Canada's war memorials captured in pictures by Ontario authors

A new book co-authored by a Hamilton-area photographer has captured the boldness and beauty of 150 war memorials of monuments erected in communities across Canada, Belgium and France in the years after the Great War.

'Silent stories of sorrow, sacrifice, bravery, idealism, and triumph'

A new book co-authored by a Hamilton-area photographer has captured the boldness and beauty of 150 war memorials erected in communities across Canada, Belgium and France in the years following the Great War. 

Richard Parrish of Dundas, Ont., and co-author Robert Konduros of Cambridge, Ont, will release their 194-page book WWI: A Monumental History later this summer in commemoration of the 100 year anniversary since the start of the First World War. 

Parrish told CBC Hamilton that the idea of publishing a pictorial history of the monuments came to his colleague Konduros after visiting a sculpture in a small rural community just outside of London, Ont. 

"He was looking at one of their older statues, it might have been marble, and he noticed that there had been quite a bit of workmanship done to it but it was starting to weather away - it was starting to decay," Parrish said.

60,000 bodies never returned

Both working full-time, they travelled across Canada and to Europe for three years documenting the memorials described in the book as bronze and stone carvings that "tell silent stories of sorrow, sacrifice, bravery, idealism, and triumph."

Close to 620,000 Canadian men and women served in the First World War, more than 60,000 of whose bodies were never returned home. 

Richard Parrish stands near the Vimy Ridge memorial in France. The photographer is the co-author of a book documenting 150 monuments remembering soldiers who fought in the First World War. (Richard Parrish, supplied)

"These communities where their young soldiers did not come back from the war, no remains, no bodies, they fundraised a lot of money for a lot of these statues," Parrish said. 

The authors hope to make 800 copies of the book available in local bookstores, libraries, the Dundas Historical Museum, the Royal Canadian Legions and hopefully even the Canada War Museum in Ottawa.

Much of their research for the book is documented in a blog started back in September 2013. It will continue to be updated as the 100 year anniversary continues over the next few years. In finishing the book they also relied on guidance from Wilfrid Laurier University professor Tim Cook and the University of Waterloo professor Robert Shipley.

Memorial show 'significant loss' 

With three major sculptors commissioned for the majority of the memorials, the authors found several near-duplicates across the country. The theme of angels seemed to also be prevalent in many cases. 

In cities such as Winnipeg and Montreal they found the memorials were much more graphic compared to elsewhere - one showing an injured soldier being carried on a gurney. 

World War I: A Monumental History co-author Robert Konduros stands near the Vimy Ridge memorial in France. (Richard Parrish, supplied)

Parrish said the "significant loss" experienced by many of the small communities is shown in the memorials. 

"It seemed to go from those who saw this as another victorious war like the Boer War to those, who as the War went on later and later, said no this an absolute tragedy this is a horrible war and it's devastating," Parrish said. 

"You lose six soldiers and they happen to be the next generation to control the family farm, the business, it's a significant loss...and that comes out in the statues in the smaller towns in Ontario and all across the country."


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