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Back in the Day: the first 'Minutes of Silence'

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Back in the Day: the first 'Minutes of Silence'


November 11, 1919 To mark the first anniversary of the Armistice that officially ended the Great War, two minutes of silence are observed to remember those who had given their lives in the conflict. It was the first time such a tribute had been organised on such a scale. The idea was first mooted by Australian journalist and soldier Edward George Honey, who wrote a letter published in a London newspaper in May 1919 suggesting five minutes of silence as “Communion with the Glorious Dead who won us peace.” Honey was said to have been saddened when the signing of the Armistice Treaty in 1918 was met with dancing in the streets. Later in 1919 James Percy Fitzpatrick, a South African financier and politician, proposed a moment of silence to the British monarch King George V. Both Honey and Fitzpatrick were invited to a remembrance ceremony rehearsal at Buckingham Palace, where it was decided that five minutes was perhaps too long and that two minutes of silence would be more appropriate. It was agreed the silence would begin at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the time at which the Armistice was signed.
The practice of a ‘Moment of Silence’ has been adopted internationally as a tribute to the dead, and one that people can take part in regardless of their religious beliefs. There are variations: in most cases the silence is observed for one minute, although three minutes and four minutes have been used in some instances to remember the victims of terrorist attacks in Madrid, London and New York.

Also on November 11: outlawed Australian bushranger Ned Kelly is hanged (1880); World War I – fighting stops with the signing of the Armistice Treaty (1918); Space shuttle Columbia begins its first mission (1982); death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat (2004).

Born on November 11: Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821), Daniel Ortega (1945), Demi Moore (1962), Leonardo DiCaprio (1974), Philipp Lahm (1983).

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