The ‘2 minutes silence’ is a South African gift to the Act of Remembrance
Many people do not know that the two minutes silence and its association to Armistice Day (11/11/11) or Remembrance Sunday has a South African origin.
How did this unique practice become a worldwide standard for remembrance?
This rare image taken in 1918 shows South African civilians stopping what they are doing in the middle of Cape Town and standing to attention for two minutes silence, signalled when the noon day gun was fired.
Sir Percy Fitzpatrick (author of Jock of the Bushveld) was so moved by the dignity and effectiveness of the two minute pause in Cape Town, that the date and time of the Armistice inspired him to suggest an annual commemoration on an Imperial basis.
Sir Percy wrote to Lord Milner and described the silence that fell on the city during this daily ritual. Taking into consideration that the guns of war finally fell silent at 11:00 on the 11th day of the 11th month (November), Sir Percy felt that the idea of observing the two-minute silence at that time and on that date, would give the Act of Homage great impact, and proposed that this became an official part of the annual service on Armistice Day.
His letter was approved by King George V, and proclaimed by decree on the 7th November 1919.