Canadian Military Milestones in the 20th Century

27-Feb 1991 Gulf War hostilities end
16-Jan 1991 Gulf War begins
27-Jul 1953 Korean War Ends
25-Jun 1950 Korean War begins
15-Aug 1945 Victory Over Japan Day (V-J Day)
19-Aug 1942 Dieppe Raid
10-Sep 1939 Canada declares war on Germany
11-Nov 1918 Armistice Day - World War I ends
06-Dec 1917 Halifax Explosion
09-Apr 1917 Battle of Vimy Ridge
04-Aug 1914 World War I begins

"2-Minute Wave of Silence" Revives a Time-honoured Tradition

The Royal Canadian Legion is asking all Canadians to pause in silence for two minutes at 11:00 a.m. The “2-Minute Wave of Silence” will sweep across Canada starting in Newfoundland like a wave as the clock strikes 11:00 a.m. in each time zone. The Legion is asking people to stop whatever they are doing, wherever they are, and quietly reflect on war, and peace, and those who gave up everything for us.

The “2-Minute Wave of Silence” will do two things, according to Legion Dominion President, Chuck Murphy. “It will serve as an eloquent tribute to the 116,000 young men and women who died defending our country during the 20th Century. It will also help to bring remembrance back to its roots, back to everyday people— especially those who are not able to attend a ceremony at a local cenotaph, or watch the national broadcast on television.”

The tradition of observing two minutes of silence began far from large formal ceremonies. It sprang from a heartfelt need to do something to honour those who had given so much. In fact, until the 1950s, a two minute silence was commonplace throughout most of Canada.

There have been several accounts of the origin of the two minute silence, but most agree that it began in South Africa before the end of the 1st World War. In April, 1918, the German offensive on the western front was still in full force, and there was fear, not only for loved ones, but for the outcome of the war. As losses mounted, the Mayor of Capetown, Sir Harry Hands made a general appeal to citizens to observe a special silence. On May 14th, the noon canon sounded, followed by a bugler playing the “Last Post”, and then “Reveille” to signal the end of the silence. This was repeated every day until the Armistice was signed at 11:00 a.m. on November 11, 1918.

A local correspondent described the scene as the town fell quiet, “It was a most solemn and inspiring function, the effect was magical. There was always a great crowd in Adderly Street at midday, but the observance seems even more striking in the less frequented streets.”

A Reuters correspondent in Capetown cabled a description of the event back to London, and from there word spread to Canada and Australia. Within a few weeks reports were being received in London that the silence was being observed in towns across the Commonwealth. At the conclusion of World War I, the two minute silence became the accepted form of remembrance.

“As there are fewer and fewer surviving veterans, this seems like a fitting way to pass the torch. The formal ceremonies will continue, in fact they have been growing over the past few years, but as this is the last Remembrance Day of the 20th Century, we would like to see as many Canadians as possible take part. We hope that the 2-Minute Wave of Silence will help them do that.” Mr. Murphy said in conclusion.

For more information contact the Royal Canadian Legion, 359 Kent St. Ottawa, ON K2P 0R7, , or call (613) 235-5180.