Great War 100 Reads

Commemorating the centenary of the First World War in books


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Remembered in Bronze and Stone – Canada’s Great War Memorial Statuary

Early in my days of researching monuments for Great War 100 Reads, I discovered Alan Livingstone MacLeod’s albums on Flickr. Beautiful photos documenting WW1 monuments across Canada, and a good source in trying to sort out Emanuel Hahn’s work from the imitations. So I am delighted to find that he has written a book featuring his photos, Remembered in Bronze and Stone, published in November 2016. Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Angel of Victory, Windsor Station, Montreal

Many communities, be they municipalities, clubs, professions or companies, saw fit to commemorate members of the community who served or died in WW1. The Canadian Pacific Railway was one such company. The Angel of Victory by Montreal sculptor Coeur de Lion MacCarthy commemorates 1,115 CPR employees killed during the war. Three castings of the bronze statue were forged at the Henry-Bonnard Bronze Company. They were dedicated from 1921 to 1923, at the CPR stations in Vancouver, Winnipeg and Montreal. The angel lifts the soldier to heaven at the moment of his death.

The Montreal cast is the best preserved of the three, having always been indoors. It graces the Salle des pas perdus in the old Windsor Station at 1100 avenue des Canadiens-de-Montréal.

The dedication ends: “Let those who come after see to it that their names not be forgotten.” The CPR site recounts the company’s role during the war, but not the names of the 1,115 dead.


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – First World War Memorial, Calgary, AB

The First World War Memorial faces 2nd St SW, between 12 Ave SW and 13 Ave SW, at the east end of Calgary’s Central Memorial Park – not to be confused with the cenotaph at the west end of the park. The monument was sponsored by the Col MacLeod Branch of the IODE at a cost of $5500. It was dedicated in June 1924 “to the imperishable glory of the men of this province (Alberta) who fought and died for their King and Country in the Great War.”

Originally called the Victory Statue, the monument is comprised of a bronze statue of an infantry soldier by Montreal sculptor Coeur de Lion MacCarthy mounted on a pedestal of Bedford stone. An article in the 21 June 1924 Calgary Daily Herald describes the statue as “a young Canadian soldier exultant over news of the signing of the Armistice. With uplifted rifle he stands, bareheaded, the attitude denoting victory and exaltation.”  

Canadian war memorials that celebrate victory are not the norm. Most pay tribute to sacrifice, suffering, honour and grief.

As an aside, the Woman’s Community Interests page in the Calgary Daily Herald linked above also previews the upcoming cat fashion show (precursor of today’s pervasive cute cat videos?) and advertises “if every man had to do the washing every home would have a Maytag.”


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Canadian Pacific Railway monument, Vancouver

Many communities, be they municipalities, clubs, professions or companies, saw fit to commemorate members of the community who served or died in WW1. The Canadian Pacific Railway was one such company.  The Angel of Victory by Montreal sculptor Coeur de Lion MacCarthy commemorates 1,115 CPR employees killed during the war. Three castings of the bronze statue were dedicated from 1921 to 1923, at the CPR stations in Vancouver, Winnipeg and Montreal. The angel lifts the soldier to heaven at the moment of his death.

A sentimental image, but what is its merit as public art? In a 27 July 1963 column in the Ottawa Citizen, Carl Weiselberger denounced it:

It is that monument showing the limp body of a dead soldier complete with puttees, hobnailed boots, lifted by an angel (or is it victory?) – a kind of Canadian Valkyrie, carrying a Canadian soldier into a kind of Canadian Valhalla. It’s the worst kind of candy art applied to a great human drama, a desecration of art and taste to such a degree that a super-sensitive passenger might flee from the station to take the nearest bus …

Robert Shipley, in his 1987 book To Mark Our Place: A History of Canadian War Memorials, argues on the other hand that “the primary function of memorials is the visible expression of grief at the loss of fallen soldiers.” (p 111) The artist or craftsperson “has to work from a given repertoire of forms that will inspire within the viewers the emotional intent of the memorial.” (p 109)

The Vancouver statue has seen better days. The angel’s wreath is broken. A protective patina thought to be dirt was removed with wire brushes in the 1960s. An attempt to remove a graffiti peace sign on the plaque left its evidence behind. Moved from a more prominent location on Water Street, it is now blocked in part by a bar patio. (A follower of this blog who once was in the military notes that the soldiers would likely appreciate being in the pub!) 

A City of Vancouver archives photo shows the statue in better condition on its original site.