South Africa, India, Australia and New Zealand are among countries pausing for the centenary of the end of World War One to remember their countrymen who died fighting on the other side of the world.

In sombre ceremonies, huge crowds paid tribute to the millions of servicemen and women who gave their lives in the Great War.

For decades, ‘2 Minutes of Silence’ has been an integral part of Armistice Day, which commemorates the end of the War, in 1918.

Since 1919, the British Commonwealth has observed this annually at 11 a.m on the 11th of November.

The person who gave the ‘2 Minutes Silence’ idea to the British was South African author Sir Percy Fitzpatrick.

Sol Plaatje University Department of Heritage Studies’ Dr Garth Bennyworth explains, “The whole tradition of Remembrance Day actually started in Cape Town in May 1918 when the war was still in process. Every day at 12:00 there would be a 2 minute silence and this tradition carried on until the end of the war.

“So Sir Percy Fitzpatrick, a well-known SA novelist, whose own son had been killed in the war, was taken by the silence at the church that he attended. He then wrote to Lord Milner who then petitioned the King of Britain who immediately approved the idea. So when the first annual Armistice came up in 1919, the two minute silence was adopted and that was Cape Town and SA’s gift to the British Commonwealth,” Bennyworth added.

The City of Cape Town will also commemorate the centenary of the First World War. The deputy Executive Mayor, Ian Neilson, says the City will honour the men and women who lost their lives with a Remembrance ceremony.

Remembrance Day at the Union Buildings

Military veterans have gathered for Remembrance Day at the Union Buildings in Pretoria and in Cape Town.

Charles Ross, from the South African legion of Military Veterans, says this day is also observed for those who died in wars throughout history.

“In 1918, when WW1 ended, the Armistice was signed and came into effect on 11AM on 11 November 1918. And today commemorate all South Africans that served SA throughout its history. South Africans fought in just about every theatre WW1 and WW2. So much so that if you look at the Commonwealth war graves commission’s records, South Africans are buried in 56 countries across the world in 1200 cemeteries.”


World leaders in Paris for Remembrance Day

The official remembrance of 100 years commemoration of this day is hosted in France. Dozens of world leaders, including a South African delegation led by Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, are in Paris to commemorate the centenary of the end of World War One.

South Africa is among countries pausing to remember their countrymen who died fighting in the Great War.