Remembrance Day was once known as Armistice Day. At 11 am on November 11, 1918, the Allies and Germany signed an armistice after four years of war. It was an agreement to end the fighting of World War I, which was also known as the Great War.
News of the signed armistice reached Toronto by wire at 2:50 am on November 11. Toronto newspaper, The Mail and Empire (part of The Globe and Mail) reported that a man who lived on Parliament St had heard the news of the peace at 4 am. He went into the streets in his pyjamas to let his neighbours know of the information. He said, “Women appeared in the flimsiest of clothing, some covered only with a wrap or kimono, and forgot the cold in the heat of their enthusiasm.”
Newspaper headlines read “Extra! Extra! Germans Accept the Allies’ Terms” and “VICTORY,” and it was a day of great joy in Toronto. People celebrated that the 1,567 days of war were over by blowing horns and factory whistles, ringing church bells, singing, banging pots, clanging pan lids and playing musical instruments. Many marched towards downtown and Old City Hall. Shops selling the British flag were doing great business with people waving the Union Jack or draping themselves with it. The City’s transit system came to a halt while factories, banks and the Stock Exchange closed for the day.
It just so happened that a Victory Loan Parade was planned for that day. There were soldiers and tanks in the parade, along with an air show. The day’s celebrations continued well into the night.
Those Who Served
Over 420,000 Canadians served overseas in the war. Of those, nearly 60,000 died or were missing, and up to 138,000 were injured. In Toronto, more than 2,500 women worked in the munition factories. They played a significant role in the City’s war effort.
In 1931, Armistice Day was renamed Remembrance Day. The solemn day is also commemorated by the United Kingdom, Belgium, France, Poland and the United States.
Poppies began growing thickly over the graves of fallen soldiers in the fields of Flanders, France. Before the battle, the countryside had been barren; however, the red flowers flourished once the fighting stopped.
In 1915, Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae of Guelph, Ontario, wrote In Flanders Fields after the death of a fellow soldier. The poppy officially became the symbol of remembrance in 1921.