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So what was the purpose of this silence? Fitzpatrick explained: '... it is not in mourning, but in greeting that we should salute them [the soldiers who died] on that day. When we are divided it may serve to remind us of the greater things that we hold in common. When we are gone it may help to bring home to those who come after us the meaning, the nobility and the unselfishness of the great sacrifice by which freedom is assured.'

It is with these three sentences, written a few weeks before the public knew about any commemoration, that the tone and 'meaning' of remembrance was largely fixed.

 Did people hold any 'great things' in common? Is it noble to be cut to pieces by machine-gun fire, or gassed, or disabled for life?

Such public commemoration of war had another appeal; it would strengthen the position of 'the man who won the war', as Lloyd George was being called by his supporters, and no doubt contributed to the Prime Minister's enthusiasm for most commemorative ideas. The proposed silence can also be seen as a ritual which legitimised the war.

Fitzpatrick further explained who he thought the silence was for: 'It is due to the women who have lost, suffered and born so much, with whom the thought is ever present. It is due to the children that they know to whom they owe their dear-bought freedom. It is due to the men and from them as men. But far and away above all else it is due to those who gave their all, who sought no recompense, and whom we can never repay - our Glorious and Immortal Dead.'

On the 5th November 1919 the War Cabinet, despite some reservations, believed that the 'realisation of the nation of its deliverance from the great perils of the war', was more important than the objection that 'a precedent would be established, which, in remote years, after the passage of the present generation, might conceivably prove inconvenient'.

What do you make of Fitzpatrick's explanation? Can it be true that those participating in the war ‘sought no recompense’?

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