On November 11, 1918, warring parties in Europe signed an “armistice” which ended the fighting between the Allies and Germany and resulted, six months later, in the Treaty of Versailles, which formally ended World War One.
My great-grandfather Edward Cox, by then a long-time resident of Vancouver, Canada, though English by birth, who was bandmaster of the city band at that time, was put in charge of providing music to help the city celebrate the signing of the Armistice.
Here in his own words, dictated later to the City Archivist, is an account of what happened on that day:
“What happened on that great occasion was this. The news came about midnight. Next morning I called up the President (Hr. George Kidd, I think) of the B. C. Electric Railway, and asked if I may have the sight seeing street car – open top. Mr. Kidd replied, “It will be ready when you want it down at the corner of Cambie and Hastings. There will be a conductor and motorman; you tell them what to do.” I asked that it be there at 10 a.m. and it was. I said that I was not able to pay. He replied, “It is at your service as the contribution of the B. C. Electric Railway Company.”
“I assembled my 72nd Seaforths band at my place of business on Cordova Street between Homer and Cambie Streets. The Mayor of Vancouver was His Worship Mayor Gale, and he placed all bands under my charge – twelve bands in all. There was little preparatory organization, there were many musicians, some of them returned soldiers, some had instruments – some without. I had to purchase three instruments out of my own purse. Altogether I had one hundred and fifty men. Out of these I picked twelve leaders as bandmasters; then gave each leader twelve men according to their instruments, and away they went, some on floats, some marching on foot. The sight seeing street car with band playing went everywhere – over every line. We allowed no one on except returned soldiers, and many of these accompanied us. We went up Mt. Pleasant, Fairview, West End, everywhere, playing as we went, and except for intervals for meals, did not cease playing on that sight seeing street car until 10 o’clock that night. Some musicians stayed the entire time, some would retire, new ones take their places, some come, some go, it was a wild day of jollification, no order, no system, but everywhere harmony and co-operation. I supplied all the music. I had about 400 marches in my library. We played “Tipparary,” “Keep the Home Fire Burning,” “Pack Up Your Troubles,” “Long, Long Trail,” and other popular ones of the period. “Colonel Bogie” was a great favorite.
“I just divided the 150 men into 12 bands under a leader, gave them their music, told them their position in the line of march and left them ‘go to it.’ It was a glorious moment.”
It was a real thrill to find this interview in the Vancouver City Archives when I visited there in 1972. I’ve always wanted to share this portion with a wider audience.