King George VI unveils National War Memorial

On today’s date in 1939, King George VI unveiled the National War Memorial in Ottawa.

In 1994, the Royal Canadian Mint commemorated the National War Memorial on a $1 coin, honouring the contribution and sacrifice made by Canadian soldiers in both World Wars and the Korean War. With a mintage of more than 20 million, the coins had a weight of 7 grams, a diameter of 26 mm and a thickness of 1 mm.

The National War Memorial serves as a focal point of Confederation Square in Ottawa, Canada’s capital city. The memorial is located between Parliament Hill and the Château Laurier hotel, with several other commemorative buildings and monuments nearby, including the Peace Tower and Memorial Chamber at the Parliament buildings, the National Aboriginal Veterans Monument, the Animals in War Memorial, a Boer War memorial, the Peacekeeping Monument, the Valiants Memorial, and the War of 1812 Monument.

The National War Museum on Remembrance Day 2007.

The National War Museum on Remembrance Day 2007.

On the evening of Canada Day 2006, retired Canadian Forces major Dr. Michael Pilon observed and photographed a group of young men urinating on the memorial. Two teenagers later issued apologies and were ordered to do community service while another man, Stephen Fernandes, 23, of Montreal, was charged with mischief by the Ottawa Police Service, though Fernandes later claimed he didn’t remember urinating on the memorial. The incident, along with the common sight of persons skateboarding and riding bicycles on the memorial’s podium, prompted the posting of sentries at the site; however, they are only present between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. from April 9 to Nov. 10.

The base of the National War Museum, designed by Vernon March.

The base of the National War Museum, designed by Vernon March.

Nearly one decade later, on Oct. 22, 2014, a gunman armed with a rifle shot at the on-duty sentries, fatally wounding one, Corporal Nathan Cirillo of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada, before proceeding across the street and into the Centre Block of the Parliament buildings. There, the gunman was killed in a firefight inside the building. Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, who killed the gunman, were mentioned by Governor General David Johnston in his speech during the Remembrance Day ceremony that year. The monument was re-dedicated once again to include those who served in the Second Boer War, the War in Afghanistan, and to “formally recognize all Canadians who served in the past, who serve today, and who will serve in the future.”

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