Battalion Park numbers could get historic designation

Calgary is looking at giving municipal historic designation to the giant numbers in Battalion Park in southwest Calgary.

Numbers honour battalions that trained at Camp Sarcee during World War I

The numbers on the side of Signal Hill in S.W. Calgary could soon receive special recognition from Calgary's city council. 1:22

Calgary is looking at giving municipal historic designation to the giant numbers in southwest Calgary's Battalion Park.

The numbers, which are actually made up of rocks that have been painted white, honour the various battalions that trained at Camp Sarcee during World War I.

Coun. Richard Pootmans says getting the historic designation would help ensure that history will never be forgotten.
The rocks in Battalion Park, on a hillside in southwest Calgary, represent the unit numbers of the battalions that trained at Camp Sarcee. (City of Calgary)

"Thousands of soldiers gathered here from throughout Western Canada for training," he said. "They were going overseas to a pretty ghastly trench warfare environment and a lot of them didn't come back."

Soldiers at the camp gathered stones to mark their unit numbers on the hillside before heading overseas, but only four of about two dozen numbers remain (although only one was never relocated). 

"The outlines were first plotted out by military engineers, then filled in by fatigue parties who gathered thousands of fieldstones from the surrounding area and laboriously placed them into the hillside," according to the City of Calgary's website.

"Over the past century various military and paramilitary organizations in Calgary, including local garrisons, veterans of the 137th Battalion, and members of the Royal Canadian Legion have continued the tradition of whitewashing or painting the numbers as an act of remembrance." 

This fall, Pootmans plans to ask city council to apply for federal historic designation for the site since 2015 marks the 100th anniversary of Camp Sarcee.

Pootmans says some Calgarians are emotionally attached to the monuments through parents and grandparents who served. "[There's] a nearby neighbour whose grandfather helped carry some of those stones up the hill," he said.

The numbers can be seen from kilometres away, but this is what they look like close-up. (Scott Dipple/CBC)

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