Remembrance Day | 12. Vigils


The more modern drill of “resting on arms reversed” can trace its origins back to the funeral of the Duke of Malborough in 1722. However, in 1586, when the remains of Sir Philip Sidney of Arnhem were being loaded aboard ship for repatriation back to England, it was observed that his funeral “procession” consisted of:

“1200 of the English soldiers walking three abreast and trailing their swords and muskets in the dust …”

And again at his funeral in London:

“A hundred and twenty unarmed civilians were in attendance, and about 300 citizens trained for war, all holding their weapons reversed.”

This “neglect of arms” was deliberate as it was meant to suggest that the soldiers were so despondent or overwhelmed with grief that they were unable to uphold their normal outward display of strict drill and deportment.



A-PD-201-000/PT-000, Canadian Armed Forces Manual of Drill and Ceremonial, Chapter 11, Section 1, Paragraph 2-4, 7-12

  1. The vigil consists of four corporals/privates (with both male and female representation if possible, unless the service is specifically held to remember personnel from a single environment or unit, the four are customarily chosen from the three environments of the Canadian Forces and from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police when practicable. A
  2. A vigil shall be mounted on the cenotaph/memorial 15 minutes prior to the service. (As noted in section 2, paragraph 19). The vigil shall remain on duty unrelieved until the senior dignitary has departed on completion of the ceremony. During their tour of duty, the vigil shall remain at rest on arms reversed. Accompanying the Vigil Party at the National War Memorial is a Nursing Officer.
  3. The parade should be in position at the cenotaph/memorial 10 minutes prior to the ceremony and standing easy.
  1. The remembrance ceremony itself commences with the band playing “O Canada”. The parade shall remove headdress prior to prayers of remembrance; headdress is replaced on completion of prayers (see Chapter 2, paragraph 23).
  2. Buglers or trumpeters shall sound “Last Post” just prior to the commencement of the two-minutes period of silence (normally 11:00 to 11:02 hrs). (see A-DH-200-000/AG-000, The Heritage Structure of the CAF, Chapter 13).
  3. During the silence, no musical instrument shall be played, as this detracts from the purpose of the event which is the quiet reflection on the service and sacrifice of the dead. Following the two-minute period of silence, “Rouse” shall be sounded. The lament may be incorporated either before the “Last Post” or after the “Rouse”, or, if the parade commander so wishes, after the two minutes silence and before the “Rouse”.The commencement of the 21 Gun Memorial salute, if available, occurs immediately after the two minutes silence ( at the start of the “Rouse” or lament). After the playing of “Rouse” or lament the reading of the “Act of Remembrance” may occur. Following the reading the official wreaths shall be laid. During the laying of wreaths, the parade shall be in the stand at ease position.
  4. The accompanying wreath bearers shall be one pace to the left rear of the dignitary, carrying the wreath in the left hand whenever possible. When the dignitary salutes or bows his head, the bearer shall salute.
  5. On completion of the official wreath laying, the parade shall be brought to attention and the band shall play “God Save the Queen”. The remembrance ceremony is then complete. It is at that time that the spectators may come forward to lay “unofficial” wreaths.
  6. The dignitaries may depart or move to a saluting dais. The parade will march past and be dismissed.
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