The best hymns for Remembrance Sunday

Held on the second Sunday in November, Remembrance Sunday commemorates servicemen and women who have died in military conflicts since 1914. Here are some of the hymns commonly sung in commemorative services across the country

Best hymns for Remembrance Sunday

Both Remembrance Day and Remembrance Sunday serve to remember those who have died in military conflict and are honoured throughout the Commonwealth and beyond.

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What’s the difference between Remembrance Day and Remembrance Sunday?

Remembrance Day is on 11 November, the date the First World War finally ended in 1918, and is also known as Armistice Day. Remembrance Sunday is the second Sunday in November when the country unites and attends services to remember those who lost their lives in military conflict since 1914.

Which hymns are sung on Remembrance Day?

Abide With Me

Inspired by the words of a dying man, the hymn ‘Abide With Me‘ asks God to stay with those who gave their lives for their country. This hymn was composed by Anglican minister Henry Francis Lyte in 1820, and is a popular piece of funeral music as well.

I Vow to Thee My Country

Played at Prince Philip’s funeral, the hymn ‘I Vow to Thee My Country‘ describes the ways a Christian’s loyalties are divided between a person’s homeland and God’s kingdom.

Diplomat Sir Cecil Rice wrote the poem between 1908 and 1912. It was originally titled ‘Urbs Dei’ (‘The City of God’). In 1921, Gustav Holst set the words to a specially adapted version of ‘Jupiter’ from his suite The PlanetsFive years later he added harmonies so it could become a hymn to be sung in church services. It has been popular at Armistice services ever since.

Jerusalem

Despite being written in 1808 by William Blake, Jerusalem is synonymous with the First World War, which took place over a century later. It was in 1916 that Hubert Parry set Blake’s text to music in an effort to boost the nation’s morale. It then became a beacon of hope for a country suffering from the ravages of war. Today it is one of the UK’s most beloved patriotic hymns and is sung during various ceremonial occasions.

O God our Help in Ages Past

The hymn ‘O God our Help in Ages Past‘ is a favourite for remembrance ceremonies and is always sung at the annual Remembrance Sunday service at the Cenotaph in London. Written in 1708 by Isaac Watts, it was inspired by Psalm 90 and has a strong message of  promise and hope.

O Valiant Hearts

Written by Sir John Stanhope Arkwright to remember the fallen of the First World War, ‘O Valiant Hearts’ was published in The Supreme Sacrifice, and other Poems in Time of War (1919). It is usually sung to a tune composed by the Reverend Dr Charles Harris, but other composers including Vaughan Williams have also set the words to music.

Dear Lord And Father Of Mankind

The popular hymn ‘Dear Lord and Father of Mankind’ was adapted from Quaker John Greenleaf Whittier’s poem ‘The Brewing of Soma’ (which he wrote in 1872) by Garrett Horder and was published in his 1884 Congregational Hymns.

Eternal Father, Strong To Save 

Eternal Father, Strong to Save’, was written in 1860 by William Whiting after he was inspired by Psalm 107 and its reference to ships and the sea. By the late 19th century ‘Eternal Father, Strong to Save’ had become a popular hymn of both the Royal Navy and the US Navy and since then many other armed services have also adopted it, including the Royal Marines and the British Army.

Today it is also known as the ‘Hymn of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces’, the ‘Royal Navy Hymn’, the ‘United States Navy Hymn’, ‘The Navy Hymn’ and sometimes by the last line of its first verse, ‘For Those in Peril on the Sea’.

The Day Thou Gavest Lord is Ended

Written by the Anglican hymnodist the Rev John Ellerton (1826–1893) ‘The Day Thou Gavest Lord’ is Ended’ is the official evening hymn of the Royal Navy and the Royal Australian Navy.

For The Fallen

For The Fallen‘ has perhaps the most poignant words of all works performed on Remembrance Sunday. The poem’s powerful fourth stanza, with its iconic four lines beginning ‘They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old’, are known today as the ‘Ode of Remembrance’.

‘For The Fallen’ was written by poet Laurence Binyon in 1914, after the British Expeditionary Force’s defeat at The Battle of Mons, the first action of the First World War.

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You can find the lyrics to many famous hymns here