November 11, 1918 at 11:00 a.m. marked the profound but symbolic end to the four-year conflict on the Western Front. After the last gun sounded, an eerie quiet must have greeted the soldiers along the front lines. The world was finally ready for peace.
In Guelph, people celebrated the end of the First World War but grieved the loss of over 250 local men and women who died in the conflict. Families looked forward to their loved ones returning home to restart lives put on hold by war. Many soldiers remained overseas as “troops of occupation.” Others had to wait for available transport; some troops waited over a year to return home.
The trauma of the war impacted those who served overseas in countless ways. Many needed assistance to reintegrate into their civilian lives. In Guelph, the Ontario Reformatory became the Speedwell Military Convalescent Hospital, established to rehabilitate, reemploy, and reeducate veterans. The hospital operated from 1917 to 1921.
Woodland Farm, near the corner of Niska and Whitelaw Roads, became Vimy Ridge Farm. Operated by the War Veterans Welfare Commission between 1923 and 1926, the farm gave injured veterans a place where “they could work as they were able, keeping them productive and dignified while readying them for regular employment.”
Through the story of Sergeant Duncan Robert Irvine, a Guelphite who came home, this installation marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the Great War. Let us never forget.