History of the Books of Remembrance
Table of Contents
The seven Books of Remembrance lie in the Memorial Chamber in the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill. Together, they commemorate the lives of more than 118,000 Canadians who, since Confederation, have made the ultimate sacrifice while serving our country in uniform.
Peace Tower and the Books of Remembrance
On July 1, 1917, Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden dedicated a site in the Centre Block of the Houses of Parliament. He said the new structure 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." It was two years later that the Prince of Wales laid the corner stone of "The Tower of Victory and Peace," which today is known as the Peace Tower.
When the Peace Tower was first created, the intention was that all names of Canadians who died during the battles of the First World War would be engraved on the walls of the Memorial Chamber. However, it was soon realized that there would not be enough space on the walls to contain the more than 66,000 names of those who died.
So began the process of brainstorming for a solution. Eventually, one came from Colonel A. Fortesque Duguid, DSO. He is credited with suggesting the idea for a Book of Remembrance. The plan was accepted and minor alterations were made to the Memorial Chamber to accommodate the Book.
The Prince of Wales returned to Canada on August 3, 1927, to unveil the altar—a gift from the British Government—upon which the First World War Book of Remembrance would rest.
First World War Book of Remembrance
The first Book of Remembrance created, and the largest of the Books, is the First World War Book of Remembrance. It contains more than 66,000 names.
The artist chosen to work on the Book was James Purves of London, Ontario. At that time, it was expected that the First World War Book of Remembrance would take five years to complete and would cost $35,000. However, the Book was not completed until 1942, 11 years after the committee was formed. The reasons for the delay were many. For instance, Purves required many rare materials to create the Book. Also, all the tools and materials had to come from the British Empire.
James Purves died in 1940, at which time only the preliminary work had been completed on the Book and only one page was fully illuminated and illustrated. As a result, all of Purves' work was handed over to Alan Beddoe, an artist from Ottawa and an assistant of Purves for many years. Beddoe had the First World War Book of Remembrance completed two and a half years after taking over, much to his credit. Beddoe was a conscientious administrator and an accomplished artist who devoted 30 years of his life to the creation of Canada's Books of Remembrance. He died in 1975.
Second World War Book of Remembrance
The Second World War Book of Remembrance contains more than 44,000 names. In 1948, it was decided that a Book of Remembrance would be created to commemorate the Canadians who lost their lives in the Second World War. Allan Beddoe was again selected to do the work. In his written thoughts of the project he wrote: " . . . I am most anxious to produce a work that will be a fitting tribute to those who died, but further still to create something that may be regarded as one of the great works of its kind in modern times. This demands art, and while I am fully attentive to the fact that this project is being paid for out of public funds and should therefore be kept within reasonable costs, I am nevertheless equally conscious of my responsibility as an artist to the people of Canada in that they will expect something exceptionally fine for the money spent."
The work was scheduled to begin in the spring of 1948 and to be completed by August 1952. During the first three years of the project, however, Beddoe ran into a series of delays. The calf skin vellum did not arrive from England until nine months after the time it was originally expected. The Printing Bureau required an additional six months to attach the linen guards to the individual sheets of vellum. There was some difficulty verifying the correct spelling of the names of men and women of French origin. The Inter Service Records Committee had many problems retrieving the names of Canadians who died while serving in other forces. The Historical Sections of the three services were seven months behind schedule, due to the pressures of the branches' other duties after the war. It also took six months for Beddoe and his staff to find proper working quarters where temperature and humidity could be kept within certain limits to prevent damage to the delicate vellum.
It was not until the fall of 1949 that the writing and illustrating could begin. More problems arose in 1950 and 1951 when major policy changes affected the work's progress. For instance, it was decided that abbreviations of infantry and regiments would be included rather than just the corps designations. All of these decisions were made after nearly half of the more than 44,000 names had already been entered. The completed names had to be discarded and the work started again.
Beddoe decided to make a few changes of his own when redoing the Book. The script was changed to a style known as Foundation hand. He hired another writer to make up for some of the lost time. Gold-filled nibs were made especially to complete the Second Book's calligraphy. Beddoe included approximately 75 names per page in the Second World War Book of Remembrance, as compared to 125 names per page in the First World War Book. Beddoe also decided to incorporate many pages commemorating particular actions, battles, and places that were significant to Canadians during the war.
Beddoe's staff included a chief assistant, five assistant artists, two writers, an accounting officer and a proof-reader. The Second World War Book of Remembrance was placed in the Memorial Chamber on Remembrance Day 1957.
Newfoundland Book of Remembrance
The Newfoundland Book of Remembrance commemorates the men and women of Newfoundland who gave their lives in defence of freedom during both the First and Second World Wars—before Newfoundland became a province of Canada on April 1, 1949. Those listed are from all three branches of the military—the Navy, Air Force and Army. The book includes memorials to First World War campaigns, including Gallipoli and Beaumont-Hamel, and Second World War campaigns, including North Africa and Italy, and Northwest Europe. The Newfoundland Book of Remembrance, containing more than 2,300 names, was installed in the Memorial Chamber of Parliament in 1973, and a replica was placed in the Confederation Building in St. John's.
Korean War Book of Remembrance
The Korean War Book of Remembrance commemorates those Canadians who gave their lives during the Korean War (1950—1953). On June 25, 1950, the forces of North Korea crossed the 38th Parallel into the Republic of Korea. This marked the beginning of hostilities which were to rage for more than three years, throughout the country known to its people as the Land of the Morning Calm. The Canadian casualties numbered more than 1,500, including 516 who lost their lives. The names of those lost are inscribed in the Korean War Book of Remembrance, which includes a page decorated with the United Nations symbol surrounded by the Arms of the 17 countries which participated in the United Nations Forces. The Book was dedicated in the Memorial Chamber on November 11, 1962 by the Governor-General Major General Georges Vanier, DSO, MC, CD.
South African War / Nile Expedition Book of Remembrance
The South African War / Nile Expedition Book of Remembrance commemorates Canadians who died during the South African War (1899—1902) and the Nile Expedition (1884—1885). The Nile Expedition in 1884 marked the first time Canada took part in a war overseas. Four hundred volunteers skilled in river navigation served in the expedition; sixteen gave their lives. The South African War broke out on October 11, 1899. This war marked the first occasion in which large contingents of Canadian troops served abroad. More than 7,000 Canadians volunteered to fight in the South African War. Almost 300 names are listed in the South African War / Nile Expedition Book of Remembrance. The Book was dedicated and placed in the Memorial Chamber on May 31, 1962, the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Peace of Vereeniging, which ended the war in South Africa.
Merchant Navy Book of Remembrance
The Merchant Navy Book of Remembrance commemorates the men and women of the Merchant Marine who gave their lives while serving Canada at sea during both the First World War and the Second World War. In addition to the names of those lost, this Book includes poetry, maps and ocean-related images. During the First World War, merchant ships quickly became the target of enemy surface raiders, and by April 1915, 54 Allied merchant ships had been sunk. By 1917, 1,220 had been sunk. There is no record of the number of merchant mariners who served on the high seas during the Great War, but it is known that more than 570 of them died.
In August 1939, the Royal Canadian Navy took control of all merchant ships. Merchant mariners were not compelled to sail, but an estimated 12,000 of them did. More than 1,600 Canadian merchant navy men and women were killed in action in the Second World War. The Merchant Navy Book of Remembrance was dedicated in 1993.
In the Service of Canada Book of Remembrance
In the Service of Canada Book of Remembrance lists the names of more than 1,800 members of the Canadian Armed Forces (Navy, Army, Air Force) who have died while on duty in Canada or serving abroad since October 1, 1947, with the exception of those who are commemorated in the Korean War Book of Remembrance. This includes those who died in times of conflict, or during peacetime training exercises, peacekeeping deployments abroad or other military duty.
The Book begins with the date of October 1, 1947, the day after eligibility for entry in the Second World War Book of Remembrance closed.
Each year, more than half a million visitors view Canada's Books of Remembrance in the Memorial Chamber on the second level of the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill.
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