The time and date of hostilities ending in World War I, 11 am on
November 11, 1918, have attained important significance
internationally, as has the two minutes silence to remember all
who died or were injured in that war and all conflict thereafter,
and it all began in Cape Town.
When the first casualty lists recording the horrific loss of life
in the Battle of the Somme were announced in Cape Town, local
businessman JA Eagar suggested the congregation of his church
observe a special pause to remember South Africans on the list.
In May 1918, the then mayor of Cape Town, later Sir Harry Hands,
initiated a period of silence to remember events unfolding on the
battlefields of Europe. The pause would follow the firing of the
noon gun, the most audible signal to coordinate the event across
The boom of the noon gun for the three-minute midday pause for the
first time on May 14, 1918 became the signal for all activity to
Sir Percy Fitzpatrick, author of Jock of the Bushveld, was inspired
to start an annual commemoration across the empire.
After two failed approaches, he forwarded his concept to the king’s
private secretary and a message from King George V was carried in
The Times of London on November 7, 1919.
It stated, inter alia, his desire and hope that at the hour when
the armistice came into force there may be, for the brief space of
two minutes, a complete suspension of all normal activities.
Giles said the two-minute pause has been adopted around the world,
regardless of race, colour, religion or culture, as the greatest
mark of respect anyone can collectively pay to those who lost their
lives in honour of their countries.
Worldwide the two-minute pause is the silent echo of Cape Town’s
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