I had the great honour of visiting the Canadian National Vimy Monument during a tour of First World War battle sites back in April the year. This post is the beginning of a number First World War related posts all cross ReClick Photos social media profiles, and items on the website. Since 2014 there have been many centenaries commemorating the many battles and other event of the First World War. These commemorations are still on going, and will continue to do so over the coming years.
This magnificent monument stands as a memorial to those 11,285 Canadians who were tragically killed in France and whose final resting place is still unknown. Located on the highest point of Vimy ridge, Hill 145, the memorial stands aloft a 100 acre site in which France granted the use of this section of the ridge in recognition of all that Canada did for them during the war. The only condition placed upon them was that the land was to be used to build a monument to those Canadian which fought and died during the First World War and take on the full responsibility of looking after the monument and the surrounding land. It was during the Battle of Vimy Ridge that all four divisions of the Canadian Expeditionary Force worked as a whole for the first time, and their success of managing to help capture the ridge from the enemy forces became a source of great pride for the people of Canada.
In 1920 the Imperial War Graves Commission had granted the Canadian Government three sites in Belgium and five sites in France to built memorials to those who bravely served their country. Later that year the Canadian Battlefields Memorials Commission was formed who decided to open a architectural design competition in which all Canadian architects, artists, designers, and sculptors could submit a design for a national memorial. Out of 160 designs were submitted to the jury for selection, 17 were selected for further consideration.
At this stage of the process, the finalists were asked to produce a plaster model of their proposed design. The Commission decided that both submissions by Frederick Chapman Clemesha, and Walter Seymour Allward were going to be realised. It wasn’t until October 1921, that the design by the Toronto based sculptor and designer Walter Seymour Allward was hailed as the winner of the competition, and Clelmesha’s had been selected as the runner-up.
In early 1922, Allward started his preparations for moving to Europe. After spending a few months looking for a suitable studio, he eventually settled in London. For the next two years he searched for the right stone to construct his design. He did eventually find it near Seget Croatia. His choice was Seget Limestone which was found at an ancient Roman quarry. The quarrying and logistical process to move the stone to site was a mammoth task and wasn’t completed until 1931.
Once the foundation was complete work could begin. Allward produced half size plaster models in his studio in London and the sculptors used these to carve the 20 human figures on site. A temporary studio was created around each figure which was carved from a large block of stone.
The foundation for this memorial alone consisted of eleven thousand tonnes of reinforced concrete. the pylons and limestone base is constructed with nearly six thousand tonnes of Seget Limestone, all of which had to be transported from Croatia.
Visiting this monument was such a overwhelming experience that I will never forget. Its size and grand scale, for me, symbolises the great sacrifice those brave souls made for their King and country. It is a place of reflection, contemplation, and remembrance.
We are now over one hundred years on from the beginning of the First World War, and even now thousands of men lay undiscovered. It was a war in which the world was changed forever. We are now living in age where there are no surviving veterans from World War I, it is now our responsibility to keep their memories alive. Their sacrifice and bravery cannot, and must not be forgotten.
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Hugh at ReClick Photo.