On the evening of Tuesday, Aug. 4th, 1914, Red Deer received word that Great Britain had declared war on Germany and its allies.
As a member of the British Empire, Canada was automatically part of this declaration of war.
The news was greeted with great enthusiasm in the community.
There was an impromptu parade from the St. Luke’s Anglican Parish Hall on Gaetz Avenue North, where the Sons of England were having their regular meeting, through the centre of town to the Civic Square, next to City Hall.
The Red Deer Community Band led the parade.
They were quickly joined by members of the 35 Central Alberta Light Horse militia, veterans of the Boer War, downtown businesspeople and a great many members of the general public. Several people brought their cars as they joined the procession.
Although one of the speakers at the gathering in the Civic Square proclaimed that, “This was a time for action and not a time for speaking,” the speeches, choruses of patriotic songs and general exclamations of excitement went on for three hours.
Major Carlyle Moore, the local commanding officer of the 35 Central Alberta Horse, wired the Minister of the Militia to indicate the squadron’s willingness and readiness to serve immediately. He also announced that the militia, who had been having training sessions once a week, would now assemble every evening at the Armouries for drill and rifle practice.
Young men flocked to the Armouries to enlist.
Many felt that if they did not join up as soon as possible, they might miss the ‘big show’ before it was over by Christmas. The sense of urgency was heightened by rumours that as few as 50 young men might be called up, whereas more than 200 had either enlisted or were making plans to enlist.
The community decided to honour these eager young men with a special ceremony at the annual Red Deer Fair on the evening of Aug. 20th. There were several speeches by the local dignitaries. The Red Deer Community Band played several patriotic numbers.
Near the end of the ceremonies, City Commissioner A.T. Stephenson called up each recruit and presented him with a $10 gold piece as a parting gift from the City.
The Community Band closed with the playing of the National Anthem.
The crowd joined in with lusty singing and many rounds of cheering. The Fire Brigade then put on an impressive show of fireworks, which again, prompted loud cheering and applause.
Most people expected that the first squadron of the 35 Central Alberta Horse would soon be ordered to leave for further training at Valcartier, Quebec and then service overseas. However, many were still caught off guard when the official telegram was received at 10 a.m. the next morning.
The soldiers were on out on a training march. Consequently, messengers had to be quickly dispatched in every direction to locate them and give them the news. The men were then given only an hour to get their things ready for departure.
The result was rather chaotic.
Some of the soldiers were in old uniforms. Others were dressed in overalls. Many carried suitcases, knapsacks and other bags in which they had quickly stuffed their belongings.
Nevertheless, virtually everyone in town quickly gathered to cheer the men on as they marched from the Armouries to the C.P.R. station.
A drummer led the procession. Once everyone gathered at the train station, there was more loud cheering and singing of patriotic songs.
There were also a great many tears shed.
Despite all the excitement, most realized that many of the young men they were sending off might never return. Some realized how terrible the Great War would become.
Edward Michener, Red Deer’s MLA, predicted that the world was, “Faced with the greatest crisis in human history.”
Before long, as dark news was received from overseas, the harsh reality of war hit home.