At sunset on Nov. 11, bells across the nation will ring 100 times in remembrance of the 100-year anniversary of the end of World War I. In Salmon Arm, the bell of St. Joseph’s Catholic church will start to ring at 4:15 p.m.
“They’re calling it the Bells of Peace,” says Dan St. Pierre, a member of Legion Branch #62 executive and Poppy Campaign Chairman.
The ringing of the bells emulates the moment in 1918 when church bells across Europe spontaneously tolled in jubilation as four years of war had come to an end. The idea for this commemoration came from the Royal Canadian Legion Dominion Command.
In a letter to the branches, Legion Dominion President Thomas D. Irvine said: “This powerful sound, symbolizing peace from coast to coast, will allow Canadians to stop, remember and feel the joy that the end of war brought after so much death and destruction. It will also be a reflection of the deep respect we hold for our many veterans who served in the First World War and for those who continue to serve our country today.”
St. Pierre says the ceremony here will take place in the parking lot of St. Joseph’s.
“Someone will be inside ringing the bell and outside there will be some people in uniform from the Legion, and the cadets will form an honour guard. We will have a couple of wreaths and flags and someone playing a bugle. There won’t be any speeches and it’s not going to be long – maybe 15 minutes.”
Matt Fowler, Second Vice-president of Branch #62, will be ringing the bell.
“I have the dual honour of representing the Legion and the parish. It’s an honour to be a part of this,” Fowler said.
Fowler has been involved in the Legion, Remembrance Day and poppy sales his entire life because his family has a military background.
“My grandmother served in WWII. She served as a British soldier operating the search lights on the white Cliffs of Dover. She moved to Canada with my Canadian army grandfather and brought my father.”
His 95-year-old grandmother, Alex (Alexandria) Wallner is his inspiration. She is active in her Legion in Clinton. Fowler has been to the Cliffs of Dover in England where his grandmother served in the war.
“I spent my time there reflecting on what they did for us. It resonates every day with me to be honest. I think about families, mothers, the sacrifices they made to protect us from evil or whatever you want to call it,” he says.
St. Pierre served from 1984 to 1992 as a naval weapons technician and is a veteran of the Gulf War. He says his focus for the Bells of Peace ceremony here is the youth.
“They’re the up- and-coming politicians and people in charge. It’s important they learn about it and remember the reason for all this. It’s the old adage – those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to make the same mistakes in the future. This [WWI] was supposed to be the war to end all wars and it didn’t. The loss of life was massive and it affected so many countries.”
The bells will ring at five-second intervals, starting at 4:15 p.m., taking a total of almost nine minutes. Everyone is invited to the ceremony which takes place at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, 60-1st St. SE.