EVERY year in Britain, people unite across the country to remember those who have fought and died at war.

When honouring those who have lost their lives in battle, the commemorative phrase ‘’Lest We Forget’’ is commonly used and heard – but what does it mean and where does it come from? Here’s everything you need to know.

What does Lest We Forget mean?

According to Merriam Webster dictionary, the literal translation of the phrase ‘’Lest We Forget’’ is ‘’it should not be forgotten’’.

As mentioned above, it is commonly heard during Remembrance Day when commemorations take place across the UK with thousands of wreaths laid at war memorials to honour the fallen and the sacrifices they made.

Along with wreath laying at War memorials, around the country a two minute silence is observed.

The phrase was coined more than a decade before the ending of World War 1.

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‘’Lest We Forget’’ is often inscribed on war memorials and graves.

You may also see the simple quote written on poppy pin badges and other remembrance-related items.

Where does Lest We Forget come from?

The phrase ‘’Lest We Forget’’ originates from a poem written by Rudyard Kipling for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897.

The poem, five stanzas in length and comprised of six lines each, was titled Recessional.

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Mr Kipling wrote the poem at the height of the British Empire and warned of the perils of imperialism rather than national sacrifice and recommended putting trust in God.

The poet himself took inspiration from the Bible – namely Deuteronomy 6 verse 12, which reads: "Then beware lest thou forget the Lord which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt".

The poem doesn't touch upon remembering fallen soldiers but has since been adopted as part of Armistice Day traditions.

Lest We Forget began with Rudyard Kipling, but it has become synonymous with remembrance at the end of another poem.

People often add the quote to the end of a different poem, For the Fallen, by Laurence Binyon.

What are the words to Rudyard Kipling's Recessional poem?

The poem was first published in The Times on July 17, 1897.

The phrase ‘’Lest We Forget’’ is mentioned within the work on eight different occasions.

Here we take a look at the words of the poem.

Rudyard Kipling’s Recessional poem

God of our fathers, known of old,
Lord of our far-flung battle line,
Beneath whose awful hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine —
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!


The tumult and the shouting dies;
The Captains and the Kings depart:
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!


Far-called, our navies melt away;
On dune and headland sinks the fire:
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!


If, drunk with sight of power, we loose
Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe,
Such boastings as the Gentiles use,
Or lesser breeds without the Law—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!


For heathen heart that puts her trust
In reeking tube and iron shard,
All valiant dust that builds on dust,
And, guarding, calls not Thee to guard;
For frantic boast and foolish word—
Thy Mercy on Thy People, Lord!

As well as using the phrase ‘’Lest We Forget’’ to remember and honour those fallen on Remembrance Day, a number of other quotes and poems are also used.

Here we have examples of works and words that can inspire you while you remember those fallen on Remembrance Day 2023.

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