This week millions of people in schools, businesses and organisations across the UK will pause for a minute and remember the fallen heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
For one historic local organisation Armistice Day holds a particular poignancy.
Coincidence linked Armistice Day in 1918 with the Merchant Venturers’ Charter Day and the Society has connected the two ever since with a silent toast featuring two historic cups.
For centuries Bristol’s Merchant Venturers have held an annual ceremony on 10 November to mark the presentation of their Royal Charter by Edward VI in 1552. This is the day the new Master is appointed.
In 1918 the Charter Day Service was held on 11 November at St Stephen’s Church – 10 November having fallen on a Sunday that year.
And it was, of course, on 11 November 1918 at 11.00 o’clock, just as the annual service was about to begin, that news of Germany’s acceptance of the dictated terms of the armistice was announced – the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.
To mark this moment the Merchant Venturers were presented with a commemorative cup.
For the donor of this cup, Thomas Ruding Davey, who had been Master in 1902, this moment in St Stephen’s church must have been unfathomably moving. His elder son having died of wounds on Easter Day 1918, aged 19.
On the table at lunch at Merchants’ Hall following the Charter Day service, there are two cups commemorating the Great War.
Made for the Society in the 1921, the second is far grander and includes a plinth, which bears the names of the Society’s members and apprentices who were killed in the Greater War.
On Charter Day the Master, only, drinks from this cup in a silent toast to the fallen in all wars especially to those whose names are recorded on the supporting plinth. Thomas Ruding Davey’s son is included amongst the names recorded.
This year the organisation, which is made up of business, academics and civic leaders, has chosen entrepreneur, lawyer and environmental campaigner, Chris Curling to take up the prestigious position of Master for the next 12 months.
He will take over the reins from the current Master and businessman Anthony Brown.
The Merchant Venturers may be steeped in centuries of tradition, but the members commit their time and talents to improve and work for the city of Bristol and the surrounding area.
The Merchants have been striving to become a modern and forward thinking organisation, but its members are still keen to remain loyal to their rich traditions and heritage.
Chris Curling said: “The Merchants are making an increasing contribution to education, care for the elderly and disadvantaged people in the greater Bristol area.
“Although we are shaping our strategy for the 21Century we still have many traditions, which have been handed down over many generations. In the past the Merchants have served their country in times of war and it is important we continue to honour their memory and the sacrifices they made.
“The Silent Toast also marks an important milestone for the Master and marks the start of their coming year.”