5 artistic ways to commemorate Remembrance Day this year
By Mackenzie Mason, Arts Editor
Freedom is something that we’ve all been yearning for since the beginning of COVID-19. But, remembering why we have that freedom in the first place is so important on Nov. 11 every year.
With Remembrance Day having been commemorated last week, it’s probable that everyone was thinking of someone who served, fought, suffered injuries or gave their life for the freedom we have today.
In Calgary, there are many different monuments and pieces of art in tribute to those that have served our city and our country to fight for freedom in World War I and World War II. If you missed a virtual or socially-distanced Remembrance Day service this year, visiting one of these monuments can be a visually interesting and artistic way to pay your respects.
Here are some artistic ways to commemorate Remembrance Day in Calgary this year.
1. Visit the South African War Memorial
Unveiled in 1917, the majestic statue of a soldier on a horse was the last monument ever created by one of the world’s best-known sculptors, Louis-Philippe Hébert. The South African War Memorial was commissioned as a memorial for Canadians who fought and died in the South African War — though the war is more commonly referred to as the Second Boer War.
The story behind the monument is one that pulls at your heartstrings. In 1909, a man was found on the outskirts of Calgary, frozen to death with only his documentation identifying him as a veteran of the South African War, who was discharged from the Lord Strathcona’s Horse Regiment.
Veterans in the city couldn’t let that be the end of his story, so they provided him with a proper soldier burial, funded entirely by donations of the citizens of Calgary.
When word of the man’s death reached his family in England, they sent money to the veterans to reimburse the funeral costs as well. Instead, these reimbursed funeral expenses were used to begin a fundraising campaign to build the memorial to the fallen of the South African War.
You can visit the South African War Memorial in Central Memorial Park, among other monuments, to honour those who served.
2. Read Tiny Lights for Travellers
Naomi Lewis uncovers family secrets and questions the impact of the Holocaust on present and future generations in Tiny Lights for Travellers, a biography documenting her grandfather’s escape from Nazi-occupied Netherlands in 1942.
While Lewis travels to Amsterdam on a solo trip to retrace her grandfather’s steps, she chronicles this journey in Tiny Lights for Travellers.
Take a moment to sit down and be grateful, and dive into the startling first-person accounts of Jos Van Embden escaping Nazi-occupied Europe, documented and written by a Calgarian.
3. Visit the First World War Memorial
While most Canadian war memorials pay tribute to those who have sacrificed, suffered and fallen, this monument celebrates the end of the first World War.
An article published in the Calgary Daily Herald on June 21, 1924, describes the statue as “a young Canadian soldier exultant over news of the signing of the Armistice. With an uplifted rifle he stands, bareheaded, the attitude denoting victory and exaltation.”
Dedicated to those who served, it was presented “to the imperishable glory of the men of this province who fought and died for their King and Country in the Great War,” the statue reads.
Facing 2 St SW, between 12 Ave SW and 13 Ave SW, this piece of art can also be found in Calgary’s Central Memorial Park.
4. Listen to “Lay Me Down”
Music has a direct line to the heart, and “Lay Me Down,” Shelly Dion’s first single, is a song that makes you feel the sacrifice that many brave men and women have made for our freedom and our country.
The song opens with its chorus, singing, “Lay me down in fields of poppies, while the bugles sing their song, lay me down beside my comrades while the bagpipes linger on,” transporting your soul to Flanders Fields and Normandy.
Listening to songs like this makes you remember how important it is to educate younger generations on the sacrifices that were made, especially when Dion sings, “Our children will remember how we fought for liberty.”
“Gone but not forgotten, lost but never gone. As long as we remember the sacrifice lives on.” With that lyric in mind, take five minutes today to give your moment of silence while reflecting on the experiences of those who served with Dion’s “Lay Me Down.”
5. Visit Calgary’s Soldier Memorial
This beautiful memorial, designed by Marc Boutin Architectural Collaborative, stands between Memorial Drive and the Bow River and is part of the Landscape of Memory park project along Memorial Drive, which was dedicated on April 9, 2011.
Six tall, marble slabs list over 3,000 names of soldiers from Canadian Army Reserve Regiments based in Calgary who died in service in WW1, WW2 or Afghanistan. The slabs stand on a platform where wood and rusted steel form a bench on which is a quote: “We will remember them.”
Dates incised on the steel skirt in front of the slabs mark battle honours for the regiments. The King’s Own Calgary Regiment, 746 Communications Squadron, 41st Combat Engineer Regiment, 15th Field Ambulance, the Calgary Highlanders, 10th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Forces and the 50th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Forces are the units that top each slab on which it is commemorated.
A quote from John McCrae’s poem, In Flanders Fields, serves as a reminder that the soldiers once enjoyed Calgary’s sunsets over the Rocky Mountains.“We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow.”
So, when you drive down Memorial Drive and inevitably pass the Field of Crosses, bask in the sunset and be grateful for the life you are able to live because of those who are memorialized there.