(From Christine Montague Canvas and Camera Blog, November 2014 )
In October 2014, the sudden, violent, and unprovoked attack on two young army reservist soldiers standing ceremonial guard by The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in front of The National War Memorial in Ottawa shocked Canadians. That one of these soldiers, Corporal Nathan Cirillo of The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada (Princess Louise's), was mortally wounded at the foot of this monument, was heartbreakingly poignant.
The National War Memorial orThe Response was commissioned in response to Canadians' demand for a national monument that would pay tribute to the tens of thousands killed in World War I.It was to honour the spirit of heroism, self-sacrifice, and all that was noble and great exemplified by the Canadians who served overseas.
In 1926, Vernon March (United Kingdom) won the competition to create this memorial with his vision of a granite and bronze cenotaph The Response. The Response commemorates the enormous response of the citizens of the young and struggling Canada to the call of a war in which sacrifice was on a scale previously unknown.
Armed conflict is deliberately not glorified inThe Response. Instead, the monument's twenty-two bronze figures, clad in historically accurate uniforms representative of all the services involved, push forth unto duty. They pass under a giant granite Arch with allegories of peace and freedom atop it.
Ironically, The Response was not unveiled until May 1939, less than 4 months before the start of World War 2. It has since been rededicated to include those killed in World War 2 and the Korean War. The dates of Canada's participation in the War in Afghanistan (2003 - 2013) will also be added.
The Response is now the nation's preeminent war memorial. The attack on the soldiers that stood respectfully and unarmed before it on that recent October day, has tragically strengthened this symbolism. A Canadian soldier went forth and died in his call to duty as an army reservist. The response of Canadians to the events at our nation's heart included examples of bravery, honour, and duty. But compassion was there, too.
The Remembrance Day ceremony at The National War Memorial is broadcast nationally. Like the granite and bronze the monument is made of, memories of the events that unfolded are hard, heavy and long-lasting.
At the November 11, 2014 Remembrance Day Ceremony on Parliament Hill in Ottawa , the National War Memorial was rededicated to all those who died and who will die in service to Canada. A constant reminder that peace and freedom come with great sacrifice. The very least those of us who don't serve can do is to remeber those who fought for us in the past, support our present day veterans and pray for those of the future.
Somehow, I forgot I did this oil painting. A gift to my son on his 18th birthday, it hangs in our house in the dining room - a room we rarely use (isn't a dining room table for folding laundry?). It shows him climbing, carefree, at about the age of four, on the War Memorial, located near the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. He is painted realistically, and static, while the figures on the statue are more "ghostly" and moving.
On the eve of Remembrance Day, I though I would share it with you. With all the gut wrenching news in the Toronto Star recently about Canadian War soldiers injured in Afghanistan, and some pretty heart-rending reporting on CBC radio as well, an image of youth, hope and peace can never hurt.
Note: One day, when I was working in this oil painting, a visitor to my studio mentioned her (great?) uncle had been one of the models for one the figures in this monument to peace.