CPR War Memorial

Posted by Daniel on May 26, 2009

Chuck Davis writes:

My first visual memory of Vancouver, when my Dad and I arrived from Winnipeg at the CPR station in December 1944, when I had recently turned nine, was a statue in front of the station. It showed a dead soldier being carried to heaven by an angel. I recall standing in front of it, staring at it in fascination. I discovered years later that an exact replica of the statue was at the CPR station in Winnipeg! I don’t recall seeing it there.

The memorial, cast in bronze, was placed in Vancouver in 1921 to commemorate CPR employees who had lost their lives in the First World War. There were, astonishingly, 1,100 of them. The Winnipeg copy went up in 1922 and one at Montréal's Windsor Station in 1923. After the Second World War, a plaque was added to the statues as a tribute to soldiers in that war.

The sculptor was the grandly named Coeur de Lion MacCarthy, born in London in 1881. (What did his friends call him? Coeur?) He created numerous war memorials throughout Canada, as well as the Verdun War Memorial. He has work in Ottawa, including busts of Sir Wilfrid Laurier and of Sir John A. Macdonald, small lions guarding the entrance to the Parliament Buildings and a bust of Queen Victoria for the alcove above the Speaker's chair in the Senate Chamber.

It’s a big, impressive piece of work. Exclusive of the base it stands seven feet high and weighs 3,000 pounds (1,362 kilos). All three copies came from the foundry of the Henry Bonnard Company of Mount Vernon, NY.

MacCarthy died January 22, 1979 in Montréal at the age of 97.

The tablet on the sculpture reads: To commemorate those in the service of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company whom at the call of King and Country left all that was dear to them, endured hardship, faced danger and finally passed out of sight of men by the path of duty and self sacrifice, giving up their own lives that others may live in freedom. Let those who come after see to it that their names are not forgotten.

The sculptor’s signature is on the work. The next time you go by, look for it.