For the past 93 years, one soldier has bowed his head and stood by City Hall “in proud and grateful remembrance of our honoured dead and those who carried on in the Great War”.
Erected Wednesday, October 19, 1921 at the corner of Brodie and Donald Streets, the memorial monument was commissioned by the Fort William Women’s Patriotic Society. The unveiling was an exciting and fitting way to honour the soldiers who lost their lives, as well as those who fought gallantly and were able to return to their families. Closed to traffic, the nearby streets provided a route for a grand parade, marshaled by a returned soldier, and featuring boy scouts, girl guides, a naval brigade, a guard of honour, and the City Band. Mayor Dennis proclaimed the afternoon a half holiday which enabled a large turnout of citizens to witness the ceremonies and show their respect. After speeches, prayers, and hymns, the Honourable R. J. Manion (a Fort William politician and doctor who was part of the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corp) unveiled the statue. Manion spoke of the character, fortitude, and tenacity of those who went off to war, and those who waited for their return. This was followed by a reading of “Last Post” – a letter written by Fort William’s Stanley Arthur Rutledge, a lieutenant who lost his life in an airplane accident in 1917.
In June of 1922, the Women’s Patriotic Society turned the care and control of the monument over to the City Council.
When talk started of constructing a new City Hall, a debate over the location of the cenotaph began. Some insisted it stay in its original location, while others thought it would be more suitable if centrally located in front of City Hall. An 8 – 5 vote, and the selection of a firm able to move the statue without damaging it meant that it would relocate to where it will stand today.
Since it was erected, additional dates have been engraved to also honour those who fought in WWII and the Korean War.
(Photos courtesy of Dave Cano – hotrodsandjalopies.blogspot.com)