'THE WAR TO END ALL WARS': 100th anniversary of First World War ending

This year’s Remembrance Day will have a lot more pomp and circumstance than usual given 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War.

Canadian War Museum historian Tim Cook says one of the big areas of interest for Canada this year overseas will be in Mons, Belgium, where both dignitaries and veterans will gather.

Included among the Mons commemorations is a new memorial dedication to Private George Price, a Canadian soldier shot minutes before the First World War Armistice began.

“(Mons is) the city that the Canadian corps captured on the last day of the war,” said Cook, who has also co-curated Victory 1918 — The Last 100 Days at the museum in Ottawa running until March 31.

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A gravestone marks the resting place of an unidentified soldier at the Canadian Cemetery near Vimy Ridge, France, Saturday November 10, 2018. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)

“And it’s a symbolic city and that’s where the major overseas commemorations are being held this year. But there will also be ceremonies held across (Canada) and I’m involved in the national broadcast from the national monument (in Ottawa).”

Back in the nation’s capital, the Royal Canadian Legion organizes the National Remembrance Day Ceremony at the National War Memorial in Ottawa from 9 a.m until noon.

At 10:30 a.m., a veterans parade leaves Parliament Hill and makes its way to the National War Memorial followed by the arrival of dignitaries (the prime minister will be in Paris on Nov. 11 to attend commemoration ceremonies and was scheduled to visit Vimy Ridge the day before), the performance of the national anthem, two minutes of silence, a wreath laying ceremony and a fly past (weather permitting).

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Josephine Potter, who is now 100, served as a British airplane mechanic or “grease monkey” as she called herself for the RAF in England during WWII on Wednesday October 17, 2018. (Jack Boland/Toronto Sun)

Jack Boland /

Jack Boland/Toronto Sun

“This year, I think will be quite significant,” said Cook. “Over the last 10, 15, 20 years we’ve seen an upsurge in the number of people who come out to the National Ceremony and I assume across the country. And I find that interesting as we’ve lost all of the First World War veterans now we are on the verge of losing all our Second World War veterans. There seems to be this surge in interest in that may be linked to that fact that we’re seeing the passing of a generation.”

In Toronto, Ontario Premier Doug Ford will be among those observing a moment of silence at 11 a.m. during the Queen’s Park Ceremony of Remembrance in front of the legislative assembly.

Throughout the city there are several locations for Remembrance Day ceremonies including Old City Hall, the East York, Etobicoke, North York and York Civic Centres, and Fort York National Historic Site.

Starting at 10:15 a.m, a Canadian Armed Forces parade will head north from Union Station up University Avenue to Queen’s Park before heading to Old City Hall, the latter where Toronto Mayor John Tory will be in attendance.

Earlier this week, Tory dedicated a book of remembrance to the 3,200 members of Toronto-based regiments who gave their lives during the First World War and it will be on display Sunday in the City Hall rotunda before it moves to Toronto Archives afterwards.

“One of the things that made the First World War and the Second World War so important to our history is how almost everyone was involved,” said Cook.

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Numerous poppies have been left at the National War Memorial in this file photo. (Wayne Cuddington/ Ottawa Citizen)

“I mean 620,000 Canadians who served in the First World War and 1.1 million who served in the Second World War, our society forever changed by these wars, and frankly that’s why we’re still talking about this 100 years later I suspect, or in the case of the Second World War, 75 years later,” he said.

“We created a vast fighting force that fought through the key battles of Vimy (Ridge) and Hill 70 and Passchendaele and the 100 Days Campaign. So, that’s one of those fascinating things about the two world wars is that we created these enormous fighting forces in times of tremendous stress and strain and we fought and we suffered casualties but we delivered victory,” he continued.

Canadian losses were tallied at 66,000 in the First World War and about 45,000 in the Second World War.
But it was the first World War that was coined “the war to end all wars.”

“It’s a strange phrase ‘cause it’s not an official one in any way and the Germans don’t say that and the French don’t say that,” said Cook.

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A 100-year-old clipping from the Stratford Daily Herald proclaiming the end of the First World War is shown during a Remembrance Day ceremony at Stratford Central on Friday November 9, 2018 in Stratford, Ont. (Terry Bridge/Stratford Beacon Herald)

Terry Bridge /

Terry Bridge/The Beacon Herald

“It’s a phrase that emerges in the aftermath of the war and it’s a phrase that I think speaks to the enormity of the war and the horrendous casualties and the titanic effects of the war — four empires destroyed and the Russians and the Germans and the Austrians and the Hungarians all collapsed under the strain of war – the rise of communism.

“It’s all part of this war so there was a sense that this was the last war,” continued Cook.

“That it was so horrible that we would never fight another one. And we now look back with a sense of sad irony and we know that in the ashes of the First World War as people were saying this lay those embers that will allow for the rise of Fascism and other things that will lead to the Second World War.”

jstevenson@postmedia.com