Kitchener-Waterloo

Kitchener blacksmith wants Canadians to help shape Belgian war memorial

A local blacksmith is one of a handful of metalworkers worldwide creating components for a First World War cenotaph in Belgium. Sandra Dunn is leading the charge to get Canadians from coast to coast involved in the project.

Global initiative to create metal poppies for new monument will honour veterans, families

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      A local blacksmith is one of a handful of metalworkers worldwide creating components for a First World War cenotaph in Belgium.

      Sandra Dunn is leading the charge to get Canadians from coast to coast involved in the project. 

      Dunn, a resident of Kitchener, Ont., is doing her part to remember the fallen by hammering and forging metal poppies out of steel that will adorn the new war memorial next September in Ypres, Belgium.

      But she doesn't want to be the only one.

      "I'm trying to give people the opportunity to forge something physical that will then be sent over to Belgium and become a part of a permanent installation," Dunn explained to Craig Norris, the host of CBC Radio's The Morning Edition in Kitchener-Waterloo.

      "I'm trying to get people involved across Canada." 

      That's why on this year's Remembrance Day, people were invited to help craft metal poppies at Kitchener's city hall. 

      Dunn has persuaded blacksmithing groups from Vancouver Island to the Maritimes to organize events for school groups interested in creating poppies. The poppies can then be sponsored by Canadians who want to have a veteran's name imprinted on the memorial flower before it's attached to the monument in Belgium.

      I think war is complicated and it's devastating, and I think that it's critical that we acknowledge that.- Sandra Dunn , blacksmith

      Although the poppies will be forged in various parts of Canada, "they will all look the same," Dunn explained. "There's a pattern that's been sent out across the country."

      The blacksmith described the monument as a metal slab that's about six metres high and decorated with 2,016 metal poppies. The structure will be "surrounded by a series of metal railings in a pattern that imitates the pattern of the trenches," she said.

      Honouring PTSD sufferers

      "There are all kinds of countries involved," Dunn explained. "It is a project that was initiated by the Belgian, French and British blacksmithing guilds." 

      Dunn was invited to participate in the poppy project after designing a railing panel for the base of the cenotaph.

      "The intention is that people from all countries will come together in order to commemorate not just the soldiers who lost their lives, but the impact on their families and all their communities."

      In addition to soldiers killed and maimed on the battlefield, victims of what we now call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) will also be recognized, Dunn noted.

      "There will be one white poppy that will recognize the soldiers who suffered from shell shock, but who were at that time considered to be cowards," the blacksmith added.

      "I think war is complicated and it's devastating, and I think that it's critical that we acknowledge that."

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