Militarism Through Commemoration +Part I+

On November 11th 1937 the Silence of Armistice Day was broken for the first time in 18 years. Stanley Storey, an ex-serviceman, broke through the silent ranks of the bereaved and mourning, crying out, “All this hypocrisy when you are preparing for another war?!”[1] Storey was promptly tackled to the ground by policemen and dragged away from the commemoration service, yet his indictment against Armistice Day and its Silence had been heard. The Armistice Day ceremony was being held in juxtaposition; Britain collectively mourned for the fallen soldiers of the First World War, ‘the war to end war,’ whilst it raced headlong into a second European conflict.

Since 1919 Britain had honoured its war-dead from the 1914-18 conflict through commemoration on Armistice Day, focused on a service at the Cenotaph in London and the observation of a nationwide two-minute Silence. The purpose of this day of commemoration was to honour those who had given their lives for the nation during the First World War, as well as to provide some comfort for the bereaved that the war dead had left behind. The service sought to bring meaning and purpose to the 4 year conflict and declared that it stood as a symbol of enduring peace for future generations. In 1939, Armistice Day services were suspended indefinitely as Britain prepared for another gruelling conflict with Germany and its allies. How could the British honour those who gave their lives for peace when the nation was once more plunged into war?

[1] Daily Mail, November 12th 1937, Man who broke the Silence at Cenotaph pg.11

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Page 1 of the Warren Times-Mirror, November 11th, 1937. Note the use of the term lunatic; Storey had recently escaped from a mental asylum and the media were quick to use mental illness as a reason for his willingness to interrupt the Silence.

 

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