100 Years of the Stones of Signal Hill

Stones of Signal Hill

Photo credit: Fred Bagley

When you approach the Signal Hill Shopping mall, in Calgary’s SW, the giant numbers on the side of the hill cannot escape your eye. However, the history of the 100 year old Stones of Signal Hill remains lost to many of the general public. In the past when I have told the story of the stones, people have come to realize that this is not just a site, but a treasure. There is meaning here that is of great significance.

Responding to the call to enlist for WW1 were farm boys, clerks, cowboys and new immigrants who felt the pull to defend and serve as well as the excitement for adventure and travel. They would train at Camp Sarcee, just south of where Glenmore Trail is today.

As part of their training exercises, numbers and crests were arranged with field stones on hills around Camp Sarcee. Only the numbers on Signal Hill remain. The giant of the numbers is 137, representing the men in the Calgary Battalion. 113 were the Lethbridge men, 51 was Edmonton and 151 was the number arranged by the soldiers in training from the district of Red Deer.

Many of the men who fought in WW1 did not return. Scottish born Canadian, Sgt. David Argo was one of the men who was killed on the front lines. I had the privilege of archiving the letters he wrote his wife Mae that were donated to the Museum of the Regiments. As a result of his words I created songs that tell his experience as a soldier in WW1 called ‘My Dear Mae’ and ‘Tillymaud’.

The men from the #137 who survived tried to save the numbers on Signal Hill as a historical landmark for future generations so we would not forget our past and those who fought.

About saving the stones, the provincial government at the time, said, “Why? There was no battle here.” I wrote the song ‘There Was No Battle Here’ based on the veterans determination to save the stones because they fought so there would be no battles here.

By 1991 the Stones of Signal Hill were finally declared a Heritage Site. Sadly, none of the men of the 137 were still alive to see it happen.