let us also take this opportunity to think about the women in war. You may be interested to know these few facts:

  • Before the First World War the only jobs that women were allowed to do was within nursing. However, by 1918, the number of British women in employment had increased by 1.5 million and many were involved in roles directly linked to the conflict.

  • About 800 women are included in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) records as dying during the war. Amongst these was Nellie Spindler who is buried at Lijssenthoek Cemetery in Belgium alongside 10,000 men with whom she worked – hers is the only female grave.

  • One woman, Edith Cavell, was executed by Germans in October 1915, for protecting and assisting her countrymen.

  • In the Second World War, women were given a larger variety of roles related to the conflict. These included nursing roles in hospitals near the front lines, women based at radar stations, military camps and dockyards, all of which were targets for German bombing campaigns.

  • By 1943, 90% of single women and 80% of married women were directly involved in war work.

  • The Women’s Land Army was formed in 1939. This allowed women to take on vital jobs to support the war effort and feed those at home. They worked on farms, labouring and took on many of the roles previously filled by men.

  • 37 women were recruited as SOEs (Special Operations Executives). They took part in secret and highly dangerous missions overseas that involved sabotage and subversion. Two women, Violette Szabo and Odette Churchill were both captured and tortured whilst fulfilling their secret roles. Both women received the George Cross for their exceptional courage.

  • A lot has changed since the First and Second World War - Women now play leading roles across the British Armed Forces and can apply for any role within the British Armed Forces.

There are 3 main ways we remember our servicemen and servicewoman who have lost their lives to secure our freedom:

  • Remembrance Sunday – an entire day for the nation to remember and honour those who have sacrificed themselves to secure and protect our freedom.

  • 2 Minutes Silence – this occurs every year at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month to mark the end of the First World War.

The Royal British Legion reads the following exhortation before the start of the 2 minute silence.

The exhortation:

"They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old, Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun, and in the morning We will remember them."


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