Linda Heeps Royal Canadian Legion Haliburton branch public relations officer stands in front of the grave marker belonging to veteran Randolph Ruthven Tyler of the Royal Canadian Army 109 Battalion at the Evergreen Cemetery. /DARREN LUM Staff

Bells to mark 100 years since end of First World War

By Darren Lum

Published Nov. 6 2018

Haliburton will honour the men and women who served their country for peace this Remembrance Day and will punctuate the 100-year commemoration of the end of the First World War with the Bells of Peace.

In the Haliburton area it will be an auditory wonder as church bells ring 100 times at five-second intervals concluding with “Amazing Grace” played by a Haliburton Highlanders Pipes and Drums piper at each of the five participating churches: St. George’s Anglican Church the Haliburton United Church St. Anthony’s Roman Catholic Church the West Guilford Baptist Church and Northland Faith Church (at the Haliburton cenotaph).

The bells will start ringing at 4:49 p.m. on Sunday Nov. 11.

Earlier in the day the Legion is also hosting its annual ceremony starting with a Remembrance Day service at 10 a.m. at the branch location on Nov. 11 in Haliburton followed by the parade to the cenotaph at 10:45 a.m. where the ceremony will take place.

The Bells of Peace is supported by Legion members area churches students at Haliburton Highlands Secondary School and the Haliburton Highlands Pipes and Drums.

Legion public relations officer Linda Heeps who has been a resident of Haliburton for 11 years put in months of work long before the Legion’s Ontario Command sent out the plans for the Bells of Peace event to branches across the country.

Heeps had coincidentally already led an effort to investigate and confirm First World War veterans buried at several cemeteries including Evergreen Cemetery. She wanted to compile a list to know which veterans needed a grave marker or to have their marker refurbished.

Part of the Bells of Peace event is having students do the research. Heeps gave what she had discovered  to the HHSS leadership students who have spent the past four weeks going through personnel files available online.

Heeps implores the public to honour those who served.

“I want people to come out and listen to the bells for a time when probably young boys and women innocently joined a great adventure and probably did the most (what I can’t even imagine) the most horrific things and became heroes. Some of them are buried in the cemetery without a tombstone” she said. “What it’s going to do for their memory is for all of us to realize a lot of people sacrificed a lot of things to make our land of peace. We need to honour these people because I wouldn’t want to do it. Going to war is not fun and so I’m hoping they come out and listen to the bells and remember a lot of people laid down their lives (or gave up a lot of their lives) to keep us in the beautiful country we live in.”

There were 66000 who died and 172000 were wounded. Many who survived came home changed forever.

Heeps said this isn’t about honouring war as it is honouring the sacrifice made for peace.

On Nov. 6 starting at noon the leadership students will place flags at confirmed First World War veterans’ grave markers at Evergreen Cemetery. At the end of this ceremony a bagpiper with the Haliburton Highlands Pipes and Drums will play Amazing Grace.

The newly launched leadership class is taught by Paul Longo a teacher for 27 years which he describes as student council in a classroom setting.

The students unearthed information never before known (or at least presented locally). They also visited the cemetery to map out where the veterans are buried to place flags.

The leadership class is responsible for organizing the high school’s Remembrance Day event.

While researching for Bells of Peace this class has also looked into learning more about the people behind the names of those listed on the Honour Roll in examining the online military service files.

= They list clinical charts their pay where they died what they died of or how they died in action.

The importance of being able to present the new findings to correspond to the names on the Honour Roll puts a life to the names.“You’re helping build an identity for these people. They’re not just a name on a list. That’s what we’re trying to do” Longo said.

He hopes this effort will bring attention to the First World War.“My hope as a teacher is I hope it sparks an interest in reading more about the history of World War One and about the Canadian involvement in the war and why we have a Remembrance Day assembly and ceremony. Why it’s important to remember” he said.

“It’s making the story come alive” he said.

Longo invites the public to attend the high school’s Remembrance Day ceremony on Friday Nov. 9. It will include new information learned during this research effort. There are two time slots one at 10:15 a.m. and the second at 12:30 p.m. at the Northern Lights Performing Arts Pavilion. He expects Legion members to attend.

Among the things that surprised Heeps in this endeavour was learning that many of the files included next of kin as a landlady and not a wife or mother which makes sense since men working in the Highlands at lumber camps were far from home and family she said.

Heeps is moving forward with her effort to learn more about the individuals buried at Evergreen.

She said that includes Dysart’s first doctor the first reeve two civil war veterans and one unconfirmed member of the Devil’s Brigade (includes Americans and Canadians) of the Second World War.

Heeps will be documenting the Bells of Peace event with still images and live video to send back to command. Following this event Heeps will continue her research to confirm the identities of the First World War veterans buried in Evergreen Cemetery so that every identified grave site is decorated for Decoration Day during Legion Week in September next year.

Legion president Paul Sisson who has served for four years is proud of members’ and community involvement.

“I’m certainly proud of the fact that we had so many volunteers put their hat in the ring and work towards getting it done” he said referring to Adele Espina of the Haliburton Highlands Genealogy Group Legion members Heeps Bill Timms and Bill Fry.

He wants the public to attend the event which he hopes is received well by the community.

“One hundred years ago there were people trying to put a stop to democracy and a lot of people died fighting that idea so if it wasn’t for them we just wouldn’t have the lifestyle we have now as a Canadian” he said.

Heeps said in going through the attestation papers of the veterans she thought of what motivated many young people (some younger than 18) who volunteered. Many thought serving would take them on a great adventure.

“We all know what the adventure was. Vimy Ridge and all of these places was no great adventure. It was a kind of horrific thing they experienced. They went over there and did their duty. Some of them were in those trenches for years with body parts hanging out of the walls not knowing if they were going to die [while] rats were running over their feet and then they came back to a world that didn’t understand PTSD [post traumatic stress disorder]. They didn’t understand mental health and what they had to endure within their own brain. I’m thinking when the war was over the world spontaneously rang those bells because they thought it’s over. Thank God it’s over” she said.

Minden Irondale and Wilberforce are also hosting their own Bells of Peace events.