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November 11, 2016

Why is remembrance marked by two minutes of silence?

single-sided deafness

Silence is not always part of our everyday lives: noise interrupts the majority of the waking day for most people. In a series of blog posts, I will be exploring ‘silence’ and ‘noise’, and I’ve chosen to start today with a look at the history of the two-minute silence we in the UK observe on the 11th of November. As the clock strikes 11, we observe two minutes of silence in remembrance of the brave servicemen and women who lost their lives fighting for their country.

But why is remembrance marked by two minutes’ silence?

If you’re in a public place today as the clocks strike 11, you will notice a respectful hush descend, as in our towns and cities, a two-minute silence is observed.

At 5 a.m. on November 11, 1918, the Armistice was signed. Six hours later, at eleven o’clock, the guns of Europe fell silent.

Sudden silence

After years of bitter fighting and much bloodshed, The First World War was over. The silence of the ceasefire must have felt incredibly strange after the cacophony of battle – eerie, no doubt – possibly surreal, as though the sound had been switched off all of a sudden.

At the same time, on the same day the following year, the first Armistice Day was observed throughout Britain and the Commonwealth, in commemoration of the end of the war.

Two-minute silence

It was an Australian journalist, Edward George Honey, who first proposed ‘a respectful silence’ to remember those who had given their lives in the First World War. And, on November 7, 1919, 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.”

Remembrance Day

Since 1919, the second Sunday of November came to be known as ‘Remembrance Sunday’ and, a two-minute silence observed at cenotaphs throughout the UK. In 1945, ‘Armistice Day’ became ‘Remembrance Day’ in order to include remembrance of all those who had fallen in the both World Wars, and in other conflicts. Since 1945, more than 12,000 British servicemen and women have been killed or injured in conflicts. In the United States, Armistice Day was renamed ‘Veterans Day’ in 1954, at the end of the Korean War.  It is a federal and state holiday and is observed with memorial ceremonies and parades.

I have observed the two-minute silence in a variety of settings from, a classroom to an office, a cenotaph to a hotel lobby. Last year, I observed it from a hospital bed.  

Wherever you are today, I hope you’ll join with me in observing two minutes silence today.

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.”

Author Details
Phonak hEARo, Angie is a freelance journalist and content writer. Angie was diagnosed with Otosclerosis in her right ear at the age of 30. In 2011, she suffered sudden profound hearing loss in her left ear. She uses a Phonak CROS II with a Phonak Audéo V hearing aid. You can follow Angie on Twitter @hearinglosshour and join in #HearingLossHour on the first Tuesday of the month.