the eleventh day of the eleventh month
November 11th at 11am in 1918 (the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month) was when an armistice was signed by representatives of Germany and the Entente. Nov 11th became known Armistice Day, or in some countries such as Canada, Remembrance Day. An armistice is an agreement to stop fighting, a truce in other words. After this signing, it took several months of negotiations before the First World War officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on 28 June 1919. That treaty ended the war between Germany and the Allies. (The Allies of WW1 were also known as the Entente Powers while Germany and her allies were known as the Central Powers)
The poppy became a symbol of Remembrance day, and a symbol in remembrance of soldiers who died fighting in all wars, after the publication of the poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ in 1915. This popular and often quoted poem was written by Canadian Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae. In it he talks about the poppies that grew in the battlefields at Flanders Belgium during WW1.
“In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,”
below: The cenotaph (war memorial) in front of Old City Hall was unveiled on 11 Nov 1925 to commemorate those Torontonians who died in WW1. Since then, it has been expanded to include those who lost their lives in WW2 and in the Korean War. The word cenotaph comes from the Greek and translates as ’empty tomb’. This style of memorial has been used widely for commemorating someone, or some group, whose remains are interred elsewhere.
More than 6000 Torontonians lost their lives in these three conflicts. Close to three thousand men died in World War 1, a number that represents about 2% of the male population of the time. (1)
In the middle of University Avenue is a statue erected by the Toronto District of the Sons of England Benefit Society in memory of their members who died in World War 1. Founded in 1876, this society provided insurance to its members who were in need because of illness or accident.
In 1914 Canada was still part of the British Empire. As a result, when Britain found itself at war in August of that year, Canada too was involved.
below: At the base of the center lion is a small plaque that reads: “Chas Adamson, sculptor, 1923”.
below: The Sons of England building on the NW corner of Richmond St. East and Berti St., 1922
photo credit: Toronto public library website
Another memorial in this city is the Ontario Veterans Memorial. This is a 30m long granite wall in front of Queens Park dedicated to all the men and women from Ontario who served in the military. Etched into the granite are scenes depicting Canadians in military roles between the time of the Fenian Raids in 1867 to the present day.
below: Part of the granite wall. The red in the picture is a reflection of the red carpet that was laid in front of the memorial for the Remembrance Day service.
below: part of the granite wall
Transcription of the passage by Canadian author Jane Urquhart:
One by one they left behind the bright fields of innocence and stepped into the darkness of experience
Their brave departure was discrete* and humble.
Un à un, ils ont quitté les champs illuminés de l’innocence pour se plonger dans la noirceur de
i’expérience. Ils ont quitté avec courage, discrétion et humilité
Some do not return. Their absence is as big as sorrow, as wide as grief.
Certains ne reviennent jamais. Leur absence laisse un vide aussi béant que le chagrin,
aussi vaste que le deuil.
The returning walk back toward their northern homeland. Their faces are shadowed,
but they are carrying illumination in their arms.
Ceux qui reviennent marchent vers leur terre nordique. Leurs visages sont dans l’ombre
mais ils portent la lumière dans leurs bras.
(* discrete vs discreet ?)
below: Some of the wreaths laid at the Ontario Veterans Memorial on Remembrance Day.
below: Although it is not a war memorial per se, someone left a small poppy wreath by this plaque at Nathan Phillips Square. The plaque is by the arches over the pool, the freedom arches.
Transcription of the plaque: Freedom Arches. The citizens of Toronto dedicate these arches to the millions who struggled, including Canadians, to gain and defend freedom and to the tens of millions who suffered and died for the lack of it. May all that we do be worthy of them. Only in freedom can the Human Spirit soar. Against the Human drive for freedom nothing can long succeed. This plaque is mounted on a slab of the Berlin Wall.
below: The 3D Toronto sign was red on Remembrance Day.
We remember collectively as a nation, as a community. We also remember privately, as individuals, as families. Countless small memorials can be found around Toronto including in schools, in churches and other religious institutions, and in cemeteries.
below: A memorial to the 48th Highlanders, Mount Pleasant cemetery. In memory of the officers, non-commissioned officers, and men who have served with the 48th Highlanders.
Dileas Gu Brath, their motto, is gaelic for ‘faithful forever’
below: Quiet memorials
(1) source: Patrick Cain, Global News