To honour those who have died as a consequence of war, Australians are encouraged to observe one minute’s silence as the clock strikes the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month – the moment the guns fells silent on the Western Front in 1918.
The observance takes place in other Allied countries, including New Zealand, Canada, South Africa and the United States. But how did the tradition originate?
Edward George Honey has been credited as the first person to suggest a period of silence in which to remember the fallen.
Born in St Kilda, Melbourne, Honey was an Australian journalist who worked in Fleet Street after World War I. In May 1919, he wrote to the London Evening News appealing for a five-minute silence to mark the first anniversary of the Armistice.
A few months later, Sir James Percy FitzPatrick suggested to the British Cabinet a complete suspension of normal activity for two minutes during which everyone could focus on reverent remembrance.
King George V responded to Sir James’ call by asking countries of the British Empire “to stand still in solemn remembrance of the dead, who died that the world might be free.”
Armistice Day was renamed Remembrance Day in 1946 to commemorate those who were killed in both World Wars. The custom of a short silence remains integral to Remembrance Day ceremonies throughout the Commonwealth, and in Australia on ANZAC Day.
Honey is recognized in Australia as the originator of the idea on a memorial plaque in central Melbourne, which records “Edward George Honey… A Melbourne journalist who, while living in London, first suggested the solemn ceremony of silence, now observed in all British countries in remembrance of those who died in war”.
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