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 non-commissioned members. Vigil members are customarily chosen from the four environments of the Canadian Forces and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police unless the service is specifically held to remember personnel from a single environment or unit. At the National War Memorial Remembrance Service the Vigil is accompanied by a Nursing Officer.
  2. The 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.
  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”. If a headdress is to be removed for prayers of remembrance it shall be replaced on the completion of prayers. All personnel in uniform shall remove headdress except for members of faiths for whom this is not permitted or acceptable. (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”. 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 Royal Anthem (God Save the King) may be played. If played the parade shall be brought to attention and the proper compliments shall be paid.
  6. The remembrance ceremony is then complete. It is at that time that the spectators may come forward to lay “unofficial” wreaths.
  7. If there is to be a March Past the dignitaries shall move to the saluting dais. The parade will march past and then be dismissed.

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