An Historical Journey

The Bells of Peace will toll 100 times as they ring out across the country at the setting of the sun. Follow an historical journey from East to West, as commemorative ceremonies recognize Canadian events and people that helped shape the Great War.

St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador
Sun sets at 1629

The first bells of the Bells of Peace initiative will toll on the far East coast of Canada, in St. John's Newfoundland. St. John's was also the departure point of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, an infantry regiment of the British Army that drew its members from Newfoundland. The regiment was virtually wiped out at Beaumont Hamel on July 1, 1916, and The Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial in France has become a Newfoundland symbol of sacrifice and a source of identity.

Halifax, Nova Scotia  
Sun sets at 1651

On December 6, 1917, a Norwegian supply ship collided with a French cargo ship carrying explosives headed for Europe in the Narrows of Halifax Harbour causing a large explosion that obliterated the community of Richmond, devasted Dartmouth, and created a tsunami that wiped out the community of the Mi'kmaq First Nation. Approximately 2,000 people were killed and 9,000 more were injured.

Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
Sun sets at 1644

In August of 1914, Canada joined the war effort and the following day, artillerymen from the 4th Regiment Canadian Garrison Artillery in PEI were among the first to set sail from Charlottetown harbour. By November 1914 the Island had raised an artillery unit that was later designated the 2nd Canadian Siege Battery. Of the 3,696 people on Prince Edward Island that enlisted in the First World War, approximately 400 were killed in action.

Fredericton, New Brunswick  
Sun sets at 1700

More than a century after losing his life on a battlefield in France, a Canadian man who left a New Brunswick farm to fight in the First World War was laid to rest. Remains found in 2016 in France belonged to Private John Henry Thomas who grew up in Birch Ridge, N.B.  On August 19, 1917, he was killed in action while his battalion was holding its forward position against German counter-attacks. Private Thomas is the most recent missing in action Canadian soldier to be found and identified.

Valcartier, Quebec
Sun sets at 1616

Valcartier, Quebec was the primary training base for the First Canadian Contingent in 1914. Men from all classes and ages enlisted at armories and militia bases across the country and traveled to a single, hastily prepared camp at Valcartier for equipment, training, and preparation for war.

Guelph, Ontario
Sun sets at 1700

The person who first introduced the Poppy to Canada and the Commonwealth was Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae of Guelph, Ontario, a Canadian Medical Officer during the First World War. John McCrae penned the Poem “In Flanders Fields” on a scrap of paper in May, 1915 on the day following the death of a fellow soldier. Little did he know then that those 13 lines would become enshrined in the hearts and minds of all who would wear them. 

Winnipeg, Manitoba 
Sun sets at 1650

Valour Road is a street in Winnipeg, named in 1925 to recognize Corporal Leo Clarke, Sergeant-Major Frederick William Hall, and Lieutenant Robert Shankland, three men from the area who served in the First World War and who each received the Victoria Cross for acts of bravery.

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan 
Sun sets at 1721

Alex Decoteau was born on November 19, 1887 on the Red Pheasant Reserve near North Battleford, Saskatchewan.  He was a Cree Canadian track and field Olympian and Canada’s first Indigenous police officer.  In April 1915, Decoteau joined the  Canadian Expeditionary Force and was killed on October 30, 1917, during the Second Battle of Passchendaele.

Edmonton, Alberta 
Sun sets at 1643

In Jasper National Park there are five mountains named for First World War Victoria Cross recipients with Alberta connections. The peaks are located within a series of mountains known as the Victoria Cross Ranges. The names of these mountains honour Private John Chipman Kerr, Private Cecil John Kinross, Captain George Burdon McKean, Private John George Pattison and Sergeant Raphael Louis Zenge.

The three territories of Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Yukon
Sun sets at 1524

News of the Great War did not easily reach some Canadian Indigenous communities in the Yukon and Northwest Territories and people living in these areas were often unaware of the war or were unable to enlist without great effort. Yet one in three able-bodied First Nations men enlisted during the First World War. One story recounts an Indian by the name of John Campbell who lived on the Arctic coast near Hershell Island which lies 5 km off the coast of Yukon. Campbell travelled three thousand miles by trail, canoe and river steamer to Vancouver, in order to enlist with the Canadian Expeditionary Force.

Approximately 4,000 Indigenous people left their homes and families to help fight an international war that raged in European battlefields.

Victoria, British Columbia 
Sun sets at 1639

The last bells of the Bells of Peace initiative will toll on the far West coast of Canada, Fort Rodd Hill in Victoria, British Columbia. To mark this final toll, we recognize Lieutenant-General Sir Arthur Currie. Currie was a resident of Victoria, BC who joined the Canadian Militia in 1887.  Currie would later become the commander of the Canadian Corps in 1917 with an unbroken string of major victories that included Hill 70, Passchendaele, Amiens, Arras, and the Canal du Nord. He is widely considered to have been among the finest generals of the war.