Today is the 100th anniversary of the end of hostilities in the Great War.
Canadians will mark this day as they have for the last century with two minutes* of silence. We will remember the 61,000 men and women who died in uniform, most of whom are buried overseas in Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemeteries, some so badly damaged they couldn’t be identified, their graves marked with headstones inscribed A Canadian Soldier of the Great War—Known unto God, others whose bodies were never found and who are remembered at monuments in Ypres and Vimy Ridge.
We also remember the 173,000 Canadians who were wounded and returned home to get on with their lives as best they could.
The Armistice was signed between 5:10 and 5:20 in the morning. It declared hostilities would cease on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.
We will never know the names of all the soldiers who were killed or wounded in the intervening six hours, but we do know the name of the last Canadian soldier to fall.
George Lawrence Price, a Nova Scotia boy, was killed by a sniper’s bullet at 10:58 a.m. just two minutes before the Armistice went into effect.
Price was conscripted on October 15, 1917 and joined the 28th Battalion. On November 11, 1918 the Battalion had moved into position next to a canal near a small town in Belgium. At 9:00 a.m. the Battalion received word that hostilities would end at 11:00 a.m. According to Art Goodworthy, a fellow soldier, Price and Goodworthy were worried the Battalion was exposed to enemy fire from the other side of the canal. They decided to take a small patrol into town to search the houses and encountered German sniper fire. Price was stuck by a bullet and died two minutes before 11:00 a.m.
Tim Cook, author and co-curator of Canada’s 100 Days exhibit at the Canadian War Museum, describes the Great War as “industrial-scale slaughter”. We remember it in small stories of men and women who lost the chance to live and laugh, and perhaps, if they’d survived, change the arc of history.
It’s been one hundred years since they made the ultimate sacrifice.
We will never forget.
*Remembrance Day ceremonies vary, some are marked by one minute of silence, others by two.