If you are looking for a French Veteran’s Day activity, you might have trouble finding it. That’s because the French don’t call it Veteran’s Day! The holiday that we observe on November 11 each year is celebrated in many European countries, under the names of Armistice Day or Remembrance Day.
Why l’Armistice is celebrated on November 11
At the end of World War 1, everyone was looking forward to the end of hostilities. The four years of the war had been painful and costly for all of the countries involved. On November 11, 1918, the first armistice was signed. The agreement was made to cease hostilities on the western front, release all Allied prisoners of War, surrender war materiel and for the German military to leave the countries of Belgium, France, Luxembourg and the territory of Alsace-Lorraine within 15 days. This wasn’t the end of the war, though!
Some allied troops fired on German targets because they didn’t want to have to take leftover ammunition back to base. They also wanted to be in a good position to open fire just in case the armistice failed, and the war began again. Some soldiers died only minutes before the agreement to cease hostilities took effect – the last soldier killed in the war died only 1 minute before the armistice agreement took effect. 2738 men died on the final day of the war.
The armistice agreement was signed at 5 am on November 11, 1918, and went into effect six hours later. While the ceasefire was in effect, negotiations continue to establish a peace treaty. There were three extensions of the original armistice, and the Treaty of Versailles officially ended World War 1 several months later.
How l’Armistice is commemorated
Even though the war ended over 100 years ago, there are still ceremonies and commemorations to this day. In Canada, many people wear a red poppy pin on their lapel. It is worn during the final two weeks of October and the first 11 days of November. Ceremonies are held on November 11 and people leave their poppies on the memorials and monuments to fallen soldiers. In France poppies are worn, but a blue flower is also quite common.
Most countries that fought in the war have monuments and memorials to the lost soldiers. The tomb of the unknown soldier is something found in many countries around the world, but it got its start after a chaplain saw a grave with the name listed as “an unknown British soldier.” The United States followed suit and brought home the remains of four unknown soldiers – one from each of the American cemeteries in France. One set of remains was chosen randomly to represent all unknown soldiers and was buried in Arlington cemetery. France has a similar tomb under the Arc de Triomphe.
Learn about l’Armistice with this activity
If you are looking for an activity to do for l’Armistice, I have a digital escape game that will teach your students about some of the main concepts around the holiday. In the activity, they will learn about poppies, les bleuets, the signing of the Armistice agreement, the last French soldier to do in the war, and the fields of Verdun.
One version of the game is entirely in English, the other one has students visiting French websites to find the answers that will unlock the locks. The teacher guide has all of the instructions and answers, so you can help your students if they get stuck. It’s an interesting game that will be challenging for students, but that they will enjoy. Students can work alone or in groups and there is no prep required for the teacher – just make sure your students have an internet connection!