Origins Of “Armistice Day” (a.k.a “Poppy Day”).
.by Anura Guruge
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Part of My “Poppy Day” series on this Blog.
On May 8, 1919, a letter to the editor signed ‘Warren Foster’ appears in London Evening News proposing the first anniversary of the armistice ending World War I 1918 November 11th, be commemorated by several moments of silence.
The author, actually an Australian journalist named George Edward Honey, living in London (U.K.), after being invalided out of the in the British army with a leg injury, was concerned about the huge celebrations on the streets on “Victory Day” 1918.
He suggested a silent commemoration of the sacrifices made and the lives lost during the war would be a far more appropriate way to mark the first anniversary of its end – the first “Armistice Day” in 1919.
“Five little minutes only, silent minutes of national remembrance. A very sacred intercession. Communion with the Glorious Dead who won us peace, and from the communion new strength, hope and faith in the morrow. Church services, too, if you will, but in the street, the home, the theatre, anywhere, indeed, where Englishmen and their women chance to be, surely in this five minutes of bitter-sweet silence there will be service enough.”
Honey’s letter did not immediately bring about a change but a similar suggestion was made to Sir Percy Fitzpatrick that October, reaching King George V, who on November 7, 1919, made an official proclamation, practicality setting it as a 2 minute period of silence (as opposed to ‘5’), beginning with the first stroke of the hour of 11 am November 11th across the Empire.
We today are used to gatherings at local cenotaphs but most weren’t up yet in 1919. These monuments seem to have killed the brilliant idea of a stoppage in ordinary places to reflect individually, no dignitaries and school children and old guys having photo ops.