Books of Remembrance (Canada)

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William Lyon Mackenzie King examines the first Book of Remembrance in 1942.

The seven Books of Remembrance and display case housed in the Memorial Chamber in the Peace Tower of the Canadian Parliament Buildings in Ottawa are illuminated manuscript volumes recording the names of members of the Canadian Forces and Canadian Merchant Navy killed on active service in wartime, and in other conflicts. [1] The display case was designed by John A. Pearson and made by Bromsgrove Guild Limited (Great Britain) and Robert Mitchell Company in 1928. The display case, which is made of bronze, enamel and other metals, is decorated with four kneeling angels and a ribbon encircling a laurel. [2]


Conception of the books[edit]

During the First World War on July 1, 1917, Prime Minister Robert Borden announced there would be a Memorial Chamber in the soon-to-be constructed Peace Tower. He said that it would be a "memorial to the debt of our forefathers and to the valour of those Canadians who, in the Great War, fought for the liberties of Canada, of the Empire, and of humanity".

Although it was originally hoped to inscribe the names of the dead Canadians upon the walls of the chamber, it was decided that it was more practical to follow Colonel A. Fortesque Duguid's idea to house Books of Remembrance inside the chamber instead.[3]

The altar upon which sits the First World War Book of Remembrance

On August 3, 1927, while in Ottawa, Prince Albert Edward (later King Edward VIII) unveiled an altar, a gift from the British government, upon which the book of the First World War would rest. The stone for the steps came from quarries in Flanders Fields and the brass nameplates were cast from spent shell casings from the war.[3]

Illumination[edit]

All the books have some illumination; those for the two world wars having the most, with each page having a wide border at the top decorated with plant motifs, usually leaves, and a unit badge. Other books only have illumination on the title page.

The Books[edit]

A view of one of the Books of Remembrance

First World War[edit]

The Book of the First World War is the largest of the books, containing 66,655 names. It took London, Ontario native James Purves eleven years to gather the necessary materials to begin work on the book, and upon his death in 1940, work passed to his assistant Alan Beddoe, who completed the book by 1942. (Beddoe would spend the next thirty years of his life as the chief artist of the books, dying in 1975.) Contributors to the first book included Evelyn Lambart, who would go on to become an animator at the National Film Board of Canada.[4]

Second World War[edit]

In 1948, it was announced that a second book would be created to memorialize the 44,893 Canadians who had died in the Second World War. This time, Beddoe was given a chief assistant, five assistant artists, two writers, an accounting officer and a proof-reader to help with the book, scheduled to be completed in 1952. A series of delays, however, slowed the progress of the book - notably after the government decided that work should be restarted in 1951, to re-write all the names, this time including the abbreviations of individual regiments. The book was completed in 1957, and that Remembrance Day was placed in the Memorial Chamber alongside the first book.[5]

In 1959, humidity destroyed the bindings of the two World War books, requiring them to be re-bound.[3]

Newfoundland[edit]

The Newfoundland book, commemorating over 2300 Newfoundlanders who gave their lives in the First and Second World War (before Newfoundland became a province of Canada), was placed in the Memorial Chamber in 1973 .

Korean War[edit]

516 Canadians lost their lives in the Korean War (1950-1953).

South African War and Nile Expedition[edit]

Canada's first overseas war, the Nile Expedition for the Relief of General Gordon (1884-1885) claimed 16 lives from a Canadian force of 400. Of the 7,000 Canadian troops deployed in the South African War, about 250 died and are listed in the book.

Merchant Navy[edit]

From the Canadian Merchant Navy, more than 570 Canadian men and women died during the First World War and more than 1600 during the Second World War. This book was dedicated in 1993.

7th book, "In the Service of Canada"[edit]

A seventh Book of Remembrance, dedicated on November 11, 2005, lists members of the Canadian Forces who have died on active duty in the service of Canada (other than those already covered by the Korean War book) since the close of the Second World War book. Unlike the others, which were designed after the end of each period of hostilities, the seventh book is ongoing and is expected to continue "for generations to come".[6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=A1ARTA0009128 Canadian Encyclopedia Monuments, World Wars I and II
  2. ^ "Books of Remembrance display case". National Inventory of Military Memorials. National Defence Canada. 2008-04-16. 
  3. ^ a b c "Books of Remembrance–History". Library and Archives Canada. February 8, 2002. Retrieved 2006-11-18. 
  4. ^ Canadian Women in Film, Collections Canada
  5. ^ http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=A1ARTA0009128 Canadian Encyclopedia Monuments, World Wars I and II
  6. ^ "7th Book of Remembrance". Veterans Affairs Canada. January 19, 2005. Retrieved 2006-11-18. 

External links[edit]