Harry Hands

Last updated

Sir Harry Hands KBE (18 September 1860 – 17 March 1948) was a British colonial politician, who served from 1915 to 1918 as mayor of Cape Town, South Africa. He is credited with instituting the first practice in the world of an official two-minute silence to honour loss of life in conflict, following the death of his eldest son Reginald Hands in World War I, at the suggestion of councillor Robert Rutherford Brydone, [1] . [2]

Cape Town Capital city of the Western Cape province and legislative capital of South Africa

Cape Town is the oldest city in South Africa, colloquially named the Mother City. It is the legislative capital of South Africa and primate city of the Western Cape province. It forms part of the City of Cape Town metropolitan municipality.

In the United Kingdom and other countries within the Commonwealth, a two-minute silence is observed as part of Remembrance Day to remember those who lost their lives in conflict. Held each year at 11.00am on 11 November, the silence coincides with the time in 1918 at which the First World War came to an end with the cessation of hostilities, and is generally observed at war memorials and in public places throughout the UK and Commonwealth. A two-minute silence is also observed on Remembrance Sunday, also at 11.00am.

Reginald Hands English rugby union player

Reginald Harry Myburgh Hands was a South African cricketer who played in one Test match in February 1914. He died in France as a result of injuries sustained on the Western Front during the First World War. His death was an indirect cause of the tradition of the two-minute silence, instigated by his father Sir Harry Hands when Mayor of Cape Town.


The eldest son of Josiah (postmaster, church warden, registrar, bootmaker and cordwainer) [3] and Selina Hands of Kings Norton, Worcestershire, Harry Hands was educated at King Edward's School, Birmingham. He married Aletta Catharina Myburgh (later OBE) in Worcestershire on 6 October 1886. Aletta was the daughter of Philip Albert Myburgh, a member of the Cape Legislative Assembly and a prominent member of society. [4]

Cordwainer Person who makes shoes

A cordwainer is a shoemaker who makes new shoes from new leather. The cordwainer's trade can be contrasted with the cobbler's trade, according to a tradition in Britain that restricted cobblers to repairing shoes. This usage distinction is not universally observed, as the word cobbler is widely used for tradespersons who make or repair shoes. A major British dictionary says that the word cordwainer is archaic, "still used in the names of guilds, for example, the Cordwainers' Company"; but its definition of cobbler mentions only mending, reflecting the older distinction. Play 14 of the Chester Cycle was presented by the guild of corvisors or corvysors.

Kings Norton area of Birmingham, England

Kings Norton, alternatively King's Norton, is an area of Birmingham, England. Historically in Worcestershire, it is also a Birmingham City Council ward within the Government of Birmingham, England. The district lies 6.5 miles south-southwest of Birmingham city centre and is within 1.5 miles of the north Worcestershire border.

Worcestershire County of England

Worcestershire is a county in the West Midlands of England. Between 1974 and 1998, it was merged with the neighbouring county of Herefordshire as Hereford and Worcester.

Hands himself was a member of the Legislative Assembly of the Cape Colony from 1912 to 1913 and in 1915–18 he served as mayor of Cape Town. [2] [5] During his term as mayor, he was also an incorporated accountant of the firm Hands and Shore in Cape Town.

Cape Colony Dutch and British colony in Southern Africa

The Cape of Good Hope, also known as the Cape Colony, was a British colony in present-day South Africa, named after the Cape of Good Hope. The British colony was preceded by an earlier Dutch colony of the same name, the Kaap de Goede Hoop, established in 1652 by the Dutch East India Company. The Cape was under Dutch rule from 1652 to 1795 and again from 1803 to 1806. The Dutch lost the colony to Great Britain following the 1795 Battle of Muizenberg, but had it returned following the 1802 Peace of Amiens. It was re-occupied by the UK following the Battle of Blaauwberg in 1806, and British possession affirmed with the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1814.

Mayor of Cape Town

The Mayor of Cape Town is the head of the local government of Cape Town, South Africa; currently that government takes the form of the City of Cape Town Metropolitan Municipality. In the past, the position of Mayor has varied between that of an executive mayor actively governing the city and that of a figurehead mayor with a mostly ceremonial role.

Following the "Conference of War Recruiting Committees of the Union of South Africa" in February 1918, a special recruiting drive was begun, inaugurated by church services throughout the city and suburbs in April. Twelve days later, on 20 April 1918, Hands received a telegram informing him and Aletta that their eldest son, Captain Reginald Harry Myburgh Hands, had died of wounds received fighting on the Western Front in World War I. Pondering this devastating news, Mayor Hands and his friend and fellow councillor Robert Brydone came up with the idea of the two-minute silence. The practice impressed Sir Percy FitzPatrick, who wrote to Lord Milner about it and the idea was taken up after Armistice Day in London in 1918. [2]

Western Front (World War I) main theatre of war during the First World War

The Western Front was the main theatre of war during the First World War. Following the outbreak of war in August 1914, the German Army opened the Western Front by invading Luxembourg and Belgium, then gaining military control of important industrial regions in France. The tide of the advance was dramatically turned with the Battle of the Marne. Following the Race to the Sea, both sides dug in along a meandering line of fortified trenches, stretching from the North Sea to the Swiss frontier with France, which changed little except during early 1917 and in 1918.

James Percy FitzPatrick South African businessman and writer

Sir James Percy FitzPatrick, known as Percy FitzPatrick, was a South African author, politician, mining financier and pioneer of the fruit industry. He authored the classic children's book, Jock of the Bushveld (1907). As a politician, he defended British Imperial interests before and during the Anglo-Boer War. FitzPatrick is responsible for the creation of the two minute silence observed on Armistice Day.

Armistice Day commemoration on November 11 of the armistice signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany in 1918

Armistice Day is commemorated every year on 11 November to mark the armistice signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany at Compiègne, France at 5:45 am, for the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front of World War I, which took effect at eleven o'clock in the morning—the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" of 1918. But, according to Thomas R. Gowenlock, an intelligence officer with the US First Division, shelling from both sides continued for the rest of the day, only ending at nightfall. The armistice initially expired after a period of 36 days and had to be extended several times. A formal peace agreement was only reached when the Treaty of Versailles was signed the following year.

Hands was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 1919 Birthday Honours [6] for his sterling service to recruiting in South Africa and, as noted in the South African Lady’s Pictorial (July 1919, p. 5), "for his services as chairman of the Recruiting Committee, he did splendid work and it is due to him that the impressive Mid-day Pause was introduced."

The 1919 Birthday Honours were appointments by King George V to various orders and honours to reward and highlight good works by citizens of the British Empire. The appointments were made to celebrate the official birthday of The King, and were published in The London Gazette from 3 June to 12 August. The vast majority of the awards were related to the recently ended War, and were divided by military campaigns. A supplementary list of honours, retroactive to the King's birthday, was released in December 1919.

His three sons, Reginald, Philip and Kenneth, were all Rhodes Scholars who excelled at cricket and rugby. Reginald and Philip played Test cricket for South Africa. Philip and Kenneth also fought in World War I, but returned home safely, married and had children. Harry's daughter, Doris, married Dr Errington Atkinson of Leeds.

Philip Albert Myburgh Hands, was a South African cricketer who played in 7 Tests from 1913 to 1924. His elder brother Reginald also played Test cricket for South Africa, whilst his younger brother Kenneth was also a cricketer, although didn't play test cricket.

Kenneth Charles Myburgh Hands was a South African cricketer who played first-class cricket from 1912 to 1931.

Test cricket the longest form of the sport of cricket; so called due to its long, grueling nature

Test cricket is the form of the sport of cricket with the longest duration, and is considered the game's highest standard. Test matches are played between national representative teams with "Test status", as determined and conferred by the International Cricket Council (ICC). The term Test stems from the fact of the form's long, gruelling matches being both mentally and physically testing. Two teams of 11 players each play a four-innings match, which may last up to five days. It is generally considered the most complete examination of a team's endurance and ability.

Sir Harry Hands died on 17 March 1948 in Cape Town and is buried in Maitland Cemetery, along with his wife. [7]

Related Research Articles

Boer Republics Former countries in southern Africa

The Boer Republics were independent, self-governed republics in the last half of the nineteenth century, created by the Dutch-speaking inhabitants of the Cape Colony and their descendants, variously named Trekboers, Boers and Voortrekkers in mainly the middle, northern and north eastern and eastern parts of what is now the country of South Africa. Two of the Boer Republics achieved international recognition and complete independence: the South African Republic and the Orange Free State. The republics did not provide separation of church and state, and initially only the Dutch Reformed Church, then also other churches in the Calvinist Protestant tradition, were allowed. The republics came to an end after the Second Boer War which resulted in the British annexation and later incorporation into the Union of South Africa.

Earl of Coventry

Earl of Coventry is a title that has been created twice in the Peerage of England. The first creation for the Villiers family was created in 1623 and took its name from the city of Coventry. It became extinct in 1687. A decade later, the second creation was for the Coventry family and is still extant.

Earl Beauchamp

Earl Beauchamp was a title in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. It was created in 1815 for William Lygon, 1st Baron Beauchamp, along with the subsidiary title Viscount Elmley, in the County of Worcester. He had already been created Baron Beauchamp of Powyke in the County of Worcester, in 1806, also in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. Lord Beauchamp had previously represented Worcestershire in the House of Commons. He was succeeded by his eldest son, the second Earl. He also sat as Member of Parliament for Worcestershire. He never married and was succeeded by his younger brother, the third Earl. In 1813 he assumed by Royal licence the surname of Pyndar in lieu of Lygon. On his death in 1853 the titles passed to his younger brother, the fourth Earl. He was a General in the Army as well as a Member of Parliament.

The following lists events that happened during 1918 in South Africa.

The following lists events that happened during 1919 in South Africa.

Edward George Honey Australian journalist

Edward George Honey 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.

Abe Bailey South African cricketer

Sir Abraham Bailey, 1st Baronet, known as Abe Bailey, was a South African diamond tycoon, politician, financier and cricketer.

Bailey baronets

There have been two baronetcies created for persons with the surname Bailey, both in the Baronetage of the United Kingdom. Both creations are extant as of 2010.

Sir David Graaff, 1st Baronet 1st Baronet

Sir David Pieter de Villiers Graaff, 1st Baronet was a South African cold storage magnate and politician. Graaff revolutionized the cold storage industry in Africa. He founded the Imperial Cold Storage and Supply Company in 1899, and aggressively ran it until he left to serve in government. Graaff grew the company into one of the largest in Africa. Graaff's wealth soared, at the turn of the century. During World War I he personally part financed the South African war effort and for this he was knighted as well as for services at the Paris Peace Conference 1919. He was known as "The Octopus" as he had a hand in so many businesses.

Philip Edmond Wodehouse British empire colonial governor

Sir Philip Edmond Wodehouse was a British colonial administrator.

Charles Lyon English soldier & cricketer

Brigadier-General Charles Harry Lyon, was an English soldier who also played first-class cricket for Derbyshire in 1902.

Moses Kottler (1896–1977) was a South African painter and sculptor. He is widely regarded, along with Anton van Wouw and Lippy Lipshitz, as one of the most important South African sculptors. This triumvirate had the distinction of also having excelled at using pictorial media; Lipshitz with monotypes and Van Wouw in painting and drawing. Kottler's work in oils earned him additional consideration as a painter.

Walter Stanford South African politician

Sir Walter Ernest Mortimer Stanford was a South African civil servant and politician.

Brigadier General Sir Harry Osborne Mance KBE CB CMG DSO was a senior British Army officer during the First World War, transportation expert and author.


  1. "The Scot who began the two-minute silence". 8 November 2018. Retrieved 12 November 2018.
  2. 1 2 3 J. C. Abrahams (Tannie Mossie), "Cape Town’s WWI Mayor - Sir Harry Hands".
  3. "Josiah Hands", Geni.com.
  4. "Philippus Albertus Myburgh", Geni.com.
  5. Who's Who: Men and Women of the Time. 1935. p. 1434. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
  6. "No. 31422". The London Gazette (Supplement). 27 June 1919. p. 8090.
  7. "Sir Harry Hands", Find A Grave.