Walter Seymour Allward would be glad.
Mr. Allward, who designed the majestic Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France, is buried in the quiet cemetery at St. John, York Mills.
On the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, which falls this year on Sunday, Nov. 11 at 11 a.m., the church plans to ring a “peal for peace.”
The Rev. Canon Drew MacDonald, incumbent of St. John’s, is encouraging other churches and places of worship across the diocese and the rest of Canada to ring their bells as well. “There’s no better time for us to honour those who have made the ultimate sacrifice,” he says.
Canon MacDonald says it is an easy and effective way for churches to mark the occasion. “There’s no reason why we can’t do it. It’s a very simple thing. It will be a Sunday, and we could all be ringing our bells for peace.”
About 61,000 Canadians died and 172,000 were wounded in the First World War, held from 1914 to 1918. Canon MacDonald says it is important to remember their sacrifice. “Some people talk about Remembrance Day as though we’re glorifying war, but nothing could be further from the truth. We need to be reminded of the horrors of war and the sacrifices people make.”
He says ringing the bells on Nov. 11 will be a call for peace, not war. “We’re not celebrating war. We are remembering and committing ourselves to peace with justice, in keeping with our faith.”
St. John’s normally rings its bell three times before the 9 a.m. service, but it plans to ring it for a full minute on Nov. 11. It will be suspending its usual services to hold a single service of commemoration. It will be inviting special guests, including staff and members of the Vimy Foundation.
St. John’s has strong ties to the Vimy war memorial and its designer, Mr. Allward. In 2017, three Vimy Oak saplings were planted near his grave. The saplings came from cuttings of trees that began as acorns brought home from Vimy Ridge by Canadian soldier Leslie Miller. In 2007, the Fort York branch of the Royal Canadian Legion erected a plaque near Mr. Allward’s grave. The dedication ceremony was attended by members of St. John’s, the Vimy Foundation and a small contingent of the Royal Highland Fusillers of Canada, a reserve unit of the Canadian Forces. The congregation was presented with a piece of discarded stone from the Vimy memorial.
The Royal Canadian Legion is also encouraging churches to ring their bells to mark the occasion. It is asking churches to ring their bells 100 times as the sun goes down on Nov. 11.