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Walter Callow (c.1917)

Walter Harris Callow (1896–1958) was a Canadian veteran who invented the accessibility bus for veterans returning from WW2 and others in wheelchairs (1947).[1][2] He designed and managed the Walter Callow Wheelchair Bus, while he himself was blind, quadriplegic and, eventually had both legs amputated. Callow planned trips for disabled veterans, tours of the countryside, picnics, sporting events, art classes and other activities. He was born in Parrsboro, Nova Scotia and became a resident of the Camp Hill Military Hospital for twenty years.


Walter Callow Wheel Chair Bus (2013), Halifax, Nova Scotia

Part of a series on the
Military history of
Nova Scotia
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Battle of Port Royal 1690
Conquest of Acadia 1710
Battle of Jeddore Harbour 1722
Northeast Coast Campaign 1745
Battle of Grand Pré 1747
Dartmouth Massacre 1751
Bay of Fundy Campaign 1755
Fall of Louisbourg 1758
Headquarters established for Royal Navy's North American Station 1758
Burying the Hatchet ceremony 1761
Battle of Fort Cumberland 1776
Raid on Lunenburg 1782
Halifax Impressment Riot 1805
Establishment of New Ireland 1812
Capture of USS Chesapeake 1813
Battle at the Great Redan 1855
Siege of Lucknow 1857
CSS Tallahassee Escape 1861
Departing Halifax for Northwest Rebellion 1885
Departing Halifax for the Boer War 1899
Imprisonment of Leon Trotsky 1917
Jewish Legion formed 1917
Sinking of HMHS Llandovery Castle 1918
Battle of the St. Lawrence 1942–44
Sinking of SS Point Pleasant Park 1945
Halifax VE-Day Riot 1945
Walter Callow Wheelchair Bus established 1947
Notable military regiments
Mi'kmaq militias 1677-1779
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40th Regiment 1717-57
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Gorham's Rangers 1744-62
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84th Regiment of Foot 1775-84
Royal Fencible American 1775-83
Royal Nova Scotia Volunteers 1775-83
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1st Field Artillery 1791-present
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78th Highlanders 1869-71
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Nova Scotia Rifles 1914-19
No. 2 Construction Battalion 1916-19
West Nova Scotia 1916-present
The Nova Scotia Highlanders 1954-present

As a member of the Royal Flying Corps in Camp Mohawk, Ontario, Callow crashed in a test flight in 1918. He received a serious back injury and a heart condition. He continued on in a lumber business in Advocate, Nova Scotia. He eventually became bed-ridden in 1931 because of his injuries, the same year his mother and wife died and left him with a young child. He continued business by selling real-estate.

In 1937 Callow became a full-time resident of the Camp Hill Hospital and two years later he was blind and quadriplegic. While at the Hospital he established a board of directors and hired two secretaries. He established the Callow Cigarette Fund to send cigarettes to soldiers serving over-seas during World War 2.

After the war, he turned his cigarette fund into a wheelchair coach service for disabled veterans (1947).[3] He started by having two custom made buses built in Pubnico, Nova Scotia. He eventually garnered the support of General Motors and Ford to build the wheelchair coaches. He named the company the "Callow Veterans' and Invalids' Welfare League" and established an office in Halifax. He worked tirelessly to make facilities accessible and to make visible the needs of those with physical disabilities.

His funeral was conducted in Halifax with full military honours. The only time that Callow had the opportunity to ride on his bus is when his body was returned to Advocate to be buried.


There was an unveiling of the Walter Callow Memorial Plaque at the Advocate cemetery on 10 August 2001.

The Walter Callow Wheelchair Bus continues today.[4]

See also



  1. Veteran had indomitable spirit: Paralyzed airman invented bus that accommodates wheelchairs. Halifax Daily News, Wednesday 26 September 2007
  2. Ottawa Citizen - 23 Aug 1950 Callow's bus had a hydrolic ramp. The following year an accessibility bus with a manual ramp was used in Toronto.
  3. Carman Miller. The 1940s: War and Rehabilitation. in The Atlantic Provinces in Confederation. University of Toronto. 1993. p. 307
  4. Wheelchair bus service turns 65, founder lauded. Chronicle Herald. 29 July 2012


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