A first-time visitor to the community of Signal Hill is often struck by the sight of the huge numbers adorning the hill. The giant 137, 113, 151, and 51 are composed of white-washed rocks, representing some the battalions who trained at Sarcee Camp starting in 1915, as Calgary, and the world, prepared for the Great War.
Placing the rocks on the hill was part of a training exercise; a tradition from the Imperial Army. During the height of summer’s heat, the soldiers marched in groups of four, dragging field stones up the hill — about 7,500 of them, totaling close to 100 tons. Considered difficult, dirty work by the men, it was training and team building rolled into one.
Indeed, Canadians became known for their teamwork, and being canny and courageous on the battlefields of Europe, and so were often employed as crack assault troops. Gen. Sir Arthur Currie, commander of the Canadian Corps, withstood pressure and kept the Canadian battalions together as much as possible, instead of dispersing them amongst the British divisions.
Deep bonds between men from the same community led to excellent teamwork, a sense of purpose and feats of bravery. Unfortunately, it also created horrible gaps in communities back home, when men from an entire community went into battle together.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, fought from April 9 – 12 in Vimy, France. A key spot for the German defence system, the Canadian Corps won the area after two failed Allied attempts.
Historian Stéphane Guevremont will discuss the role of the Canadian Corps and the Alberta battalions in this famous battle, Tuesday, April 11 at Central Library. Please join us and learn more about this important piece of Canadian and world history. Register online here.
Want to learn more?
Read The Great War and its Consequences, Ted Byfield, Editor, A Legacy of Courage, “Calgary’s Own” 137th Overseas Battalion by Fred Bagley, Task of Gratitude, Canadian Battlefields of the Great War by Stephen Mills.