Saturday, 3 October 2009

Canadian National War Memorial, Ottawa

The memorial in Confederation Square

I was in Ottawa last week and was very taken by their splendid National War Memorial, which is in Confederation Square, just in front of my hotel.

Confederation Square from my hotel room

Vernon March

A contest to design a memorial commemorating the dead of the Great War was announced in 1925. The winner, who was announced in January 1926, was Hull-born Vernon March (1891-1930) based in Farnborough in Surrey (not that far from where I live!) who beat off 126 other entries. His design showed the response of Canada to the war (hence the monument's alternative name: The Response). Work began in 1926 but March never lived to see its completion, dying of pneumonia in 1930. His six brothers and sister worked to complete the sculpture.

The unveiling of the monument by King George VI

The figures, which use 32 tons of bronze, were finished in 1932 and disolayed in Hyde Park for a while. They were shipped to Canada in 1937 where the granite arch was constructed and the whole monument was finally dedicated by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth on May 21 1939 in a visit which marked, surprisingly, the first time the reigning monarch had visited Canada.

The cenotaph itself is granite and contains 22 figures representing servicemen from all branches of the armed forces. On top of the monument stand two 17'6" figures representing freedom and peace.

HMCS Stadacona

The figures in the main part of the monument are 7'10" tall and represent infantry, a pilot, an air mechanic, a sailor (from the patrol ship HMCS Stadacona) and support services such as nurses, a stretcher bearer, a sapper and members of the Canadian Corps of Signals, The Forestry Corps and the Army Service Corps. The two mounted figures represent a mounted artilleryman and a cavalryman.

At the left a Lewis gunner and at the right a Highlander with a Vickers gun

A particularly splendid example of a war memorial and it gives me the urge to paint up some of my late war infantry as Canadians.

In 1982 inscriptions relating to World War 2 and the Korean War were added and in 2000 the tomb of the unknown soldier was placed in front of it.

At the rear of the statue you can see one of the nurses and an 18 pounder gun