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The Origins of The Silent Minute

Family gathered around a radio

The Following is an extract taken from the book ‘Chalice Well: The Story of A Living Sanctuary’ published by The Chalice Well Trust

Wellesley Tudor Pole as a young officer
Wellesley Tudor Pole as a young officer

During the fighting in the mountains around Jerusalem early in December 1917, Wellesley Tudor Pole (WTP) and another British officer were discussing the war and its possible aftermath. They were on the eve of another battle. One of the men, realised that his days on earth were to be shortened. “I shall not come through this struggle” he said, “and, like millions of other men in this war, it will be my destiny to go on now. You (WTP) will survive and live to see a greater and more vital conflict fought out in every continent and ocean and in the air. When that time comes, remember us. We shall long to play our part wherever we may be. Give us the opportunity to do so, for that war for us will be a righteous war. We shall not fight with material weapons then, but we can help you if you will let us. We shall be an unseen but mighty army. Give us the chance to pull our weight. You will still have “time” available as your servant. Lend us a moment of it each day and through your Silence give us an opportunity. The power of Silence is greater than you know. When those tragic days arrive, do not forget us.”

Next day the speaker was killed. WTP was severely wounded; stranded behind enemy lines he managed to get back to the British forces. It was then that the idea of a daily moment of united prayer and silence was born, becoming known as the Silent Minute, and eventually signalled by the chiming and striking of Big Ben at 9’o clock each evening.

The Silent Minute: Advent

The opportunity suggested in 1917 came during the evacuation from Dunkirk in the spring of 1940 when Britain stood unprotected and alone. Men and women of goodwill in Britain, the Commonwealth and elsewhere were asked to devote one minute of their time at nine each evening to pray for peace and to create a channel between the visible and the invisible worlds through which divine help and inspiration could be received. This dedicated minute had the support of H.M. King George VI, Prime Minister Winston Churchill and the Cabinet and many other leading figures in church and state. The minute was observed on land, sea and air, on the battlefields, in air raid shelters, hospitals and prison camps. It cut across all social boundaries.

The BBC, continuously lobbied by WTP and the Big Ben Council, decided to restore the voice of Big Ben (stopped because of the war) to broadcasting on Remembrance Sunday, November 10th 1940 as a signal for the Silent Minute each evening. The practice continued on the BBC Home Service until the mid 1950s. Its value was publicly recognised not only by President Roosevelt in America but also by the Nazi high command. Soon after the end of hostilities in Europe in 1945, a high ranking German Officer was quoted as saying, “During the war you had a secret weapon for which we could find no counter-measure and which we did not understand but it was very powerful. It was associated with the striking of Big Ben at nine each evening. I believed you called it ‘The Silent Minute.’”

The Original Silent Minute Flyer
The Original Silent Minute Flyer

A copy of the book ‘Chalice Well: The Story of a Living Sanctuary’ which the above extract is taken from is available from the Chalice Well Shop.

This fascinating book containing unseen images and untold stories from with the Chalice Well and David Russell archives. A must read for anyone with an interest in or connection to the Well.

Within the pages of this book, you will find the unfolding story of this ’living sanctuary’. At a time in human history when we have realised the finite nature of the biosphere/planet, a natural place of peace and contemplation where the veil between the worlds is thin, takes a more important role.

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