At eleven o'clock on the morning of the 11th November 1919 the entire British Empire came to a halt to remember the dead of the Great War. During that first two-minute silence all transport stayed still, all work ceased and millions stood motionless in the streets. The only human sound to be heard was the desolate weeping of those overcome by grief. Then the moment was brought to an end by the playing of the Last Post. A century on, that lone bugle call remains the most emotionally charged piece of music in public life. In an increasingly secular society, it is the closest thing we have to a sacred anthem. Yet along with the poppy, the Cetaph and the tomb of the Unkwn Warrior, its power is profoundly modern. It is a response to the trauma of war that could only have evolved in a democratic age. In this moving exploration of the Last Post's history, Alwyn W. Turner considers the call's humble origins and shows how its mournful simplicity reached beyond class, beyond religion, beyond patriotism to speak directly to peoples around the world. Along the way he contemplates the relationship between history and remembrance, and seeks out the legacy of the First World War in today's culture.
ALWYN W. TURNER is a cultural and political historian, whose latest book, A Classless Society: Britain in the 1990s, is published by Aurum Press and completes a critically acclaimed trilogy about the making of modern Britain. He is also one of the country's leading authorities on British military music, as the author of The Trumpets Will Sound: The Story of the Royal Military School of Music and a three-volume history of British Army bands.