Friday 19th Apr 2019

Zodidi Dano - Cape Argus - 

TRADITION: Petty Officer Alistair Maasdorp loads a cannon in preparation for the Noon Day Gun firing. Picture: Candice Chaplin -

Cape Town - Former Cape Town mayor Harry Hands introduced the poignant tradition of a two-minute silence, and the firing of the Noon Day Gun on May 14, 1918, to remember his son, who died in World War I. Yesterday, 100 years later, his gesture was remembered with the firing of a volley of shots by the Noon Day Gun.

Hands’s son, Reginald Hands, known as Reg, died on April 20, 1918. On May 14, 1918 - a hundred years ago - the Cape Town mayor led the observance of two minutes of silence in Adderley Street at noon, signalled by the Noon Day Gun.

An article written by Anton Taylor and published in The Old Diocesan, a Bishops Magazine, said Reginald Hands was among the 112 Bishops old boys who died in the Great War, which claimed the lives of more than 15 million people and saw about 20 million wounded.

A descendant of Harry, Reginald Hands, 67, said it was a very humbling privilege to be part of the Hands family.

“Harry had three sons, including Reginald, whom I am named after. They were all very sporty. All three of them played cricket, two of them for South Africa, while Reg also played rugby for England.”

It is alleged that Reginald left the country to fight in France after participating in the South West African Campaign. He died as a result of poison gas.

It is said that as a result of the devastating of the loss of his son, Harry introduced the two minutes of silence that would be practised daily. One minute was to honour those who returned alive, and the other to remember those who had died.

This gesture captured the heart of Sir Percy Fitzpatrick, author of Jock of the Bushveld, who had also lost his son, Nugent, in France. Fitzpatrick wrote a letter suggesting that King George V introduce this practice, which is now observed as part of Armistice Day.

Armistice Day is marked annually on the 11th day of the 11th month at 11am.

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