TORONTO FIREFIGHTERS WAR VETERANS ASSOCIATION WELCOMES YOU
WHO WE ARE
A Distinct Identity
The Toronto Firefighters War Veterans Association has a rich and colourful history dating back to the years just prior to World War II. Eight men, both Toronto Firefighters and World War I veterans, met at the Prisoner of War Club on Shuter and Mutual Streets in downtown Toronto in 1935. The intent of the organization was to provide a social outlet and promote the welfare of Toronto Firefighter ex-servicemen and their families. When World War II ended, membership grew rapidly as the Association welcomed returning Firefighter War Veterans of both the Toronto Fire Department and neighbouring fire departments. Later on non-veteran Firefighters were permitted to join as Associate Members. Fire Chief George Sinclair presented the Colours to the Association just prior to November 11, 1936.
During the late 50’s, one of the Toronto Firefighters’ War Veteran’s Association’s many charitable projects was helping to fund a special summer camp for needy children as a part of a Canadian War Veteran’s Association effort. Camp Maple Leaf on Pigeon Lake was a 104-acre island in the Kawartha region that was purchased by many local War Veteran Associations, and it allowed underprivileged children to experience a free 14-day holiday. The Toronto Firefighters’ War Veteran’s Association also purchased a cabin at the cost of $1800 for the use of the children while at camp. This cabin was officially dedicated by our Association Padre, Reverend Kerr and was opened by Toronto Fire Chief Leonard Leigh on June 20, 1959. The Veteran’s main source of charitable income was the monies collected by the sale of draw tickets and by 1959 had risen to over $46 thousand dollars. In conjunction with the War Vets, the TFFA Local 113 contributed money, equipment and volunteers who worked tirelessly at the camp helping with repairs, renovations, and the construction of new buildings for the children. This project continued up to the early 1960’s where the camp and its management went in a different direction, and the Association itself also changed its focus from being a charitable organization to that of its members and their welfare.
The Colour Guard
It wasn’t until the early 1950’s that a Colour Guard was formed to carry the following Colours: Canada, Union Jack, U.S.A., Ontario, City of Toronto, Toronto Fire Department, Toronto Firefighters’ War Veteran’s Association, Navy, Army (Red Ensign), Air Force, and those flags now associated with Local 3888. Members of the War Veteran’s Association always marched in many local Toronto parades, including the annual Warriors Day Parade, and the Labour Day Parade much to the delight of the audience. As many of the former Veterans were now getting older and were physically unable to march in the parades, the Association encouraged younger members of the Toronto Fire Department to join. Many of TFD’s War Veterans were active in the Toronto Firefighter’s Association, Local 113, ‘Silver Band,’ which formed in 1931 and disbanded in 1943.
After amalgamation in 1998, Fire Chief Alan Speed assisted the Colour Guard with the supply of equipment and uniforms, and Fire Chief Matthew Pegg continues to carry on this past tradition of support. The War Veteran’s Association is very grateful for their support over the years, as well as for the dedicated assistance of Toronto Professional Fire Fighters Association, Local 3888.
Today the Colour Guard is as strong as ever, with an agenda of events indicative of their passion for their organization. They can be seen at many Toronto area parades such as the Warriors Day Parade, Labour Day Parade, the Beaches Easter Parade and St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
At the request of the Fire Chief they assist the Toronto Fire Services immensely through their attendance at numerous Firefighter Recruit Graduation ceremonies, the Toronto Fallen Firefighter Memorial Ceremony, The Provincial Fallen Firefighter Memorial, and the annual Toronto Firefighter Rescue & Merit and Long Service Medal Award ceremonies. They can also be seen supporting other local events such as the opening ceremonies for the Ontario Fire Chief’s Convention, the Canadian Fallen Firefighter Ceremony, the Sunrise Remembrance Service, and the City of Toronto Remembrance Service.
Historical Toronto Firefighter War Veteran Information for World Wars I and II
Many Toronto Firefighters enlisted to serve England during World War I, with many volunteering their services during 1915. One Toronto Firefighter, Captain Charles O. Ardagh of the Rose Avenue Hall, enlisted in 1916 despite the fact that he was eligible for his pension and retirement. Captain Ardagh, it is noted, volunteered not just to serve his country but because he was ‘lonesome for his own two boys who had enlisted as well.’ Firefighters who died overseas are commemorated in a plaque which was erected by the Toronto Firefighters’ Association Local 113 at ‘Old City Hall,’ 60 Queen Street West. Department records show that
five firefighters were killed in France sometime between 1914 and 1918. They were: F.D. Fisher, Clarence Kerrigan, Walter Parker, A. Caskie* and Ed Blake* (* These men do not appear on the memorial plaque but are referenced in the 1960 Toronto Fire Department History Book written by Melville Hodgson as having died in France during 1914-18).
Twenty-three Toronto Firefighters enlisted overseas during World War II to assist England during the Blitz. Their mandate was to extinguish fires and to protect both life and property in case of fire in Great Britain, Isle of Man, and Northern Ireland, on land and ships and vessels at sea. It also included both rescue and salvage. These men, serving in Companies 1 to 8, upon arriving in the UK partook in a 4-week training course in various aspects of firefighting. After training was completed, Britain’s National Fire Service withdrew from their stations and they were staffed entirely by Canadians (143 Professional Firefighters from across Canada enlisted). Canadian Firefighters then attended all lull-time fires, as well as any blitz fires. They participated in normal life in England, complete with social and sporting events. Canadian Firefighters were regarded very highly on the fireground as well, and it was noticed by one Fire Chief that the Canadians were always ready to volunteer for any sticky, dirty job … and they were never happier than when on the fireground.
While in England, there were a few casualties to the Corps members and many injuries. When the war ended, most Firefighters returned home to their previous departments. Prior to their departure a farewell party was thrown for them in Trafalgar Square and were paid tribute for saving British lives and property. By February 1945 the men were back in Canada, along with 20 British brides. It is interesting to note that while these Toronto Firefighters were in England, Auxiliary Firefighters
took their place back in Toronto; after the war the Auxiliary Fire Service was disbanded.
The Association is currently looking for new members, especially those with military service. We are also looking for those who may be interested in marching with the Colour Guard. If you are interested in joining, contact Wayne Bridger 416-438-3741 (firstname.lastname@example.org), or Robin Wight 905-822-7413 (email@example.com).
The Association currently meets on the 3rd Thursday of each month, with the exception of July and August. They meet at The Royal Canadian Legion Branch 527, 948 Sheppard Ave West in North York. The meetings begin promptly at 8pm and include a light meal and bar service.
CONTACT TORONTO FIREFIGHTERS WAR VETERANS ASSOCIATION
Get in touch with Toronto Firefighters War Veterans Association to learn more about our work and how you can get involved:
Web Page Photo Credits go to Larry Thorne!
3 Bridlington St
Toronto, M1H 2L4