Soldiers stand to attention at the Remembrance Day ceremony in Melbourne, November 11, 2015.
Using silence to remember war is now an ingrained tradition, but few know its origins are Australian.
Across the road from the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne, a humble plaque set in a constellation of rocks reads: In memory of Edward George Honey who died in 1922, a Melbourne journalist who while living in London first suggested the solemn ceremony of silence.
Honey, who served during World War I, was the first to publicly suggest silence as a vessel to hold the sorrow and loss of war — and even thoughts of triumph.
The idea came to him after November 11, 1918 — when news of the Allies’ victory sparked rowdy euphoria in the streets of London. Rather than celebrating, Honey’s thoughts turned to the colossal cost of the Great War.
“The world [had] been torn to pieces and he [was] clutching for a new vocab of remembrance,” says historian Bruce Scates from the Australian National University.
Close-up photo of Edward Honey plaque in Melbourne.
Edward Honey isn’t a household name — but his legacy lives on in memorial ceremonies today.
Photograph by Miyuki Jokiranta
Honey found a vocab more powerful than any words: silence.”Silence can mean something to everyone,”
Professor Bruce Scates says.”It’s an empty space you can fill with any thought you need to.”But most important for Honey, what it’s saying is we can share this silence, even if you haven’t lost someone immediately close to you“
The moment of silence filled a deep need in people to make sense of what had happened to them.