NEWS

Vimy commemoration: sacrifice in stained glass

By Rev. Canon Nick Wells

Walter Allward’s Vimy memorial can be seen from kilometers away across the Douai Plain. The great Canadian monument to Canada’s fallen, with Mother Canada mourning her dead. On a much smaller scale but every bit as grand are the hundreds if not thousands of monuments found in churches, hospitals, high schools and universities from coast to coast to coast in Canada.

Joanathan F. Vance wrote:

“Some of the densest collections of memorials are to be found in Canada’s churches; indeed, it is not uncommon to find dozens of separates, memorials within the walls of a single church. Of the welter of memorials, which include monuments, plaques, furnishings, tablets, and liturgical objects, the most striking were executed in stained glass…” (Sacrifice in Stained Glass)

Trinity Anglican Church in St. Thomas has a chapel dedicated to the 91st Regiment, with retired Regimental flags, furnishings, tablet and plaques. Every Remembrance Day the congregations reads aloud the names of all those killed in action during the Great War, all 182 of them.

St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Tyrconnell has a window dedicated to Ellis Wellwood Sifton who died on April 9th 1917 during the battle of Vimy and who was awarded a Victoria Cross posthumously. The bottom panel of the window depicts his cap badge on the left and a V.C. on the right.

Christ Church Port Stanley has a window dedicated to a young private killed when his weapon discharged the day after the armistice was declared.

A window in Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Burford, erected as a memorial to Captain Allan Gray, who was killed in action in 1918, has the inscription “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased” and “Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world.” A window which commemorates the figure of Christ with the church’s fallen.

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The memorial window depicted in this article was originally created for the chapel in the Amasa Wood and Memorial Hospital in St. Thomas Ontario, following the Great War. This explains the Canadian Nursing Sister (a Bluebird) on the left and the patriotic wounded soldier on the right, with St. George in the centre.

The window is 15 feet by 30 feet and is part of a much larger memorial that included a life sized statue of a soldier installed on the grounds at the entrance to the hospital, as well as two bronze plaques, beneath the window, listing the fallen.

Between 1924 and 1930 the 25th Regiment Chapter of the IODE, Women’s Institutes, and Granges diligently collected the names and details of the 2,250 men and women who served in Elgin County during the Great War, in the Elgin County Book of Remembrance. The book is handmade, and leather bound, with vellum pages, each person’s military record beautifully recorded in calligraphy.

The entire memorial, window, statute, bronze plaques, and book of remembrance wasremoved and transferred to the Elgin General Hospital when the old Memorial Hospital was demolished.

By the time this article is published it will be April. Easter weekend in 1917, one hundred years ago, was also in April. The Battle of Vimy started on April 9th (Palm Sunday this year).

As Canadians we seem to pride ourselves that we are a country without myths regarding our founding. A persistent myth about Canada is that we came of age or became a country all because of what happened at Vimy. This may be due to sentiment or the continual sacrifice of the more than 61,000 who laid down their lives, not only at Vimy, but also at Passchendale, Amiens, Canal du Nord, Cambrai, and Mons. To the surviving veterans, and the men, women and children of Canada, the memory of the war to end all wars had to be preserved, so that future generations would never forget the loss or the sacrifice made.

In this our Sesquicentennial year, take the time to look at the walls and windows in your congregation. Find your roll of honour, or a memorial window, or plaque, research those who made the supreme sacrifice and share that information in your congregation/parish, so that “We shall remember them.”

Rev. Canon Nick Wells is currently Priest-in-Charge of the Parish of Tyrconnell and a member of History Matters and the Great War Association.