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This week, in "Historical Memory," we are focusing on commemoration. Thursday's class will centre on commemoration of World War One. So, this morning, while downtown, I decided to take some pictures of our local cenotaph in front of the courthouse. Unveiled in 1924, it was designed by sculptor Alfred Howell (who also was repsonsible for war memorials in Saint John, New Brunswick, as well as Guelph and Pembroke here in Ontario), and featured a four-line poem by Rudyard Kipling, especially commissioned for this monument.

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ABOVE: The memorial that stands in front of the stairs (to William Merrifield) is more recent than the rest of the memorial. It gives his death date, so it must date from sometime after 1943.

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ABOVE: The Kipling poem.

"From little towns in a far land we came
To save our honour and a world aflame
By little towns in a far land we sleep
And trust those things we won to you to keep."

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BELOW: While the main body of the cenotaph bears the names of World War One soldiers, the names of World War Two soldiers were added to the base. And also, the names of Korean war soldiers, as well as two who lost their lives in recent years in Afghanistan.

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-- Bruce


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 28th, 2016 06:12 am (UTC)
Beautiful. Didn't Kipling's son die in the war?

Are war memorials common over there? Here, just about every town and village has one.
Feb. 3rd, 2016 02:18 am (UTC)
I think that memorials to the Great War (and to the Second World War) are as common here as they are in Great Britain. You'll find them in most every Canadian town and city from coast to cost.

Indeed, Kipling lost his son John in the war, and afterward, Kipling served with the Imperial War Graves Commission. So he had an active interest in commemoration.


Feb. 3rd, 2016 08:12 am (UTC)
That's good to know. I imagine Canada lost a great many men?
Feb. 3rd, 2016 12:58 pm (UTC)
Somewhere between 50,000 and 60,000 Canadians lost their lives in the Great War -- more than in the Second World War. And that's not counting the war wounded (upwards of 200,000, and that's probably not counting undiagnosed cases of PTSD).

The years between 1914 and 1919 were exceedingly tumultuous for Canada. In addition to the killed and wounded in the war:

-- we had a political crisis over conscription in 1917 that pitted French Canadians (especially in Quebec) against English Canada

-- tens of thousands (perhaps upwards of a hundred thousand) in Canada were classified as "enemy aliens" because of their country of origin. 5000 were interned in prison camps during the early years of the war

-- the Halifax Explosion (when a ship full of munitions collided and exploded in the harbour) destroyed about a quarter of Halifax

-- purely a coincidence (nothing to do with the war) but our Parliament building caught fire and burned to the ground in 1916

-- at the close of the war, the Spanish Flu killed about as many Canadians as the Great War did, in a very short space of time

-- the year 1919 was characterized by some pretty intense labour conflicts, particularly the Winnipeg General Strike which effectively shut down the city for five or six weeks (and the workers had good reason to be angry)

In short, World War One was an intense period of time, and fascinating for Canadian historians. Little wonder that to this day, it still shapes the way we commemorate war in this country. Remembrance Day is still a big thing, and our ceremonies still substantially resemble the ceremonies of the 1930s.


Feb. 4th, 2016 01:24 pm (UTC)
That's amazing. I don't know how many Brits lost their lives - but here we had tens of thousands of civilian casualties too. I will have to look up both figures and see what the split was. More civilian casualties during the Second War, of course - though Grandad reckoned he could remember a Zeppelin filling the air as his mum carried him across the town green.
Jan. 28th, 2016 02:03 pm (UTC)
that's a beautiful memorial.
Feb. 3rd, 2016 02:19 am (UTC)
Thanks, Mike.
Jan. 29th, 2016 05:10 am (UTC)
Both the building and the monument are classics of their age.

And the Kipling connection is interesting ... there's probably an intriguing story there.
Feb. 3rd, 2016 02:25 am (UTC)
Definitely classics of their age -- and "classic" is the operative word, because in both cases, the style is clearly classical. Actually, while I was doing from microfilm research back in the 1990s, I seem to recall seeing the designs for that courthouse building published in the Sault Daily Star (our local newspaper) in 1919. It was completed in 1922.

There is probably an intriguing story about the Kipling connection. Part of it is rooted in the fact that Kipling lost his son John in the Great War, and afterwards, served with the Imperial War Graves Commission. So he definitely had an active interest in commemoration. Who contacted him from the Sault? And did they have some sort of connection with him or did they just "cold contact" him? I don't know. I also don't know if this poem is unique, or if we just think it's unique. (Perhaps Kipling has pawned the poem on small towns and cities across the Commonwealth for their commemorative monuments.)


Feb. 3rd, 2016 04:59 am (UTC)
Out of curiosity, I just Googled a couple of lines from the poem ... the words do seem to be unique to your monument!
Feb. 3rd, 2016 12:41 pm (UTC)
That's a relief. Kipling seemed like a principled fellow, so it makes sense that he wouldn't furnish the same poem to a dozen different monument-makers. (And no doubt, he would know that the ultimate discovery of such a thing would be a bit embarrassing for his legacy.)
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )


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