May 8th

On May 8th 1919 Australian soldier and journalist Edward George Honey suggested a period of silence on Armistice Day to commemorate lives in World War One. The two minutes silence on November the 11th is now a popularised tradition across the Commonwealth which remembers the fatalities of world conflict.

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Northwood Cemetery, North West London

Honey made his suggestion (coincidentally on the day which became VE Day in 1945) via a letter to the London Evening Standard under his pen name, Warren Foster:

Five little minutes only. Five silent minutes of national remembrance. A very sacred intercession. Communion with the Glorious Dead who won us peace, and from the communion new strength, hope and faith in the morrow. Church services, too, if you will, but in the street, the home, the theatre, anywhere, indeed, where Englishmen and their women chance to be, surely in this five minutes of bitter-sweet silence there will be service enough.

However, the idea was actually proclaimed by King George V on November 7th 1919 after a similar suggestion by Sir Percy Fitzpatrick was forwarded to him later that year, and the first two-minute silence was held across the British Empire:

Tuesday next, 11 November, is the first anniversary of the Armistice, which stayed the worldwide carnage of the four preceding years and the victory of Right and Freedom. I believe that my people in every part of the Empire fervently wish to perpetuate the meaning of the Great Deliverance, and of those who laid down their lives to achieve it.

To afford an opportunity for the universal expression of their feeling, it is my desire and hope that at the hour when the Armistice comes into force, the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, there may be for a brief space of two minutes, a complete suspension of all our normal activities.

He proposed this after experiencing the daily three minute pause after the traditional noon gun firing in Cape Town, South Africa (a British colony which gained independence in 1961). Mayor, Sir Harry Hands, institutionalised this on May 14th 1918 as one minute of thanksgiving for those who had returned alive and a second to remember the fallen. Interestingly, although the King and his private secretary, Lord Stamfordham credited Fitzpatrick for the idea, the Australian government officially recognises Honey for initially bringing the concept into the public domain.

Whatever the political misgivings surrounding a country’s participation in war, this is a measure of respect to those who died in the name of their country. Hence, citizens have a duty to hold their government to account and ensure that their fellow men and women are not exploited in unnecessary wars of greed and imperialism. Such publications who use remembrance days such as this to make political points and legitimise establishment wars are truly at odds with the concept of respect and reflection itself.

British political leaders commemorate Remembrance Day 2016

 

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