Monday, 11 November 2013

Armistice Day 1918 on the streets of Winnipeg

Check out links to a collection of my other Remembrance-related posts here.

Top: Portage and Main (source)
Bottom: November 11, 1918, Winnipeg Tribune

This November 11th marks the of the armistice signed between the Allied Nations and Germany in 1918. It took effect at 11:00 a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month - but that was 11:00 a.m. in France. Here in Winnipeg, it was 2 a.m..

Still, thousands of people left their homes on a chilly -2c morning to come downtown and cluster around the Free Press and Tribune buildings to await the official word. They came with noisemakers such as musical instruments, car horns, hotel lobby bells and trash can lids.

At the stroke of 2 a.m. factory whistles across the city began to sound, then the church bells. It was time for residents to join in. The parading and dancing eventually ended up, where else, but Portage and Main and lasted well into the next day.

Eaton's, November 12, 1918, Manitoba Free Press

In anticipation of the announcement many businesses already announced they would not open that day, it was a Monday. One of the largest to remain closed was Eaton's which lost 320 employees in the war.

Some businesses, including the Free Press and Eaton's, had employees decorate the exterior of their buildings with bunting and flags in the wee hours of the morning.

Portage and Main, November 12, 1918, Winnipeg Tribune

There were no official ceremonies held that month to mark the end of the War. 

Both Winnipeg and the province were under strict public gathering restrictions due to the Spanish Influenza. Since mid-October, schools, churches and theatres were shut and officials said that they wouldn't lift the rules even for this occasion. (In the 24 hours of November 11 - 12 Winnipeg recorded 475 new cases and 25 deaths from the disease.)

Canadian casualties at October 31, 1918

It was a bittersweet celebration. As of October 31st, 1918 there had been over 211,000 Canadian casualties; 34,877 of them deaths and 8,245 missing, presumed dead or prisoners of war. Many more names would be added to the casualty lists before all of the troops made it safely back to their home towns months later.

In 1931 the name of Armistice Day was changed to Remembrance Day.

Front page of November 11, 1918, Manitoba Free Press

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