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Visiting the Canadian National War Memorial, Ottawa, Ontario: poignant monument with Chateau Laurier as a backdrop

Updated on March 5, 2012
Flag of Canada
Flag of Canada | Source
Provincial flag of Ontario
Provincial flag of Ontario | Source
The National War Memorial in Confederation Square, downtown Ottawa
The National War Memorial in Confederation Square, downtown Ottawa | Source
Ottawa on Canada Day. (Chateau Laurier may be seen behind the National War Memorial.)
Ottawa on Canada Day. (Chateau Laurier may be seen behind the National War Memorial.) | Source

Vernon March's design in tribute to Canadian sacrifice

Ottawa's National War Memorial of Canada (French: Monument commémoratif de guerre du Canada ) was officially inaugurated by HM King George VI and HM Queen Elizabeth in 1939 in the presence of approximately 100,000 people. It was designed by Vernon March (1891-1930) and unveiled in 1939. March died prematurely while work was in progress and several members of his family participated in the completion work on the monument, March's design of which had been approved in a public competition.

On a pedestal of Canadian granite, various figures of World War One service personnel, including nurses, each about 2.4 metres tall, march through a triumphal arch. At the top of the arch are two allegorical figures representing peace and freedom. The figures are cast in bronze. The Dominion's Department of Public Works oversaw the construction project.

Originally the purpose of the National War Memorial was to honour the Canadian fallen of World War One. Following Canada's participation in World War Two and the Korean War, the scope of the dedication was widened in 1982 to include the fallen of these wars also. The Canadian Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was incorporated into the Memorial site; the previous resting place of these remains was a cemetery near Vimy Ridge, France, scene of the World War One battle with distinguished Canadian military contribution in 1917. The nearby Valiants Memorial (French: Monument aux Valeureux ) was inaugurated in 2006.

With the presence of these nationally commemorative monuments, their location in Downtown Ottawa is aptly named: Confederation Square (French: Place de la Confédération ).

A backdrop to the National War Memorial is the Chateau Laurier, now known as the Fairmont Chateau Laurier. This imposing and monumental building has been an Ottawa landmark and a leading centre for hospitality since its opening in 1912. The second photo, right, depicting the Memorial, shows the Chateau Laurier at twilight, in the background to the right of the picture. The Chateau Laurier, executed in limestone, was built Montreal architects Ross and Macdonald parnership, with earlier plans drawn up by New York City architect Bradford L. Gilbert. The whole, with its turrets and masonry, gives a pleasing resemblance to a French château . On a sombre note, Charles Melville Hays, President of the Grand Trunk railroad, which commissioned the Chateau Laurier, perished in 1912 on the RMS Titanic , before he could attend the hotel's official opening.

Because of Ottawa's Federal vocation, I am including an image the Canadian Maple Leaf flag as well as the Provincial flag of Ontario.

Also worth seeing

Ottawa 's visitor attractions are numerous, but a few of these include the Parliament of Canada, and Peace Tower, on Parliament Hill, Laurier House, the Rideau Canal, Rideau Hall, and many other public buildings and museums.


How to get there: Air Canada flies from various North American destinations to Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport / Aéroport international Macdonald-Cartier d'Ottawa; car rental is available; however, visitors may wish instead to use OC Transpo public transit for travel within the Ottawa / Gatineau area. Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. For up to date information, please check with the airline or your travel agent.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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