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Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

A Poignant Reminder for Canadians of the Human Cost of War

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Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Courtesy City of Ottawa

Updated: 10/23/2013

About the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a sarcophagus at the front of the Canadian National War Memorial which holds the remains of an unidentified Canadian soldier who died in France during World War I.

Purpose of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

To remind Canadians of the human cost of Canada's commitment to the cause of peace and freedom in the past, in the present and in the future. The Unknown Soldier represents the 27,500 Canadian service people who have no known grave.

Location

At the National War Memorial in Ottawa, Ontario, the capital city of Canada.

Dates

The remains of the Unknown Soldier were repatriated from France on May 25, 2000 and the silver maple coffin was buried in the sarcophagus of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on May 28, 2000.

Origin of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

An unidentified body of a soldier as a symbol of all war dead was first used in Great Britain in 1920 when an unknown solider was buried in Westminster Abbey. Other countries followed, including the United States and France. The idea for a Canadian Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was developed by the Royal Canadian Legion as a Millennium Project, and followed up by Veterans Affairs Canada.

Selection of the Unknown Soldier

Almost 20,000 of the 80,000 Canadians who died in World War I have no identifiable grave. Those who could be identified as Canadian have gravestones inscribed "A Canadian Soldier of the Great War - known unto God."

The Canadian government asked the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to select a grave of an unidentified Canadian soldier in the Vimy Ridge area.

The grave selected was in the Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery, Souchez, France.

The Unknown Soldier

Nothing is known about the soldier who is buried in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, except that he was Canadian, he died in France during World War I and he was young.

Design of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

  • The granite sarcophagus has three tiers, and is made of dark Caledonia granite from Rivière à Pierre, Québec. It is patterned after the stone altar at the Vimy Memorial in France.
  • A bronze relief sculpture sits on top of the sarcophagus. It includes the main elements of the stone carving on the Vimy altar - a medieval sword, a helmet, and branches of maple and laurel leaves.

  • The four corner pieces of the sarcophagus have bronze relief work - three of the Memorial Cross and the fourth of a poppy.

Artist

Mary-Ann Liu of Mission, British Columbia created the bronze relief sculpture for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

 

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