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Something magnificent being part of a noisy crowd of 50,000 people who all fall silent…

5 years ago

Which Part of “A Minute’s Silence” Don’t Some People Understand?

Before kick-off of the Newcastle v Cardiff match, an announcement was made. I can tell you exactly what was said as I’ve got it recorded on my phone.

The Stadium Announcer said:

“In memory of all those who have sacrificed their lives for their country, both teams will now observe a minute’s silence after the laying of the two wreaths. It will begin and end on the referee’s whistle.”

The first whistle blew.

The great majority of the crowd fell silent..but some didn’t. They started to clap enthusiastically.

After a short while, the noise started to die away. I dare say the people clapping were coming to realise that they were dropping a bollock. Eventually, they stopped – and in the end we got about 40 seconds of silence, pretty much impeccably observed. Then the second whistle. Then a great roar from the crowd.

Now I know that in recent years the idea of the ‘minute’s applause’ has become increasingly popular. I’m not a great fan. However, I can sort of see that in some circumstances it might be appropriate. If some light entertainer has died in his sleep after a happy and fulfilled life it might seem more fitting to celebrate his life than to mourn his passing.

That though is not what we were supposed to be doing at St James Park on the 5th November. We weren’t remembering the life and many jokes of Bob Monkhouse, or the gentle Irish banter of Terry Wogan. We were commemorating the deaths of mostly young, fit men who died well before their time. Lots of them were brave and went off willingly; some of them weren’t brave but they had to go anyway.

They died by their thousands – perhaps lying in agony in no-man’s land, or sinking into dark bone-cold seas, or incinerating in burning crates thousands of feet in the air. It’s just about the last thing that merits a round of applause.

You can just about excuse the very young and I daresay out of 52,000 people there are bound to be a few with such severe ADHD that they are incapable of being still and silent for one whole minute.

But really, anyone who has lived for any period of time on these shores should know that we have a well-established way of remembering the dead on Remembrance Day. Watch the Queen at the Cenotaph if you want to see how it’s done. She isn’t clapping, or letting off party poppers, or leading a chorus of ‘For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow’. Still and silent – that’s all.

There is something magnificent in being part of a noisy crowd of 50,000 people who all fall silent, so you can hear the odd stifled cough from the other end of the stadium.

Maybe next year we’ll manage it for the full minute.


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