Britain declares war on Germany on August 4, 1914, automatically involving Canada. The Bell Telephone Company of Canada promises re-employment to all permanent team members who enlist. Families or relatives who are dependent on earnings of a Bell team member on active service are entitled to compensation. The war effort manifested itself in many ways throughout the company. To support fellow colleagues at the front, Bell employees were offered the opportunity to buy Victory Loan Bonds on a voluntary basis.
Emphasis was also put on conservation of supplies, including considering alternatives before replacing equipment, re-using recovered material and reducing waste. Some operators helped by rolling bandages for wounded soldiers, others purchased an ambulance on behalf of the Canadian Red Cross Society for use in England and France.
When the news of Germany’s surrender reached the North American continent at 3 am, on Monday, November 11, 1918, operators were swamped with telephone calls. In every Bell exchange, every position at the switchboard was filled. Although the company made extraordinary provisions in anticipation of such a rush, no amount of preparation could have enabled the operators to handle calls with their usual speed and efficiency. General Manager C.F. Sise, in a cirular letter, paid tribute to their “heroic, splendid and self-denying work”.
By the end of 1918, 833 employees had enlisted for military service abroad and 79 had laid down their lives.