Great War 100 Reads

Commemorating the centenary of the First World War in books

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Headstone of Canada’s Unknown Soldier, Ottawa

Headstone of Canada's Unknown Soldier

Headstone of Canada’s Unknown Soldier

The only artifact in Memorial Hall at the Canadian War Museum is the headstone from the grave of Canada’s Unknown Soldier. A single window high on the south wall is aligned so that, if the sun is shining on Remembrance Day (November 11) at exactly 11:00 am, sunlight perfectly frames the headstone. Visitors regularly place poppies on it. The headstone was removed from the Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery in Souchez, near Vimy in France, when the remains of an unidentified Canadian WW1 soldier were repatriated to Canada in May 2000.

A Soldier of the Great War – A Canadian Regiment – Known Unto God.

A marker replaced this one on the now empty grave in France:

Ancienne sépulture d’un soldat canadien inconnu mort au cours de la première guerre mondiale. Il a été exhume le 25 mai 2000 et il repose maintenant au Monument commémoratif de guerre du Canada à Ottawa

The former grave of an unknown Canadian soldier of the First World War. His remains were removed on 25 May 2000 and now lie interred at the National War Memorial in Ottawa Canada.

Of the more than 66,000 Canadians who died in WW1, almost 20,000 have no identifiable grave.

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Ottawa

Canada’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier has been the focus of world news this week, being the site of Wednesday’s brutal murder of ceremonial guard Cpl Nathan Cirillo.

The Tomb of the Unknown Solder is a relatively recent addition to Confederation Square. In 2000, Canada repatriated the remains of an unidentified Canadian WW1 soldier from the Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery in Souchez, near Vimy in France. The remains were reburied with great ceremony in the sarcophagus in front of the National War Memorial.

The tomb is granite with bronze relief work designed by Canadian artist Mary-Ann Liu. 

Governor General Adrienne Clarkson gave the eulogy at the dedication ceremony on 28 May 2000: “This unknown soldier was not able to live out his allotted span of life to contribute to his country. But in giving himself totally through duty, commitment, love and honour he has become part of us forever. As we are part of him.” 

At the end of the dedication ceremony, those in attendance spontaneously placed their poppies on the tomb. This mark of respect is repeated after every Remembrance Day ceremony. On Canada Day, visitors place small paper Canadian flags on the tomb. 

These photos were taken a week apart. Last Sunday afternoon, I was pretty much alone with the ceremonial guards from the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. Yesterday, hundreds of people were gathered to pay their respects to the fallen reservists and to reclaim the public space. Along with flowers, the tributes include candles, notes, poems, hockey sticks, plush toys, action figures and origami cranes. Yesterday’s honorary ceremonial guards were the Governor General’s Foot Guards.


Monday is municipal election day in Ontario. Vote early, vote often! (OK, just kidding about often.) Voting is a democratic right that should never be wasted.

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Cpl Nathan Cirillo, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada

The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada (Princess Louise’s), an Army reserve regiment based in Hamilton, happened to be the honorary ceremonial guard at the National War Memorial when these photos were taken on Sunday. Now Cpl Nathan Cirillo, on the left, is no longer with us. Tragic. My condolences to all of you who held him dear. The country stands with you.