‘As the hour struck a great silence swept over the town. People halted in their walks, chatter ceased as if by magic, traffic stopped and the rumbling note of industry stayed.’

Daily Express 12 November 1919

By half-past ten there was a great gathering round the Cenotaph, and the bearers of wreaths had difficulty passing them on to be placed at the base of the column. The mounted police, with great skill and courtesy diverted the crowd from the main road to the foot paths, and here the sightseers stood until the murmur passed down from Whitehall, ‘Lloyd George is coming’. There was a slight rush forward.

Few of those assembled saw the Prime Minister with bent white head, carrying a wreath of orchids and roses with background of laurels... Then the hush came... There is nothing under heaven so full of awe as the complete silence of a mighty crowd.

The impact of the 'silence' may be hard to understand today.
A correspondent of The Times described how he had been travelling on a bus with friends through London and in the minutes before the silence, they had been ‘discussing with a forced cynicism of which each of us was secretly ashamed, some supposedly humorous sides of the proposed standstill’. Just before eleven o'clock the bus stopped outside a small factory. The correspondent saw, ‘Ten or a dozen factory workers wearing their overalls but not their caps, standing rigidly at attention. Glancing along the road we saw at irregular intervals perhaps twenty people, mostly women...some with children in perambulators. Without exception they stood still... It was then that we four cynics...realized that we too were on our feet with our heads uncovered’. At the end of the silence the factory workers gave three cheers for victory and the four 'scoffers' on the bus, three of whom, significantly, were ex-soldiers, joined the cheering.

The impact of the 'Silence' had been enormous and it was immediately obvious that the general public had responded to the appeal; it now seemed to many people that the Silence (as it was soon to be called) ought to become a regular act of commemoration: 'Do not let us neglect so fine an instrument. Let us at the eleventh hour of the eleventh month of every year hold this service of pity and thanksgiving' . Not everyone thought this to be appropriate.

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