#100DaysofVimy – March 12th, 2017

Each Sunday we will share a story of Remembrance. Today:

The Canadian Corps Reunion of 1934

All veterans at the 1934 Canadian Corps Reunion received an arm band and beret based on their unit of service; here is an armband for a member of the Canadian Engineers.
Courtesy: Canadian Centre for the Great War.

The death of Sir Arthur Currie in 1933 served as the final spark that re-ignited the esprit de corps amongst Canada’s veterans. In response to the outpouring of passion and pride, the Canadian Corps Reunion was planned for August 4th – 6th, 1934. In homage to Currie, its motto was a phrase of his “They served till death, why not we?”

Coinciding with the Centenary of the City of Toronto, the reunion was arranged on the Canadian National Exhibition Grounds. In the midst of the Depression, the vets arrived in droves using all manners of transportation; rail, hitch-hiking, overloaded cars, some even walked. In an effort to replicate the life experienced “behind the lines” during rest periods overseas, an entire French village was built on the grounds; complete with town squares, French cafes serving alcohol (“estaminets” to the vets) and even farmyards with manure piles.

Although this program is from the 1938 Canadian Corps Reunion, the scheduled events are near identical to those held in 1934.
Courtesy: Canadian Centre for the Great War.

The life of the reunion centered around these estaminets, with old war songs, pianos, laughter and the clinking of bottles resounding far into the early morning. The vets marched down streets in the French village whose names they recognized: “Plug Street, Whiz Bang Avenue, Ypres Road” (Christie, Roncetti, For Our Old Comrades, 34).

For a week, the men of the Canadian Corps were given free rein of Toronto, whether marching in parades by their thousands, designating themselves impromptu traffic directors, or breaking out a game of Crown & Anchor on the sidewalks. It is estimated that 120,000 veterans attended the Canadian Corps Reunion, with as many as 300,000 people attending the Grand Finale Parade to Riverdale Park. With the Vimy Memorial nearing completion, the reunion closed with the rallying cry “On to Vimy!” (Christie, Roncetti, For Our Old Comrades, 36).

An estimated 300,000 people attended the 1934 Canadian Corps Reunion’s Grand Finale Parade in Toronto’s Riverdale Park, where a cardboard replica of the Vimy Memorial towered above the crowds.
Courtesy: Willa Rivett Family, Private Collection, 2017.