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Ottawa > Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

The three-tiered sarcophagus will be 12 feet long, 8 feet wide and 3 feet high. Dark Caledonia granite, quarried in Rivière à Pierre, Québec, was selected to complement the paler-coloured stone used in the National War Memorial. While it is patterned after the stone altar of the Vimy Memorial, the sever Ottawa climate, as well as the bronze and stone makeup of the National War Memorial, led to the decision to produce the relief work in bronze.

What You Should Know?

On May 23, 2000 a Canadian Forces aircraft will fly to France to bring the Unknown Soldier back to Canada. On board will be a delegation consisting of a Canadian Forces contingent including a 45-person guard, a bearer party, and a chaplain. The Veterans Affairs contingent will contain veterans and civilians, including two representatives of Canadian youth.

In the meantime, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (who include among their duties responsibility for the care of the graves of members of the forces of the British Commonwealth who died in the First and Second World Wars) will select an unidentified soldier from a cemetery the vicinity of Vimy Ridge, the site of a famous Canadian battle of the First World War.

On May 25, 2000 at a ceremony at the Canadian Memorial on Vimy Ridge, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission will turn over the remains to Canada. At that point the Canadian Forces will take over responsibility for the safekeeping and transport of the soldier's remains. Immediately after the ceremony, the Canadian delegation will return to Ottawa with a casket containing the soldier's remains on board the aircraft.

On the evening of May 25, 2000  the casket carrying the remains of the Unknown Soldier will be transported to Parliament Buildings, where he will be placed in the Hall Of Honour in the Centre Block. He will lie in state there for three days, until the morning of May 28, 2000 so that Canadians may view the casket and pay their respect.

In the afternoon of May 28, 2000  the Unknown Soldier will be transported from Parliament Hill to the National War Memorial on a horse-drawn gun carriage provided by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The funeral cortege will include Their Excellencies, the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, Governor General of Canada and John Ralston Saul, the Right Honourable Jean Chrétien, Prime Minister of Canada, veterans, Canadian Forces personnel and members of the RCMP. In a ceremony which will air on national television, the Unknown Soldier will be laid to rest in a specially-designed sarcophagus directly in front of the War Memorial.

From that point on, the Tomb of The Unknown Soldier will become a focal point of commemoration for all memorial events at the National War Memorial. It will be a memorial in Canada for Canadians. The Tomb will be a fitting way to honour the sacrifices on which our freedoms were built.

To be located on the upper plaza of the National War Memorial, in Ottawa, in front of the existing monument, the Tomb will consist of a granite sarcophagus enclosing a casket containing the remains of the unknown soldier. A bronze relief sculpture will be secured to the top with stainless steel pins. The four corner pieces of the sarcophagus will also have bronze relief work.

The Sarcophagus
The three-tiered sarcophagus will be 12 feet long, 8 feet wide and 3 feet high. Dark Caledonia granite, quarried in Rivière à Pierre, Québec, was selected to complement the paler-coloured stone used in the National War Memorial. While it is patterned after the stone altar of the Vimy Memorial, the sever Ottawa climate, as well as the bronze and stone makeup of the National War Memorial, led to the decision to produce the relief work in bronze.

The Bronze Relief Sculpture
The sculpture, being cast in Roberts Creek, British Columbia, will include the key elements of the stone carving on the Vimy altar; a medieval sword, a helmet of the type worn in the First World War, with branches of maple and laurel leaves. The laurel leaves symbolize both victory and death. Four bronze corner pieces containing symbolic mementos of mourning will enhance the sculpture.

The Four Bronze Corner Pieces
Three of the corner pieces will be decorated with large replicas of the Memorial Cross. First instituted in 1919, the Cross is presented to the family of those who gave their lives while serving Canada in war or on peacekeeping missions. The three Crosses are slightly different; each has the Royal Cypher of one of the successive monarchs since its inception (George V, George VI, and Elizabeth II). On the fourth corner piece there will be a replica of a poppy, representing those who may fall in future conflicts. The curved shape of the corner pieces will echo the curve of the top of the War Memorial.

The Artist
The sculpture is being created by Mary-Ann Liu, a well-known Canadian artist from Mission, British Columbia, who works with a variety of materials. A sculptor and designer for 15 years, her work has been exhibited as far away as Japan. 

Selecting the Design
The design selected for the bronze relief was the unanimous choice of the selection committee. It was one of six submissions received from internationally renowned Canadian artists from across the country who were invited to submit their designs. The selection committee comprised representatives from Public Works and Government Services Canada, Veterans Affairs Canada, the Department of National Defence, the National Capital Commission, the Royal Canadian Legion, a former Dominion Sculptor, a sculpture restoration specialist and a design consultant. 

Lighting
A light mounted on the roof of a nearby building will illuminate the Tomb, and new lighting is being installed to enhance the War Memorial itself. 

Location: Confederation Square, corner of Elgin and Wellington streets, Ottawa.

Cost:Free

Contact:Janice Summerby (613) 992-7468, Pat Smith (613) 992-7470

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