Remembrance Day


In the name of Remembrance

Six books keep alive our Canadian war dead

(Reprinted from Veterans Affairs Canada)
Page 584: The World War I book.
 The six Books of Remembrance lie in the Memorial Chamber in the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill. Together they commemorate the lives of 114,710 Canadians who lost their lives while serving their country in battle outside Canada since Confederation.
 The first one created, and the largest of the Books, is the First World War Book which contains 66,655 names. This book is followed by the Second World War Book which contains 44,893 names.
 It was on July 1, 1917 that Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden dedicated a site in the Centre Block of the Houses of Parliament. He said the new structure would be a "memorial to the debt of our forefathers and to the valour of those Canadians who, in the Great War, fought for the liberties of Canada, of the Empire, and of humanity." And so it was two years later that the Prince of Wales laid the corner stone of "The Tower of Victory and Peace" as it was originally known. The intention was for all the names of the Canadian soldiers to be engraved on the walls of the chamber, but it was soon realized that there would not be enough space on the walls to contain more than 66,000 names. So began the process of brainstorming for a solution, which came from Colonel A. Fortesque Duguid, DSO, who is credited with suggesting the idea for a Book of Remembrance. The plan was accepted and minor alterations were made to the chamber to accommodate the Books. The Prince of Wales returned on August 3, 1927 to unveil the altar; a gift from the British Government upon which the Book of The First World War would rest.
 The artist chosen to do the work on the Book was James Purves of London, Ontario. At that time it was expected that the work on the World War One Book would take five years and would cost $35,000. However, it was not completed until 1942, 11 years after the committee was formed. The reasons for the delay were many. For instance, Purves required many rare materials to create the Book. Also, all the tools and materials had to come from the British Empire. James Purves died in 1940, at which time only the preliminary work had been done and only one page was fully illuminated and illustrated. As a result, all of Purves' work was handed over to Alan Beddoe, an artist from Ottawa and an assistant of Purves for many years. Beddoe had the World War One Book completed two and a half years after taking over, much to his credit. Beddoe was a conscientious administrator and an accomplished artist who devoted 30 years of his life to the creation of Canada's Books of Remembrance. He died in 1975. In 1948 it was decided that a Book of Remembrance would be created to commemorate the Canadians who lost their lives in the Second World War. Allan Beddoe was again selected to do the work. In his written thoughts of the project he wrote: "...I am most anxious to produce a work that will be a fitting tribute to those who died, but further still to create something that may be regarded as one of the great works of its kind in modern times. This demands art, and while I am fully attentive to the fact that this project is being paid for out of public funds and should therefore be kept within reasonable costs, I am nevertheless equally conscious of my responsibility as an artist to the people of Canada in that they will expect something exceptionally fine for the money spent."

 The work was to begin in the spring of 1948 and to be completed by August of 1952. During the first three years of the project, however, Beddoe ran into a series of delays. For instance, the calf skin vellum did not arrive from England until nine months after the time it was originally expected. As well, the Printing Bureau required an additional six months to attach the linen guards to the individual sheets of vellum and there was also some difficulty as to the correct spelling of the names of men and women who were of french origin. Also, the Inter Service Records Committee had many problems retrieving the names of Canadians who died while serving in other forces. The Historical Sections of the three services were seven months behind schedule, due to the pressures of their other duties after the war. It also took six months for Beddoe and his staff to find proper working quarters where temperature and humidity could be kept within certain limits so as not to damage the delicate vellum.
 It wasn't until the fall of 1949 that the writing and illustrating could begin. More problems arose in 1950 and 1951 when major policy changes affected the work's progress. For example, it was decided that abbreviations of infantry and regiments would be included rather than just the corps designations, as had been the case until then. All of these decisions were made after nearly half of the 44,893 names had been entered. Consequently, all of these names had to be discarded and the work started over. Beddoe decided to make a few changes of his own when redoing the Book. The script was changed to a style known as Foundation hand. He hired another writer to make up for some of the lost time. Gold-filled nibs were made especially for the writing of the Books. Beddoe's staff included a chief assistant, five assistant artists, two writers, an accounting officer and a proof-reader.
 In the Second World War Book there are approximately 75 names per page compared with 125 names in the First World War Book. Beddoe also decided to incorporate many pages commemorating particular actions, battles, and places that were significant to Canadians during the war. The Second World War Book was placed in the Memorial Chamber on Remembrance Day, 1957.


 More than half a million visitors each year view Canada's six Books of Remembrance in the Memorial Chamber on the second level of the Peace Tower. The Memorial Chamber is a beautifully crafted room with a vaulted ceiling, stained glass windows, and intricate carvings depicting Canada's record of war. The centerpiece of the Chamber is the main altar for the First World War Book of Remembrance. The steps which the altar rests on are made of stone quarried from Flander's Fields. Inlaid into the floor surrounding the steps are brass nameplates, hand-crafted from spent shell cases found on the battlefield, recording the major actions in which Canadian's took part in during the First World War. Upon the altar is a glass-topped case of finely tooled brass with small statuettes of angels kneeling at each corner. Within this case rests the Book, set on a special balancing lectern so that the pages are always level and easily readable through the protective glass. The remaining four books are against the walls surrounding the altar, with the Book for the Second World War being against the southern wall.
 In 1959 high temperatures and humidity inside the Memorial Chamber destroyed the bindings of the First and Second World War Books. Consequently, new red Levant (goatskin) leathers were obtained and both books were rebound.


  Every morning, at eleven o'clock, the pages of the Books of Remembrance are turned by a member of the House of Commons Protective Service Staff. A calendar was devised so that each page of each book is turned once a year. Some pages are left exposed for several days at a time on or near a date of the anniversary of the actions they commemorate. During the ceremony a guard in uniform (ceremonial coat, gloves and hat) marches in front of the First World War Book, bows and salutes and then marches over to the book on the right. The guard then proceeds to bow, salute and turn the page. This process is repeated for all of the Books of Remembrance and is done in a counterclockwise direction around the Chamber. The guard then marches to the center of the room and bows and salutes once more. Anyone interested in knowing when a certain page containing a particular name will be on display may consult with a member of the staff to receive a calendar showing when the page will be turned. Also, with special permission, certain individuals, such as close family members or friends of the deceased, may be able to view the ceremony which is not usually open to public viewing. Color copies of a certain page are available upon request at no cost.


 Canada's six Books of Remembrance represent, individually and collectively, the highest expressions of modern workmanship and artistry. The craftsmanship, heraldic illumination, calligraphy, water coloring, bookbinding and leather tooling give the books a special look and quality unequaled world wide. The Books commmemorate Canada's young soldiers, nurses, sailors, merchant marines, airmen and service women who lost their lives at war. They are testaments to the valour, sacrifice and unselfishness of the those who died.