In the immediate post war period, concern that the example of the Russian Revolution might spread preoccupied the government. The mood of returning soldiers was also uncertain - there had been mutinies caused by anger at the delays in demobilisation. In Germany the extreme left and right had recruited soldiers and sailors in large numbers and there was concern the same might happen in Britain. Employment for returning soldiers was not always easy to find and resentment of the securely employed men who did not go to fight was frequent. While the victory parade appealed to many the objections to it from around the country hinted at possible problems.
If ever there was a need to unite people the autumn of 1919 was that time. Despite reservations the 11th of November and the simplicity of the proposed silence was becoming increasingly attractive - a national ritual which explained the significance of the war and united people in their appreciation of those that died.
Early in November 1919, just a few days before the anniversary of the armistice, Sir Percy Fitzpatrick, former High Commissioner in South Africa, sent a note to the Cabinet proposing a public commemoration:
In the hearts of our people there is a real desire to find some lasting expression of their feeling for those who gave their lives in the war. They want something done now while the memories of the sacrifice are in the minds of all; for there is the dread - well grounded in experience - that those who had gone will not always be the first in the thoughts of all and that when the fruits of their sacrifice become our daily bread, there will be few occasions to remind us of what we realise clearly today.
During the War, we in South Africa observed what we called the “Three minutes’ pause”. At noon each day, all work, all talk and all movements were suspended for three minutes that we might concentrate as one in thinking of those - the living and the dead - who had pledged and given themselves for all that we believe in...
Silence, complete and arresting, closed upon the city - the moving, awe-inspiring silence of great Cathedrals where the smallest sound must seem a sacrilege...Only those who have felt it can understand the overmastering effect in action and reaction of a multitude moved suddenly to one thought and one purpose.
| what was the purpose of this silence?