May 8

This Day in History

World War I

May 8, 1919:

New celebration of Armistice Day proposed

On May 8, 1919, Edward George Honey, a journalist from Melbourne, Australia, living in London at the time, writes a letter to the London Evening News proposing that the first anniversary of the armistice ending World War I—concluded on November 11, 1918—be commemorated by several moments of silence.

Honey, who briefly served in the British army during World War I before being discharged with a leg injury, had been concerned by the way people in London had celebrated on the streets on the actual day of the armistice. In his letter to the newspaper the following May, he wrote that 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.

Five little minutes only, Honey wrote. Five 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."

Though Honey's letter did not immediately bring about a change, a similar suggestion was made to Sir Percy Fitzpatrick that October and reached King George V, who on November 17, 1919, made an official proclamation that at the hour when the Armistice came into force, the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, there may be for the brief space of two minutes a complete suspension of all our normal activities so that in perfect stillness, the thoughts of everyone may be concentrated on reverent remembrance of the glorious dead." Though it is not officially recorded that the king read and was influenced by Honey's letter, the journalist was invited by the king to a palace rehearsal of the two minutes of silence, a tradition which is still honored in much of the former British empire.

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