Remembrance Day 2018: Whats happening in Guelph

Remembrance Day 2018: What\s happening in Guelph
Wave of bells to ring out across Canada to mark 100 years since WWI
A downtown church in Calgary has chosen to showcase poppies in a unique way ahead of Remembrance Day.

What started as a project with a few volunteers making knitted poppies has blossomed into a global effort with poppies being sent from around the world.

Streams of poppies have been tied to netting and draped outside and inside the Cathedral Church of the Redeemer.

The poppy project was the brainchild of church member Pippa Fitzgerald Finch, who had seen something similar in England and has personal reasons for remembrance.

The fighting to reach and to break the D-Q Line had cost the Canadians more than 11,400 casualties, most coming from the infantry. The Corps had to rest and recuperate and bring up reinforcements to gets its battalions up to strength. There were men in England readying to come to France, and there were conscripts streaming in from Canada to be hurried through training. Conscription had been a hugely divisive question, bitterly opposed by farmers, organized labour and Québécois, but the December 1917 election had returned Sir Robert Borden and his conscriptionist coalition to power. The army called up men for training beginning in January 1918, and the first conscripts reached France in May. There were riots and desertions in Canada, but the training continued, as did the transports carrying men overseas. By the Armistice, 24,132 conscripts had reached the front, enough men to provide 500 reinforcements for each of the 48 infantry battalions in the Canadian Corps. Without them, the Canadians could not have continued to fight.

My father was involved in the Second World War, he was in Burma and my stepson was in the Afghan war, she told CTV News.

It was amazing how many people said, Oh, could I join and start knitting? We now have over a hundred people who have contributed.

There was something right about that symbolism. The units of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) that faced the enemy that August fought gamely but unsuccessfully against the massive weight of the German advance. A long retreat began that forced the BEF westward. In 1918, however, the situation had totally reversed. The Canadian Corps, part of the BEFs First Army, had used its great power to push the Germans to the east, forcing them out of their lines at Amiens in August, out of the Drocourt-Quéant Line near Arras at the beginning of September, and across the Canal du Nord at the end of that month. Then followed the liberation of Cambrai, the enemys key supply centre in northern France, the taking of the city of Valenciennes, and the German rout as they were chased out of France and into Belgium. The Canadian Corpss Hundred Days had been extraordinary, a series of the greatest victories ever won in battle by Canadian troops.

Alongside the knitted and crocheted poppies from Calgary are contributions from all over Alberta and British Columbia, as well as 25 poppies from New Zealand.

As Canadians get ready to mark the centenary of Armistice Day, which saw the end of conflict in the First World War, this breathtaking display gives Calgarians the opportunity to pause and remember the sacrifice of so many.

These victories might well be classed as miraculous, considering where Canadas army had been four years earlier. There was much enthusiasm among the 50,000 or so militiamen, but little real training, inadequate equipment and almost no staff-trained officers. When the war broke out, Minister of Militia and Defence Sam Hughes scrapped a planned mobilization scheme for an improvised one that took some 35,000 volunteers to Valcartier, Que. There was no camp there, and chaos reigned supreme as one was built. Officers were appointed based on whom they knew, and units were jerry-built by combining soldiers from two, three or more militia regiments. The organizational chaos Hughes created lasted through much of the war.

Rev. Leighton Lee explained how important Remembrance Day is at his church, the regimental chapel of the Calgary Highlanders.

Canadas war was over. The battles of the Hundred Days had resulted in 45,835 killed, wounded or taken prisoner, almost one-fifth of the overall toll of 68,656 dead and 176,380 wounded. In all, 51,748 men were killed in action and 7,796 died of wounds or injury. Of the 423,600 men and women, the latter almost all Nursing Sisters who served overseas, only 345,000 made it to France or Belgium, the remainder posted in Britain or other theatres. The casualty rate of all those who fought was thus 71 per cent, and at least eight in 10 of all infantrymen were killed or wounded. The loss was enormous, and it was to be felt in Canada for generations.

Its a major anniversary as we commemorate the Armistice, so theres no more fitting tribute really than to do something like this, he said.

Were very proud of it but were also extremely moved by the reaction people have on the street, stopping to look, to touch, take photographs and admire.

The poppies will remain in place until November 11 then carefully taken down and put away, to be brought out for next year.

Fortunately spared from the brunt of the major German offensives from March to June 1918, Curries men learned to work with tanks to clear enemy machine-gun posts, and to use strafing Royal Air Force fighters to pin down the enemy until infantry could round them up. Curries gunners also excelled at counter-battery work, locating enemy artillery positions and putting their guns out of action before they could interfere with Canadian attacks. In addition, Currie secured more guns, trucks, engineers and infantry for the Corps.

The poppy project was the brainchild of church member Pippa Fitzgerald Finch, who had seen something similar in England and has personal reasons for remembrance.

The Amiens attack continued for several days but eventually ground to a halt as the Germans brought up massive reinforcements. The victory at Amiens nonetheless shook the German High Command, its chief strategist, Gen. Erich Ludendorff, telling Kaiser Wilhelm that the war must be ended. Aug. 8, he said, was the black day of the German army, adding later that everything I had feared . . . had here in one place become a reality . . . We have reached the limits of our capacity. The war must be terminated.

Streams of poppies have been tied to netting and draped outside and inside the Cathedral Church of the Redeemer in Calgary.

But not yet. With planning co-ordinated by Generalissimo Ferdinand Foch, the Allies now began a series of attacks along the Western Front. The Canadians next turn came up at the end of August on the Arras front. Their objective was to crack the Drocourt-Quéant Line. As with all enemy defensive barriers, there were concrete machine-gun posts, belts of wire, deep dugouts in the trenches, much artillery and many men, backed by reinforcements in front of the D-Q Line, and the Line itself was more formidable still.

A downtown church in Calgary has chosen to showcase poppies in a unique way ahead of Remembrance Day.

By Nov. 10, the Canadians were at Mons. Currie had orders to keep the pressure on the Germans, Marshal Foch and other Allied leaders fearing that the Germans would try to continue the war even as their emissaries parlayed for an armistice. The Canadians duly liberated the city, the burghers woken up by the skirling pipes of Montreals 42nd Battalion on Nov. 11. The Armistice came into effect at 11 a.m., a few minutes after the last Canadian, Pte. George Price, fell to a snipers bullet.

News of the end of fighting in the First World War travelled through Europe, in part, by the eruption of church bells that people rang in celebration.

The Armistice that ended the First World War took effect at 11 a.m. on the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. When the guns ceased firing, the Canadian Corps was in Mons, Belgium, the city where the British had first made contact with the invading Germans in August 1914.

A century later, bells in communities across Canada will chime 100 times as the sun slips under the horizon this Sunday to mark each year since the armistice.

The Royal Canadian Legion and Veterans Affairs Canada have been encouraging legions, churches, spiritual centres and community centres to take part in the initiative, called "Bells of Peace." They're asking Canadians to ring or play bells at five-second intervals starting at sunset on Sunday. 

"We just want to emulate [the bells in Europe] as a tribute to those that fell and gave us the ability to be here and enjoy what we have today," said Chief Petty Officer Ben Broome, who works with the navy in Halifax and is part of the UN-NATO Veterans group in Nova Scotia. 

Since the timing will coincide with sunset, the chorus will begin in St. John's and move westward. 

"It would be nice to think that we could stop for a moment and reflect, [on] those grandmothers, those grandfathers, those mums, dads, uncles, brothers and sisters. If it wasn't for the sacrifices they made we wouldn't be speaking today. It would be a completely different world."

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The Peace Tower's carillon on Parliament Hill will chime, as will bells in Mons, Belgium, as "symbols of victory, relief and joy on the 100th anniversary of the armistice," Veterans Affairs Minister Seamus O'Regan said in a statement.

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The legion expects hundreds of communities to take part across Canada at sunset, meaning bells will start ringing at 4:29 p.m. local time in Newfoundland, and the wave of bells will run across the country for more than four hours until sunset in B.C.  

Soldering at British Munitions Supply Co. Ltd., in Verdun, Que. PA-024438/Library and Archives Canada

In Halifax, Broome contacted naval and municipal leaders after learning about the plan in October, concerned the project wasn't adequately publicized.

In part through his efforts, bells on naval ships on Halifax's waterfront will sound continually for a minute prior to sundown, in additional to the daily sunset ceremony where ships flags are lowered. 

Jay Tofflemire, first vice president of the Royal Canadian Legion, Nova Scotia and Nunavut Command, said many churches have transitioned to electronic systems that don't require people to ring physical bells. He said the legion is still encouraging community organizations to play recorded bell tones in the spirit of the event. 

Tofflemire said the legion has also been working with schools to help students to research and place flags on the graves of First World War veterans. 

"We're hoping with the ringing of the bells people will pause and go, 'Now I know what this is for,'" he said. 

Broome hopes people who hear the bells also take the opportunity to educate young people about what they mean. 

"Bring them into the scope of responsibility to try to carry this forward so the atrocities of war don't repeat," he said. 

Now in his 36th year of service in the navy, Broome plans to be in Fort Needham Park in Halifax's north end. The park commemorates the 1917 Halifax Explosion — which killed 2,000 people and injured another 9,000. Two vessels — SS Imo and the explosive-laden SS Mont-Blan  — collided in the nearby harbour. 

"That was the absolute closest that anything from World War I, physically touched Canadian soil. So the ringing of those bells was of paramount importance to me," Broome said. 

Elizabeth McMillan is a journalist with CBC Nova Scotia. Over the past nine years, she has reported from the edge of the Arctic Ocean to the Atlantic Coast and loves sharing people's stories. She can be reached at [email protected]

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