Gord Gillies: A Calgary tour through the battlegrounds of the First World War

A street sign in Garrison Woods shows streets named after battles fought by Canadians in the First World War.
A street sign in Garrison Woods shows streets named after battles fought by Canadians in the First World War. Gord Gillies / 770 CHQR

My wife and I spent a couple of hours wandering around Garrison Woods this past weekend. We joined 25 others on a memorial walk to learn a bit about Calgary’s military involvement in the First World War.

The walk was hosted by the chaplain of the Military Museums, Maj. (Ret’d) Loyd Northcott. He’s an historian and excellent guide who draws on his military background to describe the horrors of the Great War and highlight Canada’s role in helping end it.

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The route is about four kilometres long and winds along the streets that used to be Calgary’s former military base, Currie Barracks. Part of the walk includes seeing how some of those old war time homes have been updated and incorporated into the new community.

It’s my understanding the guided tours of Garrison Woods are finished until next spring, but you can pick up a tour map at the Military Museums and walk the route yourself. It’s well worth your time.

Most of the streets in Garrison Woods are named after famous battles in the First World War. They were picked by soldiers in the regiments that called Calgary home, like the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry and Lord Strathcona’s Horse.

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There are 14 monuments along the way that describe those significant battles and the sacrifices made by Canadians.

Passchendaele, Ypres, Mons, Cambrai.

At Vimy Ridge where there were 10,602 casualties, including 3598 Canadians killed.

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Flanders, that forlorn region along the French-Belgium border, immortalized by Lt. Col. John McRae’s famous poem.

It’s such a contrast, walking through the beautiful, peaceful neighbourhood knowing every avenue and road is named for some of the darkest hours in our history. But as the chaplain reminded us, those dark times helped us become the country we are.

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Thanks to the sacrifice of so many.

Lest we forget.