Remembrance Day

A period of silence

Silence for one or two minutes is included in the ANZAC ceremony as a sign of respect. It offers a time for reflection on the significance of the whole ceremony.

The idea for the two minutes of silence observed at memorial services in memory of the dead is said to have originated with Edward George Honey, a Melbourne journalist and First World War veteran who was living in London in 1919. He wrote a letter to the London Evening News in which he appealed for a five-minute silence, amid the celebrations planned for the first anniversary of the end of the war to honour the sacrifice of those who had died.

In October 1919, Lord Milner put to the King a suggestion made by Sir Percy Fitzpatrick, a South African, for a period of silence on Armistice Day in all the countries of the empire. Fitzpatrick's idea had its origins in a period of silence that was observed at noon in Cape Town following heavy losses among the South African Brigade on the Western Front; this observance continued until the end of the war. The King readily agreed to the proposal, but after a trial with the Grenadier guards at Buckingham Palace, at which both Honey and Fitzpatrick were present, the period of silence was shortened to two minutes.


The connection between Honey and Fitzpatrick, and their ideas, if any existed at all, is unclear.

On 6 November 1919, George V sent a special message to the people of the Commonwealth:

I believe that my people in every part of the Empire fervently wish to perpetuate the memory of that Great Deliverance, and of those who laid down their lives to achieve it.


The King continued to ask that "a complete suspension of all our normal activities" be observed for two minutes at "the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" so that "in perfect stillness the thoughts of everyone may be concentrated on reverent remembrance of the Glorious Dead."

Two minutes of silence was first observed in Australia on that first anniversary of the armistice and continues to be observed on Remembrance Day today. The two-minute silence has over the years been incorporated into ANZAC Day and other commemorative ceremonies.