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Eleven bells for Armistice centenary, then cacophonous chorus

The Rangimarie peace bell of the National War Memorial Carillon will toll eleven times to mark the start of the two-minute silence of remembrance at 11.00am on Sunday at the official Armistice Centenary National Ceremony in Wellington.

Then, at 11.02am, a celebratory fanfare will be played by the full bells of the carillon, the third largest in the world, in unison with the Roaring Chorus taking place in belltowers throughout New Zealand, and joining bellringing campaigns across the world commemorating the signing of the Armistice at 11.00am on 11 November 1918, that marked the end of World War 1.

New Zealand’s Roaring Chorus connects with a campaign led by the UK government, supported by the German government, inviting nations to participate in international bellringing. Other countries including the USA are contributing, and even the remote location of Rothera Research Station in the Antarctic is expected to join.

Churches across New Zealand will join in. In Christchurch, where the city’s cathedral was badly damaged after the February 2011 earthquake and its bells are still inoperable, its ringers have formed a band with those at St Paul’s in Papanui where they will ring a quarter peal of Plain Bob Major. St Andrews Anglican Church will also ring out during Armistice commemorations in Cambridge – the sister city of Le Quesnoy – as will First Church of Otago in Dunedin, and many smaller churches nationwide.

Sarah Davies, director of the First World War Centenary Programme WW100, reports many churches have registered Armistice Centenary events at WW100.govt.nz/armistice-events.

“It is fantastic that so many bellringers are joining the Roaring Chorus. New Zealand will be amongst the first countries in the world to commemorate the Armistice Centenary, and our bells will be echoed around the world as other nations contribute the sound of theirs. It will be poignantly beautiful.”

Historic accounts show that there was spontaneous bellringing in celebration of peace at the time of the Armistice. A 1918 letter written by a Kinloch girl to her local newspaper says: “The steamer Ben Lomond began to whistle coming up the lake when the news of peace came through. Mum got the cowbell and I got the school bell, and we made a great noise with them” (Otago Witness, 27-11-1918).