Edward George Honey

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Edward George Honey
Born(1885-09-18)18 September 1885
Elsternwick, Victoria
Died25 August 1922(1922-08-25) (aged 36)
Northwood, London
Spouse(s)Amelia Josephine Honey,
née Toomey (m.1915)

Edward George Honey (18 September 1885 – 25 August 1922) was an Australian journalist who suggested the idea of five minutes of silence in a letter to a London newspaper in May 1919, about 6 months before the first observance of the Two-minute silence in London.

The Australian government officially credits him with being the originator of this tradition, observed on Armistice Day (now known as Remembrance Day), but no original sources from that time have been found to confirm this, and most non-Australian sources attribute its origin to Sir Percy Fitzpatrick. It is not known whether Honey was aware of the practice started in Cape Town on 14 May 1918, nearly a year earlier.


The son of Edward Honey, and Mary Honey, née Bolton, Edward George Honey was born at Elsternwick, Victoria on 18 September 1885.[1] His brother, William Henry Honey (1879-1959) was an author and publisher (W.H. Honey Publishing Co., Margaret-street, Sydney), who also worked in advertising.[2]

Honey married Amelia Josephine Toomey in England on 24 June 1915.[3][4]


Honey was educated at Caulfield Grammar School, in East St Kilda, from 1895, when he was 10 years old;[5][6] and, later, at Wellington College, in Mount Victoria, New Zealand.[7][Note 1]

Journalism career[edit]

In early 1904, at the age of 18, Honey became part owner of a small magazine which went bankrupt, then worked for his father trying to attract new clients in Queensland, without success, and then went to New Zealand as a journalist for a paper which folded, then returned to Melbourne to work for The Argus newspaper for a while.[8]

In 1909 he moved to London and worked for the Daily Mail. He suffered from poor health and, after many weeks in hospital was sent by Lord Northcliffe, owner of the newspaper, to recuperate at a hydro in Warwickshire. Before going there, however, Honey went to the races at Epsom the next day, where he was spotted by other journalists, and upon his return to London found his pay cheque and dismissal notice ready for him.[7]

He was then out of work for some time,[7] appearing as a visitor staying at a hotel in Bourton-on-the-Water in the Cotswolds in the 1911 Census, aged 26 and occupation shown as "author journalist".[9]

He apparently missed an opportunity for an assignment as a war correspondent in late 1914 working for one of London's leading editors, when his wife could not find him in all of "his usual haunts in Fleet Street".[7]

Military service[edit]

He enlisted in the Middlesex Regiment on 16 April 1915 as a clerk. He was not sent abroad and was discharged on 17 April 1916 under para 392, XXV (Services no longer required[10]).[11][7]

The concept of minutes of silence in remembrance of war[edit]

On 8 May 1919 Honey, who was working in London at the time, wrote a letter to the London Evening News newspaper, under the pen name Warren Foster,[12] suggesting an appropriate commemoration for the first anniversary of The Armistice Treaty which signalled the end of World War I, signed on 11 November 1918 at the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month".[13]

In the letter Honey said,

"Five little minutes only. Five silent minutes of national remembrance. A very sacred intercession. Communion with the Glorious Dead who won us peace, and from the communion new strength, hope and faith in the morrow. Church services, too, if you will, but in the street, the home, the theatre, anywhere, indeed, where Englishmen and their women chance to be, surely in this five minutes of bitter-sweet silence there will be service enough."[14]

Honey had been prompted to make the suggestion as he had been angered by the way in which people had celebrated with dancing in the streets on the day of the Armistice, and believed a period of silence to be a far more appropriate gesture in memory of those who had died at war.[7]

There is no record of Honey's letter having inspired the Remembrance Day tradition, but nearly 7 months later, on 27 October 1919, a suggestion from South African author and politician Sir Percy Fitzpatrick for a similar idea for a moment of silence was forwarded to George V, then King of the United Kingdom, who on 7 November 1919, formally requested the observance of the two minutes' silence throughout the British Empire.[15][16]

Honey died on 25 August 1922 at the age of 36, whilst a patient at the Mount Vernon Hospital.[17] He was buried in 'Section B' at Northwood Cemetery in North West London.[18] A small brass plaque commemorates his life and role in the two minutes silence.[19]

In 1937, his widow reported to a journalist that she had been left penniless after her husband's death.[20][21]

A monument of Honey was erected by Eric Harding near the Shrine of Remembrance in St Kilda Road, Melbourne in 1965.[22][23][24] It was unveiled by the Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Leo Curtis on 7 May 1965.[25]

Conflicting sources of information[edit]

Although the Australian government officially recognises Honey as having first raised the idea in the public domain,[26][27] George V officially thanked Fitzpatrick for his contribution of the Two Minute Pause in 1920.[28]

According to an Australian War Memorial article, Honey attended a trial of the event with the Grenadier guards at Buckingham Palace, as did Fitzpatrick (although it was not known whether they ever actually met or discussed their ideas).[29] However, Honey's wife (whom he called "Millie"), as reported by her friend M.F. Orford's 1961 article, states that he "never went out into the streets near the crowds at any time during the observance of the Silence…”, and they only heard about the observance of the first Two Minutes' Silence when the order was announced by Buckingham Palace.[7]

An Age reporter describes a visit to the Shrine of Remembrance in 2005 and being told by the Senior Custodian, Tony Bowers[30], as recorded in an article written by a Shrine researcher, that the Silence had not in fact been invented by Honey, but by Fitzpatrick based on the Cape Town Mayor's practice.[31]

A letter to an Australian newspaper in 1925 suggests that Honey may have been inspired by silences observed in the United States when the Maine was finally sunk in 1912.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Orford's article reports that he went to Melbourne Grammar School, but most sources report Caulfield.


  1. ^ Births: Honey, The Argus, (Monday, 21 September 1885), p.1.
  2. ^ "Honey, William Henry (1879-1959), p.215 in S. Lees & P. MacintyreThe Oxford Companion to Australian Children's Literature, Oxford University Press, (Melbourne) 1993.]
  3. ^ "England and Wales Marriage Registration Index, 1837-2005: Edward G Honey". FamilySearch. Retrieved 15 November 2018.
  4. ^ "England and Wales Marriage Registration Index, 1837-2005: Amelia J. Toomey". FamilySearch. Retrieved 15 November 2018.
  5. ^ Webber's (1981, p.297) Register of Caulfield Grammar Students has: "Honey, E.G. 1895-?".
  6. ^ "Remembrance Day and CGS". Labora. Caulfield Grammarians Association. 20 (12). October 1982.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g "'Lest We Forget - A Tribute to the late Edward George Honey' by M. F. Orford". State Library Victoria. Victorian historical magazine 1961, Issue 126, pages 119-123. Retrieved 14 November 2018.
  8. ^ Carbone, Suzie (12 November 2003). "Victorians pay tribute to the fallen". The Age.
  9. ^ "E G Honey: England and Wales Census, 1911". FamilySearch. Retrieved 16 November 2018.
  10. ^ "a guide to ww1 causes of discharge - paragraph 392 of king's regulations 1912,Para 392(xxv)". Retrieved 15 November 2018.
  11. ^ "Discharge paper for Edward Honey service no.10124". Findmypast.co.uk.
  12. ^ Jokiranta, Miyuki, "The little-known origin of the minute's silence", ABC News, 9 November 2018.
  13. ^ The "Two Minutes Silence", The Argus Week-End Magazine, (Saturday, 10 November 1945), p.3.
  14. ^ Australian Women's Weekly, He originated silent tribute to the fallen, 12 November 1969, p. 67.
  15. ^ Armistice Day: King's Message to the People of the Empire, The Sydney Morning Herald, (Saturday, 8 November 1919), p.12.
  16. ^ The Glorious Dead: Tribute to Their Memory: The King's Desire for Armistice Day, The Wanganui Herald, (Saturday, 8 November 1919), p.5.
  17. ^ a b 'Armistice', "Two Minutes Silence (Letter to the Editor)", The Australasian, (Saturday, 3 January 1925), p.39.
  18. ^ "Short film of Honey's grave in 1929". Pathe News archives.
  19. ^ "Grave of Edward George Honey". Flickr. Ian Wood.
  20. ^ "Widow of Australian Who Suggested the "Great Silence"". Northern Star. Lismore, NSW. 19 August 1937. p. 6. Retrieved 15 November 2018.
  21. ^ "Soldier's Widow Seeks Help". The Argus. Melbourne. 26 July 1937. p. 10. Retrieved 15 November 2018.
  22. ^ "Edward George Honey Memorial". City of Melbourne.
  23. ^ Messer, John (26 August 1969). "So there was a Man from Snowy River, after all". The Age. Archived from the original on 9 February 2006.
  24. ^ "Edward George Honey". Monument Australia.
  25. ^ Harding, Eric (November 1969). "Worldfamous Old Boy: But how many know of him?". Labora. Caulfield Grammarians Association. 15 (5).
  26. ^ Australian Department of Veterans' Affairs (2004). Remembrance Day – Silence Archived 24 November 2005 at the Wayback Machine.. Retrieved 11 November 2005.
  27. ^ Harding, Eric (7 November 1964). "The 11th. of the 11th.: Australian initiated the silence". The Canberra Times. p. 9. Retrieved 15 November 2018.
  28. ^ South African Legion The Two Minutes Silence. Retrieved 5 June 2014
  29. ^ "A period of silence". Australian War memorial.
  30. ^ "Shrine of Remembrance Melbourne Annual Report 2005/06" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 November 2018. Retrieved 14 November 2014.
  31. ^ "When silence speaks volumes". 10 August 2005. Archived from the original on 14 November 2018. Retrieved 14 November 2018.

Other References[edit]

  • Webber, Horace (1981). Years May Pass On... Caulfield Grammar School, 1881–1981. Centenary Committee, Caulfield Grammar School, (East St Kilda). ISBN 0-9594242-0-2.

External links[edit]