Remembrance Day: Major Percy Rigby

The Nelson, B.C. cenotaph lists more than a hundred names of soldiers killed in World War I. This from a town of 6000. Other memorials in the Kootenay Lake area bring the total number of area men killed to around 300. “Their Names Liveth Forevermore”, taken from Rudyard Kipling’s poem, is the official war dead epitaph.  But just who were these names, these men who no one now alive has ever met?

rigby_plaque

The old Post Office/Customs House building (1902), which has also served as City Hall and city museum, bears a marble plaque dedicated to the memory of one of these men, Major Percy Rigby:

He was so loved by his men, who called themselves “Rigby’s Terriers”, that those remaining of his company would take up a collection from their meagre pay to erect a memorial to him…

Sylvia Crooks, Names on a Cenotaph: Kootenay Lake Men in World War I

 

 Major Percy George Rigby. Unit: 7th Battalion, 1st British Columbia Regiment, Canadian Expeditionary Force. Death: 10 March 1915 shot by sniper Near La Boutillerie Armentieres Western Front Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205387788

Major Percy George Rigby. Unit: 7th Battalion, 1st British Columbia Regiment, Canadian Expeditionary Force. Death: 10 March 1915 shot by sniper Near La Boutillerie Armentieres Western Front Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205387788

Percy Rigby was born in London, in 1871. His father, Major-General Christopher Palmer Rigby had a long army career before becoming British consul in Zanzibar. Christopher died in 1885 and Percy went on to an education at Marlborough College and Sandhurst. At the age of 19 he joined the Sherwood Foresters and, from 1896 – 1911 served in various Africa campaigns, including the Boer War. Percy was Christopher’s youngest son and had no prospects in England, aside from his Army pension. Like many other men in his position, Rigby decided to emigrate.

Canada began advertising for immigrants in 1892. At first these ads were directed generally and many East Europeans came to Canada, but as time passed, the immigration program was aimed more and more at Great Britain and “desirable” people. One prospect that enticed many Brits who shared Rigby’s circumstances was fruit ranching in British Columbia.

rigby_fertile_canada

Money grows on trees in Fertile Canada. Immigration propaganda from 1900.

Edible dessert apples, as opposed to cider fruit, had been developed as a crop only in the latter half of the Nineteenth Century. Members of the British Empire (the Commonwealth came much later) developed their own apple varieties — for instance, Macintosh from Canada, Granny Smith from Australia — and British and American varieties were also available. The apple trees were propagated by slips or cuttings from good trees (as they still are) and thus, always bred true. British Columbia wanted settlers, apples grew well there, and Englishmen were always welcome. In addition, ex-officers could commute their pensions into enough to meet the initial investment in fruit — much larger than that required for either cattle or grain.

So, in 1911, the same year he retired from the military, Percy Rigby travelled to British Columbia and became a fruit rancher. He settled at Boswell on Kootenay Lake, named his new residence “Sans Souci”, and soon became known for throwing great Christmas celebrations as well as his minor, but lovable, English “eccentricities”. (I haven’t been able to discover much more about these.)

Fruit Ranching in British Columbia written by John Bealby in 1909 describes the process of developing a new orchard in the area. It was tough work, but rewarding and spiced with reminisces of colorful locals — and the locals were mostly colorful, all except the new-comers from England who were, of course, English and therefore models for the world.

"Cox's Orange Pippin, Two Years Old" from Bealby's Fruit Ranching in British Columbia

“Cox’s Orange Pippin, Two Years Old” from Bealby’s Fruit Ranching in British Columbia

Perhaps by 1914, Rigby’s ranch was producing a profit — fruit trees take time — but, in August, there was a new priority. Ten days after the outbreak of World War I, Percy Rigby was training volunteers in Nelson. Shortly afterward, Rigby and 175 men travelled to Valcartier, Quebec and signed up with the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Probably three quarters were English immigrants going to defend the Motherland. Another local contingent of more than 200 soon followed.

Rigby’s contingent included 26 men who carved their names into a CPR tabletop. Of these 26, 10 were killed. 80% of the first Kootenay Contingent were killed, captured, or suffered debilitating wounds. So many losses of young men had serious repercussions in sparsely populated interior British Columbia. Widows, who had little enough when their husbands went off to war, now had to subsist on inadequate pensions — inadequate, but the highest amount paid by any of the Allied nations. Many fruit ranching communities, including Rigby’s Boswell, never recovered. Some became ghost towns. Fruit ranching of the kind discussed by Bealby ceased to be a major enterprise in the Kootenays, although Christmas apples were still featured in Sears and Eaton’s catalogues as late as the 1970s. These were shipped in bulk to England and re-packaged there as “A Gift to Home”.

CPR train table carved by members of the Kootenay Contingent, (photo: Tony Holland via: Crooks, Names on a Cenotaph: Kootenay Lake Men in World War I

CPR train table carved by members of the Kootenay Contingent, (photo: Tony Holland via: Crooks, Names on a Cenotaph: Kootenay Lake Men in World War I)

In February, after three months training in England, the Kootenay Contingent was shipped to France as part of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. (Some individuals were assigned to Scottish regiments.) In March, the Canadians were assigned to the assault on Neuve Chapelle, a German-held town just south of the Belgian border. There was an English unit to the Canadians’ left and an Indian unit to their right. British command thought this a fine example of the Empire in action. Following a massive artillery bombardment, which obliterated the town, the Indians charged in and actually gained a foothold in Neuve Chapelle, but British forces were unable to turn the situation into an immediate victory and several days of fighting ensued before the town was taken at a cost of some 11600 Allied and an equal number of German casualties and captured. Percy Rigby saw none of this. On March 10, as the battle opened, he was shot in the chest by a German sniper.

Notes:

Sylvia Crooks, Names on a Cenotaph: Kootenay Lake Men in World War I was mentioned before. This is a great book and a model for local history. (And, in the end, all history, like all politics, is local.) Crooks has also written about World War II, both the names on the cenotaph and life on the home front.

 

Remembrance Day: The Unknown Deserter

During the Second World War, Germany executed many 0f its own citizens — the exact number is hard to come by, but at least 23,000 military members were put to death. They were executed for crimes such as treason, failure to follow orders, and desertion. Various categories of condemned men have received posthumous pardons for their actions. In 2002 a general pardon was issued for those who had deserted the Wehrmacht during the War. But already, monuments had been erected in their memory.

Possibly the first was set up in Bremen in 1986 by a veteran’s group opposed to NATO’s First Strike policy. The statue may wear a NATO helmet.

Sculpture by Mehmet Aksoy. Photo Via.

Sculpture in Potsdam by Mehmet Aksoy. Photo Via.

The first official memorial for the Unknown Deserter was meant to be placed in Bonn, capital of West Germany, but was finished just after the Wall came down and was set up in Potsdam. Since then, at least twenty memorials have been erected all over Germany and Austria.

Sculpture in Stuttgart by Nicholas Kernbach. Wikimedia Commons.

Sculpture in Stuttgart by Nicholas Kernbach. Wikimedia Commons.

Some 400,000 soldiers attempted to desert during World War II and 30,000 or so were caught and sentenced to death, though only 23,000 of these sentences were carried out before the War’s end. In 1998, the Bundestag pardoned those convicted of refusing to join the Nazi armed forces. Over the next few years other categories of resisters were also pardoned. Deserters joined the list in 2002.

Memorial in Ulm by Hannah Stuetz Menzel . Via.

Memorial in Ulm by Hannah Stuetz Menzel . Via.

The last category of resister to finally receive pardons was that of Treason. Some of those convicted of treason included men who had criticized the Hitler regime. One — an unnamed soldier — attempted in 1944 to transport thirteen Jews from Hungary to save them from the sweep that was sending Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz. There was some opposition to pardoning this last group by Bundestag members who protested that traitors put the lives of others in danger, but investigation has shown that claim to be false.

In 1925, when monument building for World War I veterans became a national industry, Kurt Tucholsky wrote:

Of all the missing plaques, we specially miss this one:
This is for a man who refused to kill his fellow men.

Looking up at Ruedi Baur's shelter in Cologne. Wikimedia Commons.

Looking up at Ruedi Baur’s shelter in Cologne. Wikimedia Commons.

In 2009, architect Ruedi Baur constructed such a memorial in Cologne. It is a transit shelter with these words on the roof:

Homage to the soldiers who refused to shoot at the soldiers, who refused to shoot at the people, who refused to torture the people, who refused to give information against the people, who refused to brutalise the people, who refused to discriminate against the people, who refused to ridicule the people, who showed civil courage while the majority kept silent and toed the line.

 

Remembrance Day: The War Memorials of Ernst Barlach

When war broke out in 1914, Ernst Barlach decided to enlist. He believed the romantic nonsense of the day — that war was a revitalizing, renewing force — but these beliefs were confounded by the casualty rates that were soon reported. Even so, Barlach wanted to see for himself and was finally pronounced fit for service in 1915, even though he was 44 years old and had a heart condition. By 1916, Barlach had seen enough and obtained his release from the armed forces. He was now a committed pacifist. The Christmas issue of der Bildermann has a Barlach lithograph on the cover. The Virgin Mary is depicted with hands to her face surrounded by seven swords, medieval symbols for the Seven Sorrows of Mary. “Give Us Peace” the picture pleads.

At the War’s end, there was tremendous demand for memorial cenotaphs and Barlach was approached about designing several. He finally accepted a commission from the Nicolai Church at Kiel and reworked his Bildermann design into a large wood sculpture with the aggrieved figure of Mary thrusting forward from a panel that included the seven swords. “My heart bleeds with grief but You give me strength” read the inscription. This memorial was destroyed during World War II.

Barlach’s next commission was for the church in Güstrow where he lived in seclusion most of his life. Finally installed in 1927, the sculpture is a bronze casting more than two meters long and is suspended over the baptismal. It depicts an angel, arms folded and eyes closed hovering above the heads of humanity. The expression on the angel’s face is one of deep compassion felt by this other-worldly being for the human beings below who are inflicting so much pain on one another. “Recollection and inner reflection” was the proper attitude for a war memorial to inspire, said Barlach.

[Wikimedia Commons photo: Jens Burkhardt-Plückhahn]

[Wikimedia Commons photo: Jens Burkhardt-Plückhahn]

While modeling the angel’s head, Barlach became aware that it resembled fellow artist, Käthe Kollwitz. Kollwitz was three years older than Barlach and was, like him, associated with the Secession Movement, though neither was particularly interested in being described as a Movement artist. Even though she was opposed to war, Kollwitz had given permission for her youngest son, who was under age, to join the Army. Ten days after he enlisted, the boy was killed. Kollwitz was devastated by grief and guilt. She began designing a memorial for her son, destroying several versions before finally creating the bereft couple that kneel in mute agony among the graves of the fallen at Vladslo.

Left, Kathe Kollwitz, 1919 [Wikimedia Commons], Right, Head of Gustrow angel[Barlach Museum, Wedel

Left, Kathe Kollwitz, 1919 [Wikimedia Commons], Right, Head of Gustrow angel[Barlach Museum, Wedel]

For the 1929 memorial at Magdeburg, Barlach returned to wood sculpture, a favored medium. A large panel features three German soldiers at top, possibly meant to show a young recruit, a junior officer with bandaged head, and an older reservist. The central figure embraces a large cross inscribed with the dates “1914 1915 1916 1917 1918”.  At the bottom are the heads of a weeping woman, a rotted corpse wearing a helmet, and a self-portrait of Barlach, hands to his horrified face, gas mask hanging from his neck.

[Wikimedia Commons photo: Chris 73]

[Wikimedia Commons photo: Chris 73]

The memorial was attacked by Nazi ideologue Julius Rosenberg who claimed that the soldier on the right was a Russian. (Strangely,  this concept has persisted with some people still believing that the figures are German, French, and Russian, respectively.) The attempt to link Barlach with Russia was part of a campaign to paint him as a non-German. Barlach was also called a Jew and a Communist.

The grieving mother has been a theme in Western art at least since the Mater Dolorosa of the medieval era and developed into the Pieta of the Renaissance. Barlach had begun his memorials with this image, now he returned to it for the 1931 cenotaph at Hamburg. A grieving pregnant woman comforts a younger girl. This bas-relief was carved on one side of a large stele which had these words carved on the other side: “40,000 sons of the city gave their lives for you”. Barlach did not write the inscription and was not overly pleased with it.

Hamburger Ehrenmal [ via Bilder Blog

Hamburger Ehrenmal [ via Bilder Blog]

The memorial was seen by Nazis as an insult to soldiers and the nation. The mother’s features were described as Slavic and accusations about Barlach’s racial affinities and politics were published. The 76ers, a Hamburg veterans group, lobbied to have the stele removed. But Barlach’s international reputation made Hamburg afraid of embarrassing itself. Louis Mumford, for instance, praised the work and described its opponents as “Ku Klux Klansmen”. “What really troubles the Nazis is that the whole monument is so free of pomp and bluster..,” he wrote. In 1933, the city compromised by allotting space for the 76ers own memorial which depicts a group of more than eighty heroic soldiers and bears the inscription: “Germany must live even if we must die.”

Barlach was working on another memorial that featured a Pieta design of a woman holding a dead soldier in her lap, but the political atmosphere had become so poisonous that he gave it up. Barlach was disdainful of the Nazis and was open about this with his friends. Although he was careful about not allowing his letters to fall into government hands, Barlach’s attitude was well-known in official circles. One by one, his war memorials were taken down. The relief on the Hamburg stele was replaced with an eagle. Friends spirited away the Magdeburg carving before it was seized by the authorities. In 1938, the Kiel angel was removed and was later melted down to be turned into war materials. Some of Barlach’s friends rescued the plaster mold that he used to form the sculpture and cast a new copy which they kept hidden.

Die Klage: Memorial for Ernst Barlach by Kathe Kollwitz, 1938 Casting is about 27 X 25 cm. [via Christie's Auction House ]

Die Klage: Memorial for Ernst Barlach by Kathe Kollwitz, 1938 Casting is about 27 X 25 cm. [via Christie’s Auction House ]

By now, Barlach’s work was officially declared “degenerate” and non-German, a silly accusation to make about wood sculpture that so obviously is derived from medieval German forms. In 1938, authorities seized works exhibited by Barlach and Kollwitz. Later that year, Barlach’s heart finally gave out.

After the Second World War ended, Barlach’s work was brought out of hiding. The Magdeburg panel was remounted. The Hamburg stele was repaired and a controversy now rose about whether the 76er memorial should be removed. Eventually, it was decided to let it stay but with various disclaimers attached to it (including counter-sculptures) by the city. The Güstrow angel was placed in Cologne. Güstrow asked for its return but that city was in the East and the angel became a Cold War issue. In 1953, Cologne made another casting, this time from a mold prepared from their copy, and presented it to Güstrow where it regained its place over the baptismal font. Every year, on the anniversary of the angel’s removal, the church observes a ceremony where members silently recollect and reflect on the past.

Remembrance Day: Crucified Soldiers

In May of 1915, a brief news story appeared in the London Times reporting that some Dublin Fusiliers had seen a Canadian soldier crucified with bayonets before being “riddled with bullets”. The story was reprinted in Canada and was brought up in the UK Parliament. Before long, various versions of the story were circulating: the soldier was one of a number of wounded left by retreating troops in a barn, the Germans bayoneted all except a sergeant who was tied to the large cross from a village church before being killed; the sergeant was pinned to a church wall with four bayonets before a fifth went through his throat; it was eight bayonets; it was many bayonets; he was dead when pinned to the wall/fence/tree/barn door; he was alive, and so on. The soldier’s name was given as Thomas Elliott of Brantford, Ontario. Elliott himself wrote to his pastor to say that he had not been crucified. Canada set Albert Kemp, Minister for Overseas Military Forces, to investigate and he found three soldiers, one of them a Victoria Cross winner, ready to testify. But: One claimed to have seen three soldiers, all crucified to a church wall; one was not in Europe at the time of the alleged crucifixion; and one claimed to have seen the crucifixion in a place that the Germans did not occupy. Sir Arthur Currie, commander of the Canadian Corps said that he could find no evidence of the event.

Ad for Bonds, Calgary Herald, November 2,1918

Ad for Bonds, Calgary Herald, November 2,1918

But Allied propagandists jumped on the story, printing posters and including the incident in a propaganda movie, The Prussian Cur. There is speculation that General John Charteris, chief of “Black Propaganda” and author of the German Corpse Factory myth and possibly the Angel of Mons story, may have been involved in promoting the story of the Crucified Canadian.

Still from The Prussian Cur, propaganda movie made 1918. The film is now lost.

Still from The Prussian Cur, propaganda movie made 1918. The film is now lost.

The Canadian soldier was said to have been crucified April 22-24 in the Ypres salient, perhaps at, or near, St. Julien. This was the extreme allied flank and the Germans meant to break through the defense and, perhaps, turn the Allied flank. But a direct assault seemed impossible of success until the German High Command came up with a new tactic: gas. On the 22nd, the Germans let loose a cloud of chlorine gas toward the Allied lines. Many troops ran from this new horror, but some 4000 Canadians stood their ground and kept the assault from victory. Some say that the Canadians may have killed Germans, including prisoners, after that as payback for the gas attack. Some say that the Crucified Soldier was German revenge for Canadian war crimes. Few speak of the crime of chemical warfare, possibly because the Allies were developing that very same weapon, using it for the first time in September, 1915. Crucifixion was an atrocity with more resonance for people — not many have been gassed but everyone has seen a crucifix.

"Canada's Golgotha" by Francis Derwent Wood on display at the Canadian War Museum. [via MelbourneBlogger]

“Canada’s Golgotha” by Francis Derwent Wood on display at the Canadian War Museum. [via MelbourneBlogger]


In 1918, Francis Derwent Wood cast a bronze image, less than a meter high, titled Canada’s Golgotha that depicted the incident. The bronze was to be exhibited in January, 1919, but Germany protested, demanding to see evidence that the event had occurred. There was none and the sculpture was withdrawn. Germany also requested that they have a representative on the Canadian commission under Albert Kemp investigating the claim. Shortly afterward, Canadian authorities pronounced that the story was “not proven”.

But while all this was going on, a nurse in France heard a wounded man tell her of a Canadian soldier whose body he had seen bayoneted to a barn door. He identified the man as Sergeant Harry Band. Band’s family, then living in Kelowna, B.C., had received letters from members of his outfit that also claimed that he had been crucified by German troops. Iain Overton investigated the incident and became convinced that Harry Band had indeed been crucified by German troops. [see a documentary here].

Sergeant Harry Band

Sergeant Harry Band

Band was born in Scotland and had seen service in the British Army before moving to Canada. In September, 1914, he signed up with the 48th Highlanders, an Ontario unit composed largely of Scots immigrants and people of Scots ancestry. A thousand strong, the unit was reduced to 300 men after the fighting at Ypres. Band listed his father in Kelowna as next of kin and directed that his pay be sent to a Miss Isabella Ritchie in Dundee, of whom nothing is known. Band was well-thought of by the men who served with him.
Many who studied this story mention that Belgium, around Ypres, is full of crucifixion imagery. There are statues by the roadside everywhere, not just churches. Paul Fussell, The Great War and Modern Memory: “The image of crucifixion was always accessible at the front because of the numerous real physical calvaries visible at French and Belgian crossroads, many of them named Crucifix Corner.” Fussell and others think that exhausted men fed their imagination with the everpresent imagery. But British soldiers hardly needed hallucination to see one of their own crucified, it was a rather common event.

Field Punishment No. 1. British War Office contemporary illustration.

Field Punishment No. 1. British War Office contemporary illustration. Note the pencilled instruction at left: “make the post look entirely unlike the cross”.

Crucifixion was the name given by British troops to Field Punishment No. 1. Men who were accused of petty crimes — losing a piece of equipment, for instance — would be bound to a post or caisson for hours at a time over a period of days, sometimes under conditions which resulted in fatalities. The War Office instructed that the post was to “look entirely unlike the cross” but the troops could see a resemblance. The Canadian War Museum helpfully notes that military punishment had little to do with justice but was intended to instill discipline. This concept of “pour encourage les autres” was carried to the extreme during the War as British officers ordered more than 300 troops to be executed for various infractions without any meaningful investigation. Canada honored its twenty-three executed soldiers in 2001, England gave a posthumous pardon to these executed soldiers in 2006.
One vet, at the age of 105, recalled the War and said he doesn’t know if posthumous pardons for those executed was a good idea, but he did remember feeling sorry for one man who was crucified:

One day I was ordered to stand guard over a chap who had been tied to a wheel, without food or water, as a punishment for something. I can’t remember what he’d done. But I felt sorry for him so I put my fag up to his lips so he could have a smoke. It was a very risky thing to do because if anyone had seen me they’d have tied me to the wheel as well!

"Ecce Homo" by George Grosz, 1924. Grosz was charged with blasphemy.

“Ecce Homo” by George Grosz, 1924. Grosz was charged with blasphemy for making this drawing.

After the War, German artist George Grosz produced a drawing which summed up the experience of all those men who had served in the Great War: “Ecce Homo”, subtitled “Shut Up and Do Your Duty”. Other artists echoed this theme. William Faulkner’s A Fable has a Christ-like doughboy as central character who winds up interred as The Unknown Soldier. Paul Gross’ film Passchendaele references the Crucified Canadian several times and has its hero undergo his own Calvary.

Paul Gross in Passchendaele, 2008.

Paul Gross in Passchendaele, 2008.

Many men died at Ypres. Some are buried in marked graves but other corpses simply disappeared in the mud. Those whose bodies were not recovered are memorialized at Menin, their names inscribed on the walls of the Gate. Occasionally a farmer will turn up bones in his field and, once in a while, these can be identified. When that happens, the remains are interred in a proper cemetery and a name is removed from the wall. More than 54000 names remain on that wall; one of them is Band, H.

Inside the Menin Gate Memorial near Ypres.  The names of more than 54000 men whose bodies were never identified are carved on the wall. Tens of thousands whose remains are identified are buried in the surrounding cemeteries. Five battles were fought at the Ypres salient with over a million casualties.

Inside the Menin Gate Memorial near Ypres. The names of more than 54000 men whose bodies were never identified are carved on the wall. Tens of thousands whose remains are identified are buried in the surrounding cemeteries. Five battles were fought at the Ypres salient with over a million casualties.

Notes:
The evidence that Harry Band was crucified is presented in this documentary.
Story from The Ottawa Citizen with Iain Overton’s remarks.

Various blogs and web pages exist on this subject. These may be useful:
Wikipedia
Spartacus (John Simkin)
Above Top Secret (links are dead)

Paul Gross’ Passchendaele

Remembrance Day: The Hampton Gray Memorial At Onagawa Bay

On August 9, 1945 Lt. Robert Hampton Gray led two flights of Corsairs on one of the last operations of World War II. The first atomic bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima two days before. Senior officers had been informed that a second bomb would be dropped on the 9th. Admiral Vian, commanding Royal Naval forces attacking Japan, ordered that his pilots were to take no unnecessary risks — they would only take one run at a target, for instance. Gray’s planes were set to attack an airfield near Matsushima but, at the last minute, Gray was informed that the field had been intensively bombed and was probably unusable. If so, Gray was to seek out secondary targets such as ships.

Lt. Robert Hampton Gray, photographed in 1942

The Corsairs took off from the flight deck of HMS Formidable and flew inland to check out the airfield, It was indeed devastated and Gray ordered his planes to Onagawa Bay where at least four ships were anchored. Gray chose the largest, the escort Amakusa, as his target and dived to the attack. The Japanese ships and the shore anti-aircraft batteries opened up and Gray’s plane was hit and began to burn. One of the two 500-lb bombs he was carrying was knocked off the plane by enemy fire. Gray continued on course and dropped his remaining bomb perfectly, hitting the ammunition hold. The Amakusa erupted in flames, rolled over, and sank in minutes. Meanwhile, Gray’s burning plane rolled over and plunged into Onagawa Bay.

Gray’s Corsair attacking the Amakusa. Painting by Don Connoly in the Canadian War Museum

“There goes Hammy!”, radioed another pilot. Lt. McKinnon took over the mission and the Corsairs went on to attack two more ships. A few hours later, a nuclear bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. The next day, Japan surrendered. Hampton Gray was the last Canadian to die in combat in World War II. He had already been cited for a Distinguished Flying Cross for an action near Tokyo where he sank a destroyer, now the military authorities listed Gray for a Victoria Cross. He is the last Canadian to date to win that honor.

Hampton Gray was born in Trail and raised in Nelson, B.C. His brother, John Balfour Gray, was the first man from Nelson to die in the War. He enlisted in 1940 in the Royal Canadian Naval Reserve and transferred to the air arm in 1941. He saw action in Africa and the Mediterranean and was part of an effort to sink the German battleship Tirpitz in the Baltic. His carrier force was assigned to the Pacific in 1945 and fought at Okinawa and then the Home Islands. He was well respected as a flier and a soldier. He was twenty-seven when he died.

Gray bust at the Fourteen Valiants memorial, Ottawa. [wikipedia]

A number of locations around Canada bear Hampton Gray’s name. In Nelson, the post office building, the Legion post, the local air cadets unit; in Halifax, the aviation school and on the monument to Canadians lost at sea; a mountain in Kokanee Glacier Park (named after both Hampton and his brother); the War Memorial gym at UBC; his bust is one of the fourteen Valiants at Ottawa; there have been two movies and several books about him — but the most interesting monument to Hampton Gray is at Onagawa Bay. There, a local named Yoshi Kanda began a campaign to create a memorial to Gray that was dedicated in 1989.

The monument to Hampton Gray erected in July after the original was damaged in the earthquake. Gray’s body lies somewhere under the waters of Onagawa Bay in the distance. [photo: nelsonstar.com]

The Gray memorial was seriously damaged in the quake/tsunami of 2011. It was refurbished and remounted across the bay from its original location in July, 2012. It is the only monument to an Allied soldier in Japan. The inscription contains these words:

 Now  former enemies have become friends. It is hoped this will contribute to the  repose of the souls of those who died for both sides and be a lasting symbol of  peace and friendship between our two nations.

Remembrance Day: The Memorial at Vladslo

In August 1914 an excited Peter Kollwitz told his mother, the artist Käthe Kollwitz, that he had enlisted. She was apprehensive but didn’t want to dampen her youngest son’s enthusiasm. Kollwitz confided to her diary that: “The idea of mere boys going into battle strikes me as senseless. It is all so pointless, so insane…” Nineteen-year-old Peter reached the Front in October. Three days later he was killed at the opening of the first Ypres or Yser campaign.

Kollwitz was devastated by grief and by guilt that she had not worked harder to persuade her son not to go to war. She fell into depression but soon decided to work on a memorial to Peter. By 1921 she had found some joy by tending her grandson, named Peter after his fallen uncle. And, during this time, she began many designs for the memorial that she wanted to create; none of these designs satisfied her and she destroyed them all.

In 1926, Käthe and her husband travelled to Belgium to visit the graveyard at Roggeveld where her son was buried.

What an impression: cross upon cross. Some of the graves had originally largish wooden crosses which the weather had ruined, and these  had fallen over; but on most of the graves were low, yellow wooden crosses. A small metal plaque in the center gives the name and number. So we found our grave… We cut three tiny roses from a wild briar and laid these on the ground beside the cross. All that is left of him lies there in a row-grave. None of the mounds are separated; there are only the same little crosses placed quite close together. That is what the whole cemetery is like, and almost everwhere is the naked, yellow soil. Here and there relatives have planted flowers, mostly wild roses, which are lovely because they cover and arch over the grave and reach out to the adjoining graves which no one tends for to the right and left, at least half the graves bear the sign allemand inconnu.

That night, back in the inn where she was staying, Käthe Kollwitz had a dream, or perhaps a vision: She saw with terrible clarity that there was going to be another war, that many, many more young men would die. Unless, she dreamed, unless she did everything she possibly could to stop it.

The cemetery at Roggeveld with the newly installed sculptures in the distance. (http://tinyurl.com/78254fn)

Six years later, the sculptues that Kollwitz called die Eltern, The Parents, were placed at Roggevelde. They are kneeling life-size figures, a man and a woman. The man grips his arms, holding in his emotion, numb with pain. The woman bows her head over the arms crossed on her breast where once she had held her child. The figures are modelled on Käthe Kollwitz and her husband. The graves in front seemed like “a flock of lost children” to Kollwitz. Most war memorials are about valor, honor, or national pride. The Kollwitz sculptures are about grief.

The memorial, now at Vladslo.

In 1942, Käthe Kollwitz received word that her grandson Peter, had been killed on the Eastern Front. Sometimes, in those years, she lapsed into despair: “…every war already carries within the war which will answer it. Every war is answered by a new war, until everything, everything is smashed.” But in one of the last entries in her journal, she wrote:

One day, a new ideal will arise, and there will be an end to all wars. I die convinced of this. It will need much hard work, but it will be achieved… The important thing, until that happens, is to hold one’s banner high and to struggle…

Käthe Kollwitz died in April 1945, a few weeks before war ended in Europe. In 1954, the German graves and the memorial she had sculpted were moved from Roggevelde to Vladslo, where the parents kneel today.

Graves at Vladslo with the kneeling figures in distance. (photo by Tijl Vercaemer _skender's_ photostream on Flickr)

 Quotes from Diary and Letters of Kaethe Kollwitz