Time to remember: an event and exhibition to mark the first two minutes silence, May 1916

Remembering the first two minutes silence with music, commemoration and a May Day community fair in central Farnham

“This is one of those stories you stumble across which stops you in your tracks and asks you to reflect on the specialness of the place we live. It’s a story of Farnham as a progressive, compassionate community. It is a gift to be working with organisations and individuals from across the town to mark the centenary as a moment of remembrance and renewal.”

Gavin Stride, Artistic Director of time to remember and Director of Farnham Maltings

time to remember

The world’s first two minute silence took place in Farnham in 1916. To celebrate and commemorate the centenary of that historic moment Farnham Maltings, along with local partners, invites the people of Farnham to join together for event with music, commemoration and a May Day fair.

the history

In May 1916, a group of local farmers held an Agricultural Jumble Sale and General Fair to raise funds for the Red Cross. Amidst the turmoil of WWI, the people asked if it was appropriate to hold that kind of event. So, the programme for the event included a two minute silence “as a token of respect to the memory of those who have fallen in the War, to the Wounded, to the Prisoners and to those who are fighting for their Country”. This was probably the first two minutes silence in the world, to remember those affected by conflict.

The nation then held a two minutes silence on 11 November 1919, for the first anniversary of Armistice Day and it has now become an international symbol of honour and remembrance.

Research undertaken by Farnham Museum suggest that this proposal of a two minutes silence was the first of its kind and was later suggested to the Home Office; although, when a two minutes silence was held on the first anniversary of Armistice in 1919, credit was given to the King or at least his advisors.

The original event was a May Day celebration and auction. People from all across the town contributed to an event to raise funds for the Red Cross. There was an opening ceremony on a raised platform on Castle Street where the Farnham Herald later reported:

“Canon B.K. Cunningham [representing the Bishop of Winchester and the Rector of Farnham] in opening the proceedings, said after the bugles had sounded there would be two minutes silence, during which they would think with thankfulness before God of those who had laid down their lives for their country, the sick and the wounded, and those who were now fighting for King, Country and Cause.

The silence which followed was quite impressive. The lowing of cattle, and noise of other stock and the occasional passing of traffic were the only sounds which broke the stillness, until someone started the National Anthem, all three verses being sung.”

The auction raised over £1,600 and the fair included steam fair rides, morris dancing, a garland procession with crowned May queens and an exhibition of war trophies.

museum exhibition

To celebrate this occasion the Museum of Farnham is holding an exhibition, also called time to remember, in parallel with this event.

Through stories from Farnham’s past, and experiences of men and women of Farnham who served in WWI, this exhibition will explore the origins of the silence and the significance of the remembrance event.

There is also opportunity for members of the public to submit their own stories of remembrance to the museum’s archive.

The exhibition is open 01 March to 29 October 2016. Find more information on the event page.

the event

On Sunday 1 May 2016, Farnham will pause again to remember this historic event.

In the original event, in what was to become a mid-point of the First World War, Mr J. Alfred Eggar said “This is spring time, and it is our national way of speaking of hope”. We are continuing these themes of both remembrance and renewal a century later.

The event will consist of a procession, including representatives from across the local community, to a stage on Castle Street at the site of the original event. There will be a performance of a specially-commissioned piece of music, composed by Ben Mason (School Bandmaster (Warrant Officer) at The Royal Military School of Music) and performed by musicians, including 3PWRR marching band and pupils from Weydon School, and a two minute silence.

There will then be a procession to Gostrey Meadow for a May Day community fair. There will be a range of family activities, historical re-enactment, along with more music and May Day performances.

We invite you to come and bring a picnic.

partners and supporters

This event and exhibition has been funded and supported by Surrey Armed Forces Community Covenant, Heritage Lottery Fund, Farnham Town Council and Tindle Newspapers.

Other key supporters include 3PWRR and Surrey Civilian Military Partnership Board.

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