2018 Homes Tour honours end of WW1

This year’s homes tour honours New Westminster’s WW1 Honour Roll with a tribute to the men and women who served in the Great War

by Jim Wolf

2018 marks the 100th Anniversary of the end of World War I and this year the society is honouring the men & women who served. Special stories of the homes connected with a WWI soldier have been included on the Homes Tour. We are honoured to also include the historic Armouries and the chance to visit the Westminster Regiment Museum.

Upon the declaration of war on August 4, 1914, New Westminster immediately rallied to cause. The local 104th Westminster Fusiliers of Canada was commissioned as a training unit for battalions of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (C.E.F.) and a home defense unit. The old exhibition buildings of Queen’s Park became the barracks for recruits stationed in the city.

Overseas recruitments began with the “Gallant First Contingent” comprised of 6 officers and 144 men drawn from both the city and the Fraser Valley.  On August 22 the men marched to the railway station the air of the Royal City was “…full of martial spirit…thousands of citizens who cheered and shouted fond farewells… Many eyes were wet as mothers and wives clasped their dear ones in what they felt might be their last embrace on this earth…”  This emotional and historic scene took place at the B.C. Electric Station, today a restored heritage site at Columbia and Eighth streets.

In May 1915 the first reports of the fate of the City’s soldiers came with the stunning news that the Battalion was “shattered,” with 8 men reported killed and 38 wounded or missing. Citizens reeled from this, and the news continued to be devastating almost daily, no one was left unshaken by profound and personal grief. It was said that not a single house in the city was not impacted by the war and the loss of a father, husband, brother, son or friend.

The men of the Royal City responded by bravely joining the local regiment with full knowledge of the serious dangers awaiting them at the battlefront. The Battalion, known as “The Fighting 47th,” were engaged in the battles of the Somme, Vimy Ridge and Lens and Passchendaele. 899 lost their lives and 1,718 were wounded. More than 5,300 men passed through its ranks. The 47th Battalion was one of the country’s most famous, with many of its men receiving the highest awards and honours for bravery and service.

The bravery of New Westminster’s men and women on the front was matched by the determination of its citizens back home. Women led the campaign to raise funds and provide comforts to the soldiers. The Royal Columbian Hospital nursing school provided 10 of its ranks to the frontlines. Two daughters of the city – Nurse Miss. E. Lewis and Nurse Isabel Lord died while serving Canada.

The end of the war was telegraphed to the Royal City about 30 seconds after it reached New York on November 11, 1918, at 10:17 a.m. Within a few hours Columbia Street was brought to a standstill as crowds of residents left their homes and businesses to celebrate peace and victory.

Celebration gave way to remembrance ceremonies, which became an annual sombre occasion.  Citizens funded the creation of an original bronze life-size statue of a soldier sculpted by a veteran and artist George Paterson.  Dedicated in 1922, the cenotaph at City Hall is a revered historic monument to the men and women who served in defence of our country.

 

This entry was posted on Thursday, May 10th, 2018 at 9:49 pm and is filed under Homes Tours, News and Events. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.