by Leah Behrens
South Walkerville streets were named to commemorate
people and places from World War I.
Photo: Sir Julian
Byng, Governor General of Canada 1921-26
street name Ypres had always been a mystery to me. Ive lived
near this boulevard on Marentette for almost eight years. After
learning NOT to pronounce it YEYE-PRESS, I often pondered its
meaning as I drove down the 40 km/hr crawl through South Walkerville
to Walker Road. While researching for this story, I got a history
lesson that, being a Canadian, I am surprised I had never learned.
discovered that intrigue not only lies behind the name of Ypres,
but in all the east-west running streets in South Walkerville. Along
with Byng and Turner, they combine to express a memorial to the
Canadians who fought in the First World War. History has been permanently
etched in these street names. Reflecting commanders of Canadian
troops and the battles fought in Belgium and France, each is an
illustration of memories of the Great War of 1914-1918.
this war, and for many years after the fighting ceased on Armistice
Day (November 11, 1918), details of the disastrous drama were in
the forefront of everyones conscience. The names of St. Julien
and Ypres stirred up memories of Belgium tragedies where Canada
lost thousands of her young men in a matter of days. The botched
and bloody battle at the French Valley of the Somme cost Canadians
24,029 men. Recollections of French catastrophes lurked behind the
names of Alsace and Lorraine. Verdun, however, represented glorious
gains for France, just as Amiens and Arras were examples of Canadian
conquests against the Germans. In Lens, Canadians triumphed against
the enemy, costing them 20,000 men. Vimy was a portrait of strategic
success, as Canadian troops recaptured the French Ridge from the
of the victories, the war experience and the total number of young
men massacred on the battlefields were horrific. No one would be
quick to forget the precious price that had been paid for freedom.
Windsor lost 132 men to the Great War, while 269 were wounded in
action. The neighbouring town of Walkerville was robbed of 20 lives,
including that of Lieutenant Walter Hoare, son of Walkerville Mayor
Dr. Charles W. Hoare (1917-1918). The community welcomed home 46
men who were wounded in action. Life could never be the same again
in the aftermath of the long, 52-month war.
The close of WWI opened the chapter of the Industrial Revolution.
Windsor and Walkerville both experienced a population boom that
caused their numbers to more than double. Before the war, Windsors
inhabitants were numbered at 17,829. By 1921, the citys size
had exploded to 38,591. Walkerville increased from 3,302 to 7,059
during the same ten year period. The desperate need for housing
caused these communities to expand their boundaries. The early 1920s
ushered in an abundance of prosperity for the Border Cities. This
unbelievable growth contrasted the anguish the war had brought during
the last decade.
no amount of success could distract anyone from honouring the men
who had valiantly fought in the Great War. In June of 1920, France
and Belgium presented the government of Canada land on which to
erect memorials to commemorate the victories won by Canadian soldiers
against the Germans. Patriotic enthusiasm was also alive in the
town of Walkerville. During that same year, the first subdivision
plans to open up the south end of Walkerville were approved. The
east-west avenues of Lens, Vimy, Ypres, Somme and St. Julien were
named as permanent reminders of the battle sites made famous during
the Great War. Lieutenant-General Sir Richard Turner was immortalized
in the naming of the first north-south running road west of Walker
Road. Sir Julian Byng was also a Lieutenant-General who commanded
the Canadian Army. Respect for this British leader was so great
amongst the Canadian troops, that they began to call themselves
the Byng Boys. After his career as a war commander, Byng went on
to become Governor General of Canada. The next street parallel to
Turner was named in reverence of Byng.
these streets were built, Walkerville continued to flourish. In
1924, the Essex Border Utilities Commission approved a plan to expand
this housing project. Alsace, Loraine (spelled slightly different
from the Lorraine of WWI), and Verdun were added to this growing
war memorial. Four years later, Walkerville Land and Building Company
put in the finishing touches with the 1928 construction of Amiens
City of Windsor also set aside commemorative grounds to respect
the memory of those who gallantly gave their lives during the Great
War. In June 1925, Windsors latest acquired lands at its south-east
border were designated as Memorial Park. Memorial Drive, which used
to connect Howard Avenue to Walker Road, ran behind the park and
through the southernmost reaches of Walkerville.
of the impact Canadians had during WWI and the stories behind the
street names in South Walkerville is a fascinating study. I am left
to wonder why this momentous facet of Canadas biography was
overlooked when I was in school. Dusty history books, old newspapers
and a few museums keep memories of the Great War alive as the last
of its veterans pass on. The memorial in South Walkerville is in
danger of becoming merely a list of frequently mispronounced street
names. Majestic monuments and military graves for the Canadian soldiers
who fought and died amongst the trenches are half a world away.
In the middle of this city lies our modest tribute. While it is
not lined by graves and poppies, the message in the roads between
the homes and the trees is the same: Lest we forget.