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
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:
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.