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In recognition of the part that humanists and the non-religious play in the armed forces today, and have played throughout history, Humanists UK has long campaigned for the secularisation of remembrance ceremonies and the inclusion of humanists at national remembrance events – including through the ‘For All Who Serve’ campaign. In 2018, for the first time, Humanists UK was invited to participate in the National Service of Remembrance at the Cenotaph in Westminster, and Wales Humanists at the ceremony in Wales. This followed many years of campaigning. Humanist representatives have participated in the National Remembrance Service of Northern Ireland since 2010, and have been represented alongside religious groups at the Scottish National Remembrance Service. Defence Humanists, a section of Humanists UK, have also taken part in a number of other remembrance ceremonies, including the International Day of UN Peacekeepers, International Conscientious Objectors’ Day, and World Humanitarian Day. Today, more than a quarter of serving members of the armed forces describe themselves as having ‘no religion’.

The red remembrance poppy was introduced by an American humanitarian, and first sold in Britain from 1921 to raise funds for ex-servicemen and the families of those killed during the First World War. The white poppy was introduced by members of the Women’s Cooperative Guilds in 1933 to remember all of those, soldier and civilian, at home and abroad, who had died in conflict, as well as to emphasise a commitment to peace, and to challenge the glamourising of war. Similarly to the ideals expressed by the Women’s Group of the Ethical Movement during the First World War, the Women’s Cooperative Guilds saw a role for themselves as voices against conflict, and for a sense of shared humanity, rooted in their own cooperative principles. An outcome of the cooperative movement, the white poppy continued to be promoted by the Peace Pledge Union, whose active supporters have included prominent humanists like Bertrand Russell, Storm Jameson, Alex Comfort, Laurence Housman, and Benjamin Britten.

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