Great War 100 Reads

Commemorating the centenary of the First World War in books

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Royal Bank headquarters, Montreal

In the early 20th century, St James St in Old Montreal was the heart of the city’s financial district. When the Royal Bank of Canada built its new headquarters at 360 St James St W in 1928 (the tallest building in the British Empire at the time), the bank honoured its employees who had died in WW1, their names listed on two tablets in the main banking hall. Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Bell Telephone, Montreal

It’s Labour Day in Canada and the US … a day to celebrate workers.

The entrance to the Bell Canada Building at 1050, Côte du Beaver-Hall, Montréal (between rue Belmont and rue de la Gauchetière O) is flanked by the bell logo of the Bell Telephone Company of Canada. Completed in 1929, it was once the company headquarters. Enter the brass doors into the entry staircase, flanked by bronze plaques to Bell’s Montreal employees who served and died in two world wars.   Continue reading

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Sun Life Assurance Company Honour Roll, Montreal

The Sun Life Building* overlooks Dorchester Square (on boul René-Lévesque between rue Metcalfe and rue Mansfield) in Montreal. Step inside the main entrance on Metcalfe into a soaring lobby of marble and brass. Look up between the Corinthian columns to check the time as you move into the elevator lobby – beneath the brass clock, the years of WW1 and WW2 and “we will remember them.” Continue reading

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Canadian Bank of Commerce plaques, Ottawa and Montreal

In addition to the monument at its head office in Toronto, the Canadian Bank of Commerce honoured employees from each branch who served in WW1. I’ve come across some of the branch plaques in Ottawa and Montreal, in what is now the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Currie Gymnasium, Memorial Hall & 10th Canadian Siege Battery Flagpole, Montreal

Happy 2018! Have you resolved to get into better shape this year? Here’s a war memorial for you.

The Sir Arthur Currie Memorial Gymnasium is at 475, ave des Pins ouest, in Montreal. McGill University students were making good use of the facilities on the day I visited. Continue reading

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Monument aux morts français de Montréal et aux volontaires canadiens de l’armée française, Montreal

Montreal’s La Fontaine Park is the site of a monument to French soldiers from Montreal and Canadian volunteers in the French Army who died in WW1 (and later in WW2). Place du Souvenir-français is a quiet area of the park between Émile-Duployé and Papineau Avenues, on the north side of Sherbrooke Street East. Continue reading

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Memorial Window, McGill University, Montreal

A stained glass window in the Redpath Library at McGill University is “in memory of 23 members of the McGill chapter of Delta Upsilon who gave their lives in the Great War.” Continue reading

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Sailors’ Memorial Clock Tower, Montreal

The Sailors’ Memorial Clock Tower marks the entrance to the Montreal Harbour at Quai de l’Horloge (formerly Victoria Pier) in the Vieux Port. It stands as a memorial to Canadian sailors who served in WW1.

The cornerstone was dedicated by the Prince of Wales on 31 October 1919. The 45 metre tower was completed in 1921. Montréal-based engineer Paul Leclaire’s design cleverly hid unsightly sheds along the quay. The clock mechanism manufactured by Gillett and Johnston in Croydon, England is similar to that of Big Ben in London. Sailors can rely on the clock’s accuracy to set their own watches.

Now locals can soak in the summer sun on the urban beach along Quai de l’Horlage. (Sunbathers had long abandoned the sand and blue umbrellas when I visited in November.) Ambitious folks can climb 192 stairs in season to take in a panoramic view of the city and the harbour.

Perhaps some day I shall not shrink in pain
To see the passing of the dying year,
And listen to Christmas songs again,
Although You cannot hear.

But though kind Time may many joys renew,
There is one greatest joy I shall not know
Again, because my heart for loss of You
Was broken, long ago.

Vera Brittain: from Perhaps (To R.A.L.)

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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.