In 1918, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the First World War ended.
The first Remembrance Day was held on that same day in 1919, to commemorate the end of hostilities the previous year.
An Australian journalist wrote a letter to the London Evening News suggesting a respectful silence to remember those who had given their lives in the First World War. As a result of this King George V issued a proclamation which called for a two minute silence:
“All locomotion should cease, so that, in perfect stillness, the thoughts of everyone may be concentrated on reverent remembrance of the glorious dead.”
Since then, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, people across the UK, and British troops and citizens around the world observe a two minute silence as a mark of respect and remembrance to those who have died in conflict so that we may live in peace.
Today, I stood in silence on the balcony of my Virginian townhome, watching the leaves blow off the trees on a warm, sunny, November day, thinking of the many young men and women, younger than myself, who never lived to see a day like this. As the wind whistled through the trees, I recalled standing in silence at Ardenhurst, my old school, out in a blustery field by the swimming pool, standing in rows by the school’s memorial to the “old boys” from the school who had died in The Great War, and in World War II. The rows of pupils, standing in blazers and caps, poppies in our lapels, in the damp, cold, clinging fog of November, reading the names of those who had died, and seeing that so many families lost brothers, fathers, sons, in both wars. I recalled standing with my Nan and Grandad, watching the poppy wreaths being laid at the Cenotaph in Studley. I recalled how every village, and small church contained a list of local men and boys who had fallen and died on distant fields. Then I thought of my brother, recently returned from Iraq, placing a wreath for his unit at the memorial in our home village today.
It is important that we never forget.