Object Name: The Response, National War Memorial (La réponse, Monument commemorative de guerre du Canada)
Artist/Maker/Manufacturer/Founder: Artist: Vernon March (his 6 brothers and sister also worked on the project)
Material/Medium/Support: Bronze, Rose-gray granite from Dumas Quarry at Rivière-à-Pierre near Québec City. In all, seven varieties of Canadian granite were used in this monument
Earliest Production Date and Latest Production Date: 1926-32. When Vernon March died in 1930, his brothers and sister completed the work
Dimension (H x W x D in centimetres): Height: 21 meters
Institution Name: Parks Canada
Copyright: Parks Canada
The national war memorial was built to honour Canadians who served in the First World War. In the middle of a busy city, it quietly evokes our history. The monument is called “The Response.”
Under its giant arch are 22 bronze figures. They symbolize the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who answered the call to serve. They include soldiers, sailors, pilots and nurses. One figure you might not recognize is wearing a soft brimmed hat. Instead of a gun, he carries a pole with a metal hook. He represents the foresters who went overseas during the war to cut logs for railroads, forts and bridges.
Today, the national war memorial commemorates all Canadians who have made a contribution in conflicts overseas.
The Response, National War Memorial
Answering the Call to Arms
On a spring morning in 1939, 100,000 people gathered in the heart of the nation’s capital to unveil the new National War Memorial: 22 bronze figures marching through a giant granite arch, entitled The Response.
Artist Vernon March did not live to see the day. After his death in 1930, his family completed his complex sculptural plan, which embodies the wide range of Canada’s response to Britain’s call for aid. All branches of the service are represented, but other figures are given equal importance: the nurses who cared for war’s casualties, and the expert foresters who cut wood for railways and cleared terrain for airfields.
Most Canadians know the National War Memorial from televised ceremonies: every November 11, the governor general and the prime minister lay wreaths at its base. This ceremony connects Canadians at local war memorials, and reflects our many acts of remembrance.
Originally honouring those who had served in the First World War, the memorial was rededicated in 1981 to commemorate the response of all Canadians who serve our country in times of conflict and peace.
Next to the memorial is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, whose grave represents all those who give their lives in military service — past, present and future. The Unknown Soldier fell at Vimy Ridge, France, during the First World War, and was interred with full honours in 2000. The bronze sword, helmet and leaves on the tomb are the same as those found on the monument at Vimy Ridge.
IRON WINGS: NURSES AND ALLEGORICAL FIGURES IN THE NATIONAL WAR MEMORIAL AND THE NURSING SISTERS’ MEMORIAL
M.A., Art History, Concordia University.
Memorials to the Great War throughout Europe and North America are seldom without allegorical figures …
2009. Digital photograph. 15.2 x 20.3cm.
Joshua Noiseux is an Ontario-born photographer currently living in Montreal. Drawing from the traditions …