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City churches ready to ring in Remembrance Day with Bells of Peace (5 photos)

Four churches in Barrie mark the 100th anniversary since the armistice ending the First World War on Sunday at 4:56 p.m.

Four Barrie churches will ring their bells on Sunday to mark the 100th anniversary since the armistice ending the First World War.

As part of the Bells of Peace initiative, Barrie will join communities across Canada on Sunday to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War with 100 chimes.

At 4:56 p.m., sundown on Nov. 11, the bells will resonate throughout the city as they emulate the moment in 1918 when church bells across Europe chimed to signify the war’s end.

The four churches are Burton Avenue United Church, St. George's Anglican Church, Collier Street United Church and Holy Spirit Parish. 

"It's fantastic that they're going to do that," said Steve Glover, public relations officer for Royal Canadian Legion Branch 147 in Barrie. "In terms of the whole thing, it's just fantastic to have that participation. Given that we're going to be gathering down at Military Heritage Park, the ringing of the bells should coast out into the bay."

The bells will be chimed 100 times at five-second intervals. 

Vickie McMillan, office administrator at Collier Street United Church, one of the city’s oldest churches, said Bells of Peace is a nice way to honour those who sacrificed during wartime.

“People say, ‘Oh, let’s not talk about war,’ or ‘Let’s not discuss war,’ but it’s not about the war,” she told BarrieToday. “It’s about the soldiers who went there, and there are quite a few from Barrie who went there and lost their lives.

Collier Street’s bells are still in regular use.

“Our bells go off at noon every day and then they also go off before service on Sundays, then Christmas and Easter,” McMillan said.

Other churches wish they still had bells, but they’ll find other ways to mark a century since the end of the First World War (1914-18), which claimed the lives of some 60,000 Canadians.

Rev. Dr. Rick Horst, from St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church on Owen Street in downtown Barrie, said he wishes they could take part.

“We don’t have bells, or we would,” he said. “But we always do an act of remembrance, because St. Andrew’s here was the original regimental church of the Grey and Simcoe Foresters. So, St. Andrew’s has a huge list of war dead and we always do an opening act of remembrance for the the first 20 minutes of the service. We do that every year, no matter whether it falls on the 11th or not.

“There were dozens of St. Andrew’s war dead.”

The service at St. Andrew’s begins on Sunday at 10 a.m.

“With it being the 100th, there will obviously be a slightly different focus on the anniversary of armistice, but it will be the same kind of act,” Horst said.

McMillan said Sunday should be special to mark 100 years since the end of the First World War at Collier Street United.

“It’s just very significant, especially with Borden nearby, cenotaph being moved and the ceremony they had when they brought the soil from Vimy,” she said. “That was a wonderful service they had for that. It’s important to the city and across the country.”

Collier Street United, which is one of the city’s oldest churches and can trace its roots back to 1836 and with one of its buildings dating to 1864, also holds a special Remembrance Day service. And, because it falls on a Sunday this year, the church is also bringing in a trumpeter.

“We also have a book of remembrance in our sanctuary with members of the church who went to war,” McMillan said. “Some of their loved ones have written in that they didn’t come back, and there are other interesting artifacts in there as well.

“It’s is kind of sad, but they’ve brought them back in the way they could,” she added. “They remembered them that way and it’s a beautiful book. We had a member actually bestow money to the church to keep the book here forever.”

Collier Street United’s links to past wars runs deep. A few years ago, McMillan said a family from Australia came into the church who had a relative who had died in a training mission at nearby CFB Borden before the Second World War.

“They came here to the church, because this is where the funeral had been,” she said. “And that’s however many years ago.”

A ceremony to mark 100 years since the armistice ending the First World War will begin at 4:30 p.m. at Military Heritage Park, which is located on Lakeshore Drive beside the Southshore Centre. 

With help from the city, legion officials looked at the nominal rolls for the four infantry battalions that enlisted in Barrie. They've collected all of the names, which will be placed on a massive banner at Military Heritage Park. Glover said he hopes there will be people on hand Sunday who recognize their surname on the banner and can maybe shed more light on the individual stories.

"It's not like there's a database out there," he said, noting the banner could include around 3,000 names of people from around Simcoe County. "Our hope is that people will come out and look at that, see their surname and maybe learn something they didn't know about." 

Many of the local people who died in the First World War were buried in France or Belgium, but Glover said there are some soldiers who died from their wounds after returning home, including some deaths that happened several years after the war. 

Glover said there was a man named Charles Bloxham, who died from his war wounds in July 1926 and whose name does not appear on the local cenotaph, because it was erected in 1922, before Bloxham's death.

"So many of these guys need to be recalled and remembered," Glover said. 

Raymond Bowe

About the Author: Raymond Bowe

Raymond is an award-winning journalist who has been reporting from Simcoe County since 2000
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