At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember them
Armistice Day Armistice Day 11-11 Armistice Day

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning. We will remember them.

Two Minutes of Silence and Poppies

The Two Minutes of Silence was started by Sir James Percy Fitzpatrick. He was born in King William's Town in 1862 and died in Uitenhage in 1931, eldest son of James Coleman Fitzpatrick, judge of the Supreme Court of the Cape Colony, and Jenny Fitzgerald, both from Ireland. The couple had 4 children: Nugent, Alan, Oliver, and Cecily.

Our own Tannie Mossie (Joan Abrahams of Bloemfontein) wrote a well-researched book in the 1990s about this.

Time from Africa - A two minute silent pause to remember - 11:00 on the 11th
of the 11th month

It shows the tradition started off in Cape Town with the noon gun on Signal Hill. It was the idea of Sir Percy Fitzpatrick, author of Jock of the Bushveld. Joan's book also shows the correct silence - one minute for one person and two minutes (for more than one person - one minute for the dead and one minute for the survivors).

Sir James Percy Fitzpatrick - Photo Wikipedia
Sir James Percy Fitzpatrick
Photo - Wikipedia

In 1916, Sir Percy attended a church service in Cape Town and a moment of silence was held for dead soldiers. When he heard that 11 November 1918 was going to be observed as Armistice Day in London, he asked for a two minute silence throughout the British Empire as a tribute to dead soldiers.

Sir Percy's son, Percy Nugent George, was a Major in the Union Defence Force. He was killed in France in 1917.

Major P.N.G. Fitzpatrick
South African Heavy Artillery, 71st Siege Battery
Died 14 Dec 1917, age 28
Born in Johannesburg.
Volunteered on 04 Aug 1914 and served in the Rand Rebellion and German South
West Africa with the Imperial Light Horse.
Buried at Red Cross Corner Cemetery, Beugny

Sir Harry Hands, then mayor of Cape Town, and councillor R.R. Bryden, already observed a moment of silence after the firing of the noon gun was started. Sir Percy's suggestion was taken up and a two minute silence was held in Cape Town on 14 December 1918, a year after Nugent's death. Cape Town became the first city in the world to observe the two minute silence.

WWI ended on 11 Nov 1918 with the guns stopped on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. This is why 11 Nov was chosen in 1919 as the day to remember war dead.

At first, it was known as Armistice Day (armistice meaning an agreement between enemies to stop fighting). Now it is mostly known as Remembrance Day or Poppy Day.

The poppy story goes back to 1915 when a Canadian soldier, serving as a doctor, John McCrae, was working in France. He wrote a poem that year about the poppies growing on the graves of dead soldiers: In Flanders fields the poppies blow, Between the crosses, row on row... John McCrae died of meningitis later in 1918.

An American poet, Moina Michael, read the poem and bought poppies to give to friends. She also sold poppies and gave the money to needy ex-soldiers.  Eventually the Americans had women in war-ravaged France sewing artificial poppies and the money raised went to war survivors.

In Britain, former soldiers faced another battle - getting on with life. Ex-servicemen's societies united in 1921 to form the British Legion, to provide support to ex-servicemen, especially the disabled, and their families.

A French woman involved in the artificial poppy sewing project in France suggested that the British Legion sell the poppies to raise money. The British Legion signed on and 1.5 million poppies were ordered for 11 Nov 1921. The first Poppy Appeal made 106,000. The British Legion set up its own poppy sewing project, using disabled ex-servicemen. By the end of the 20th century, the British Legion was selling over 32 million poppies per annum.

Poppies were chosen not only  because of the poem, but also because they were the only flowers that grew abundantly on the battlefields. They also only bloom for a short time, just like the young men and women killed in wars.

Copyright Anne Lehmkuhl 2006
South African Professional Genealogist

In Flanders Fields

Terry Kelly's 'A Pittance in Time', well worth waiting for this video to download
it would take an extremely hard heart not to shed a tear while watching it.

Lyrics and Sheet Music 'A Pittance in Time'

Poppy Day sticker, from my Dad's cupboard where he stuck all these little stickers over the years.  Photo D Coombe
Poppy Day Sticker
From my Dad's cupboard collection (1991)

Poppies on 11th hour of 11th day of 11th month
[An interesting read about Armistice Day South Africa]

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