Wynn Bagnall

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First World War Memorial statue in front of Bank of Montreal

Captain Wynn Bagnall MC (1890–1931) was a British-born artillery officer in the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the First World War. He was decorated for bravery and became the model for the memorial statue of a Canadian Officer by James Earle Fraser commissioned by the Bank of Montreal which stands in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Early life[edit]

Bank of Montreal and War Memorial

Wynn Bagnall was born on the 10th February, 1890 in Northumberland, England and was educated at Bedford Modern School.[1][2] After school he emigrated to Canada and secured a position with the Bank of Montreal. On the outbreak of War he enlisted as a gunner in the 6th Battery, Canadian Field Artillery, at Valcartier, Quebec on the September 22nd, 1914, and in 1915 he was sent to France.[3] In a letter to his old school in England he described his initial impressions of trench warfare:

'We are having almost continuous rain, and the firing line is literally a sea of mud. The trenches in many parts are running streams in spite of the splendid efforts of the engineers, and at times, when duty calls, we have to set our jaws a little firmer, and remember the Great Cause for which we are enduring discomforts and hardships, to refrain from uttering epithets of discontent'.[4]

In January 1916 Bagnall was commissioned a Lieutenant in the 23rd Battery, CFA, and was later attached to the 5th Battery. In 1917 he was Orderly Officer and Adjutant in the 2nd. Brigade, CFA, and in 1918 he was promoted to Captain and transferred to the 58th Battery. He was awarded the Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry and initiative during the Second Battle of Cambrai, fought October 1918.[5][6]

The Winnipeg Statue[edit]

At the end of the War Bagnall returned to his old employment in Canada. The Bank of Montreal had contributed 1,049 employees to the War, 230 of whom were killed and the company decided to commemorate their sacrifice through a sculptural memorial. In the end two statues were commissioned; one in Montreal as a memorial to victory and one in Winnipeg to honour the Canadian soldiers. The American sculptor James Earle Fraser was awarded the Winnipeg commission and Wynn Bagnall, as a decorated employee, was chosen as the model. The statue was 9 feet in height and was made of bronze on a marble base. It stands on the junction of Portage and Main Streets outside the imposing Winnipeg offices of the Bank of Montreal.[7] [8]

Fraser's biographer, A.L. Freundlich described it thus, 'Here is no giant warrior god on a high pedestal, but a man. He is tough, ready for the fight, his feet apart, arms held loosely at his sides but ready. His helmet is just slightly at an angle and, under its brim, his face reflects strength and determination'.[9]

Later life[edit]

Bagnall returned to England briefly in 1922 before deciding to emigrate to the United States. He died in 1931 and was buried with military honours at Cypress Hills National Cemetery in Long Island.[10]

References[edit]