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What is claimed to be the first Great War memorial erected within Canada?

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Typical of many other cities, towns and villages, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce - a residential borough of Montréal - began planning a local cenotaph soon after the cease-fire of the Great War. Cognizant of an upcoming official visit to Canada in 1919 by the popular Edward, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII), the community used this opportunity as a catalyst to raise funds and have their war memorial completed in time for unveiling during the royal tour. A contest was held and the design of Montréal architect Lucien F. Kéroack (1886 - 10 December 1951) was chosen. On 24 May 1919, the cornerstone was laid by the lieutenant-governor of Québec, Sir Charles Fitzpatrick and five months later, on 30 October 1919, the monument was unveiled by the Prince of Wales in the presence of a large crowd, including blind veterans and a "little group from the School for Crippled Children". It is claimed to be the first public memorial erected in Canada commemorating the Great War. As shown in the photograph, the four-metre high 'Monument aux braves de Notre-Dame-de-Grâce' standing in the middle of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce Park consists of an oblong grey-granite column placed on a circular base. Engraved are the simple inscriptions "TO HER SONS WHO SERVED IN THE GREAT WAR" and in French "HONNEUR A CEUX QUI SONT TOMBE AU CHAMP D’HONNEUR" or "honour to those who fell in the field of honour". Affixed to the façade is a bas-relief that is the work of Swedish-American sculptor Peter David Estrom (27 March 1873 - 12 August 1938) which portrays soldiers marching with fixed bayonets, past a cemetery. On the left side of the bronze tablet is a Renommée - or Pheme/Fame, a winged Greek goddess allegorical personification of the character of the social or public recognition - holding laurel crowns. Although the monument was originally erected as a First World War tribute, inscriptions were later added to include dates for the Second World War and the Korean War.

On this day, 30 October 2021, we mark the 102nd anniversary of the unveiling of the Monument aux braves de Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, Montréal, which is claimed to be the first public memorial erected in Canada commemorating the Great War.

André M. Levesque

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