The Broadcast of Silence

The architect of the original cenotaph, Lutyens' sketch
A flat column with a coffin on top

The tension of universal silence, as an act of remembrance, had appealed to King George. He had heard about a cessation of all activity happening in Cape Town, and wrote to the Times. The original Cenotaph in Whitehall had been a temporary structure of wood and plaster, a column with the shape of a coffin on top. Lord Curzon had wanted glorious military parades and naval manoeuvres to celebrate the German signing of the peace treaty, but Lloyd-George was a surer judge of the public mood and endorsed the king’s wishes. (Lutyens original sketches for the cenotaph have been on display at Constitution Arch in Hyde Park Corner.)

So, one year after the signing of the treaty in a railway carriage in France 11/11/19, the crowds at the temporary cenotaph fell silent for two minutes in a reverential remembrance of the Glorious Dead. This ritual has survived around the world ending with the last line of Laurence Binyon’s poem being repeated by the crowd, “We will remember them.”

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