Following the end of the Great War (World War One) in 1918 most communities around Canada erected some kind of memorial to those local citizens who had died in the conflict. Wiarton was no exception. At first, the Women's Institute pushed for a memorial hospital to be constructed. It would have been Wiarton's first hospital. However, in the end it was decided that the town couldn't financially support its own hospital, especially with an institution already established in nearby Owen Sound. Thus, alternate plans were made for Wiarton's war memorial. Figure W12A shows an early representation of the town's plans as published in the February 22, 1922 edition of the Wiarton Echo newspaper.
Figure W18A: A pre-construction sketch of Wiarton's War Memorial (c.1922).
In August of 1922, the names of the 25 Wiartonians killed in the war were immortalized in a solemn limestone statue erected just north of the then Bank of Commerce (now the Royal Bank). The memorial features a lone young soldier standing tall, grasping his rifle vertically in front of him. To me, the statue does an excellent job of reflecting the brave, yet often young and naive men who served during the war...eager to defend the freedom of Britain and its allies, yet somewhat unwise to the horrors they were about to endure. Figure W18B shows a photograph of the memorial taken about two years after its construction.
Figure W18B: Wiarton's Soldier's Memorial (c.1924).
Unfortunately, the Great War was not the "war to end all wars" as many had hoped. Since that time, the soldier's memorial has come to symbolize all Wiartonians killed in war service, including the 20 men who lost their lives in World War Two. The names of these men were carved into the cenotaph after 1945. (As an aside, click here to see three other Ontario war memorials based on the same template as Wiarton's: Kemptville, Sunderland and Cape Croker).
Figure W18C: Two later views of the Soldier's Memorial. (about 1940, c. 2006)
Figure W18C shows two similar views of the war memorial, one likely taken in the early years of World War Two, and the other taken in 2006. Note that today, the original garden and water fountain have been replaced by a more muted shrub arrangement and a plaque. Nonetheless, Wiarton's war memorial remains as powerful today as it was when it was erected all those years ago. Although Remembrance Day services are held there each year, I only hope that the names carved in the limestone and the freedom for which they fought are not taken for granted by generations to come.
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