We Hold Thee Safe

April 17, 2014

To: All Members of Local 867


Date:               April 22, 2014

To:                  All Members of Local 867

From:              Alex Forrest, President

Re:                  We Hold Thee Safe

Our name, our flashes and our motto are all important parts of the tradition of the Winnipeg Fire Department.

Several years ago we fought hard to restore the name “Winnipeg Fire Department” and every day we wear our uniform with our flashes on it.  Our flashes carry the motto of the Winnipeg Fire Department but have you every thought about where this motto came from or why it is such an important part of our tradition?

This little bit of knowledge was recently given to me and since we are going into a new era with a new chief, it seems an appropriate time to share it with the members.

Special thanks to George Treddenick for taking the time to give me this information.


The Winnipeg Fire Department’s motto is “We Hold Thee Safe”.  Many have claimed to be the author of these four simple, but meaningful words.  The original author is unknown, but we do know how the motto first came to us.  It came from a loving Irish mother named Cherry Code of Belfast, Ireland.  Her eldest son Thomas W. Code enlisted in the British Army and in about 1869 was sent to Canada and the North West Territories under the leadership of Colonel Wolsely to help suppress the Red River Uprising led by Louis Riel.

Thomas W. Code was not heard from for several years and in the year 1871 his mother, Cherry Code, asked her youngest son William G. Code to travel to the Americas to find Thomas W. Code.  Mother Cherry Code gave her son William G. code a bible and in that bible she inscribed these words: “We Hold Thee Safe”.  Throughout his travels he always kept his bible, inscribed with his mother’s words, close to him.

In 1871 William Code arrived in the United States of America and made his way to Marquette, Michigan.  In 1874 hearing the word that his brother Thomas was at Fort Garry in the North West Territories, he made his way to Canada and Fort Garry, which later became Winnipeg.  On arrival in Fort Garry he immediately joined the newly organized Fort Garry Volunteer Fire Brigade.

In 1882 the City of Winnipeg formed the full time Winnipeg Fire Department and Code immediately quit his job at the Winnipeg Free Press and joined the Winnipeg Fire Department as a foreman.  He quickly rose through the ranks and in 1889 he was appointed Chief of the Winnipeg Fire Department.  Chief William Code became a legend, not only in Winnipeg but throughout Canada, as the Fire Fighter who had fought more fires than any other Fire Fighter in Canada.  Code became known as Chief “Fighting” Billy Code.

Our motto, “We Hold Thee Safe” has been quoted many times during the history of the Department and in 1982, our centennial year, it became our official motto.  We Hold Thee Safe is not just four simple words but a promise made by all Winnipeg Fire Fighters to hold the people of Winnipeg safe without regard to race, religion, culture or colour.  Unfortunately many Winnipeg Fire Fighters have died in the line of duty keeping this promise, “for a promise made is a promise kept”.



In January of 1912 Chief Code received a letter from the Deputy Chief of the Boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens that Thomas W. Code, a member of their Department had been killed on January 22, 1888



Chief Code’s family members

The Winnipeg Fire Fighters Historical Society

George Treddenick, Founding Director of the Winnipeg Fire Fighters Historical Society