Cenotaphs: monuments to our veterans
They range from plaques to paintings to the most recognizable of all — the cenotaph.
The database lists 76 cenotaphs that have been registered across the country. The best known is the National War Memorial in Ottawa. It was unveiled in May 1939 by King George VI to commemorate Canadians killed in the First World War. In 1982, it was rededicated to include those who served in the Second World War and the Korean conflict.
According to Veterans Affairs Canada, cenotaphs are statues or structures erected to "commemorate Canadian war dead or veterans of an event associated with a military operation in which Canada was actively engaged since 1867." Those structures do not include buildings and artifacts such as aircraft, tanks, or cannons.
The word cenotaph derives from the Greek (kenos, meaning "empty" and taphos, "tomb").
While cenotaphs date back to the days of ancient Greece, the best-known cenotaph of modern times was built in London to commemorate those who fought in the First World War. The stone monument is plain, except for two wreaths carved on each end and the words "The Glorious Dead." The monument is flanked by flags from the countries that make up the United Kingdom. London's cenotaph influenced the design of other war memorials in the British Commonwealth.
Most Canadian war memorials — including cenotaphs — were built as a result of efforts by community groups, provincial governments, private sponsors, regimental associations, and veterans' organizations, like the Royal Canadian Legion.
There is no official process to get a cenotaph approved. There are no guidelines on what materials should be used — or where the monument should be located.
Cenotaphs normally pay tribute to groups of people, such as residents of a town or a regiment who died in combat. But they may also mark the sacrifice of one person.
In Squamish, B.C., a wooden cenotaph was erected in memory of John Askey Quick, the first local serviceman to be killed in the Second World War. It was originally placed in a forested area, which is now overgrown. The monument is to be moved.
In Smith, Alta., Gene and Wes Earl built a cenotaph out of cement, stone and wood to honour the veterans of the Smith and Hondo areas who served in the First and Second World Wars as well as the Korean conflict.
The town of Wasaga Beach, Ont., erected a cenotaph in 1993 as a memorial tribute to "all who have paid the supreme sacrifice." The town holds its Remembrance Day ceremonies there every year.
Some cenotaphs — and other war memorials — have been neglected over the years. The groups that built them have either been unable to maintain them or the groups no longer exist. The federal government set up the Cenotaph/Monument Restoration Program to provide money to fix crumbling monuments to Canada's war dead.
Under the program, only approved groups including municipal governments, non-profit groups, ex-service organizations, registered charities, historical groups, and educational institutions can apply for grants to repair a monument.
The program won't pay for:
- The creation of new cenotaphs or monuments.
- The conservation of artifacts that serve as, or form part of, a cenotaph or monument, such as aircraft or tanks.
- Cenotaphs or monuments located outside of Canada.
- Cenotaphs or monuments that are dedicated to an individual.
While any individual or business in Canada can build a cenotaph, they can't apply for a grant to restore it, if it starts falling apart.