Great War 100 Reads

Commemorating the centenary of the First World War in books

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – War Memorial and Memorial Wall, Guelph, ON

Symbolism and remembrance stand side by side in a park at Trafalgar Square, where Woolwich St meets Wyndham St N and Eramosa Rd in Guelph. The former in a monument designed by sculptor Alfred Howell. The latter on a wall of plaques naming those who died.

The program for the dedication of the monument on Sunday 3 July 1927 describes “a magnificent and dignified tribute in honored memory of her sons and daughters who paid the supreme sacrifice in the Great War for Civilization.” Continue reading


Monday Monuments and Memorials – Cenotaph and Veterans Memorial, Orangeville, ON

Two stone war memorials stand in Orangeville’s Alexandra Park, 11 Second St at First Ave, behind the town hall.

The cenotaph honours Dufferin County residents who died in WW1. (WW2, Korea and Afghanistan have since been added.) It was unveiled in November 1923, “in proud and grateful memory of those who gave their lives for freedom, truth and righteousness.” Continue reading

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Peace Tower, Parliament Hill, Ottawa

Only a peace between equals can last. Only a peace the very principle of which is equality and a common participation in a common benefit.

The world can be at peace only if its life is stable, and there can be no stability where the will is in rebellion, where there is not tranquillity of spirit and a sense of justice, of freedom, and of right.
Woodrow Wilson, January 22, 1917

In this week of remembrance, may we learn from war as we strive for peace … and freedom and democracy and equality and justice.

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Canadian Westinghouse Company employees, Hamilton Cemetery, Hamilton, ON

Today is Labour Day in Canada and the US – a day to celebrate workers. Like other groups in society, many companies saw fit to memorialize their employees who had served in the war.

For much of the 20th century, Westinghouse was one of the largest employers in Hamilton. Its plaque “to the memory of the employees of the Canadian Westinghouse Company Limited, who gave their lives in the war against Germany and her allies” is in a shady corner of Hamilton Cemetery. Sixty-five names are listed. The tablet “further commemorates the services of 712 other employees of the company, their comrades-in-arms, who fought for King and country.” Continue reading

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Clinton War Memorial, DeWitt Clinton Park, New York

At the southeast corner of De Witt Clinton Park, at 11th Ave and 52nd St in New York City, stands a bronze doughboy holding poppies in his right hand and a rifle slung over his shoulder. The front of the granite pedestal is inscribed with the closing verse from John McCrae’s poem, In Flanders Field.

The statue is dedicated “by comrades and friends under the auspices of Clinton District Monument Association as a memorial to the young folk of this neighborhood who gave their all in the world war.” According to the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, this is one of nine doughboy statues erected in NYC city parks. Continue reading

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Niagara Township Memorial, Queenston, ON

The Niagara Township war memorial – also known as the Queenston cenotaph – is at the intersection of the Niagara Parkway and Queenston St, now part of the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake.

The monument was dedicated on 11 November 1926 by Ontario Lieutenant Governor Henry Cockshutt. It was “erected to the memory of the men of Niagara Township who gave their lives for freedom in the Great War … whose names are here recorded, and in honour of those who served.” A bronze statue of an infantry soldier tops a granite base. A laurel wreath encircles “lest we forget” on each side. WW1 names are on the right side, WW2 on the left. Seventeen WW1 battles are listed on the back. “To you from falling hands we throw the torch, be yours to lift it high” – a line from In Flanders Fields – graces the front.

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – In Flanders Fields

Tomorrow marks 100 years since John McCrae’s poem In Flanders Fields was first published – anonymously – in Punch magazine. Since then, the poem and its symbolic poppies have been linked to the remembrance of loss and sacrifice in war.

In today’s gallery:

  • The last lines of poem are on the base of the cenotaph in Orangeville, Ontario.
  • Copies of The Grieving Soldier by Emanuel Hahn grace many Canadian communities. This one is in Hanover, Ontario.
  • John McCrae statue by Ruth Abernethy, Green Island, Ottawa. Another cast of the statue is in Guelph, his birthplace.
  • National Military Cemetery, in Beechwood Cemetery, Ottawa
  • Memorial Room, Students’ Memorial Union, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario
  • Memorial Chamber, Peace Tower, Parliament Hill, Ottawa
  • University College Memorial Plaque, Memorial Room, Soldiers Tower, University of Toronto
  • End wall of WW1 Memorial Screen, University of Toronto

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Memorial Plaques, Dominion-Chalmers Church, Ottawa, ON

Three WW1-related plaques are found in Dominion-Chalmers United Church, at the corner of O’Connor and Cooper Streets in downtown Ottawa.

Plaques from the Chalmers Presbyterian Church and the Dominion Methodist Church are a clue that two congregations came together after 1919 to form the current one. Each of the original churches honoured all the members of their congregations who served as well as those who died. Women are listed on both plaques—all together in the first column of the Chalmers plaque, mixed alphabetically with the men on the Dominion plaque. Of the women, only Gamble and West from Dominion, and Eagleson, Kingston and Scott from Chalmers are listed (as nursing sisters) in the CEF service files. Were the others VADs or Red Cross volunteers? Did they serve with another country?

The third plaque honours Dominion congregation member Alexis Helmer. Helmer’s death inspired John McCrae’s poem, In Flanders Fields. The text on the plaque is the same as that on the family gravestone in nearby Beechwood Cemetery. From the look of this older photo (click through, then scroll down), the plaque has been repaired and remounted. Helmer’s name is also on the Menin Gate in Belgium.

Dominion-Chalmers is built in a Neo-Byzantine style, unusual for Canadian churches. The building is square, but the pillars, dome and shape of the balcony give the impression inside that it is an octagon. The acoustics make the church a popular concert hall. At this time of year, it is one of the venues for the Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival.

I’ve been housecleaning at Great War 100 Reads … broken links fixed, more cross-references, an easier-to-read serif font, and the like. All to add to your reading pleasure.


Monday Monuments and Memorials – Grieving Soldier, Hanover, ON

Is the Grieving Soldier, sometimes called In Flanders Fields, the most popular war memorial in Canada? You might think so, given the number of communities in which it (or some facsimile) stands.

This one in Hanover is in front of the public library at the corner of 10th St and 10th Ave. A project of the local International Order of the Daughters of the Empire (IODE), the library board and the town council, it was dedicated in 1922.

The Grieving Soldier was designed by sculptor Emanuel Hahn, then a monument designer for the Thomson Monument Company of Toronto. Bronze casts from Hahn’s original sculpture are in Cornwall, ON and Westville, NS. Granite versions were carved by other stone carvers at Thomson, following Hahn’s model. In addition to Hanover, copies are found in towns in Quebec (Gaspé), Ontario (Bolton, Milton, Petrolia, Thunder Bay), Manitoba (Russell) and British Columbia (Fernie). Imitations and influences created by other companies abound in other communities.

If you live in Canada, or if you have ever visited here, you’ve likely carried Emanuel Hahn’s work in your pocket. He designed the caribou on the quarter and the Bluenose schooner on the dime.


Monday Monuments and Memorials – Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, Ottawa

Helmer inspired In Flanders Fields

Helmer inspired In Flanders Fields

Alexis Helmer enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force in 1914 and quickly rose to the rank of Lieutenant. He became good friends with the First Canadian Brigade’s second in command, John McCrae. The brigade was sent to the second Battle of Ypres in 1915. Helmer was killed on May 2 and his remains buried the same day. In the absence of a chaplain, McCrae conducted the service.

Helmer’s death is believed to be the inspiration for McCrae’s poem In Flanders Fields. The grave is now lost. Helmer’s name is on the Menin Gate Memorial and on this family marker in Beechwood Cemetery, Ottawa.

Alexis Hannum Helmer – Lieut 2nd Battery 1st Artillery Brigade – C.E.F. – fell in action near Ypres – May 2nd 1915, aged 22 years – Be God’s gentleman and the King’s gentleman

The same inscription is on a plaque in Dominion-Chalmers Church.

Oops! An errant link in last Monday’s Monuments and Memorials is now fixed.