Recognize this sculpture? It’s the woman of the Oak Bay Memorial Cenotaph in the barn that sculptor James Saull used in 1948, prior to its installation in Uplands Park. (Oak Bay Archives Photo)

Learn the history of Oak Bay’s picturesque memorial cenotaph

Unseen pics document the memorial’s creation

New repairs to the iconic Oak Bay Memorial Cenotaph were recently completed but most won’t notice.

The work, which includes refurbishing the path and steps up to the cenotaph and also the stair railing, is the latest phase of work that was laid out in the 2016 strategic plan headed by Coun. Tara Ney and a small task force.

“The work was all done as sympathetic to the original site and heritage value of the site as possible,” Ney said. “And wow, you wouldn’t know, they did such a great job.”

READ MORE: Remembrance Day ceremony returns to the Oak Bay Memorial Cenotaph

James Saull would be happy, no doubt. The sculptor not only built the memorial cenotaph as a 35-year-old in 1948 but also restored it 35 years later in 1983. The designation to Oak Bay’s 97 residents who died in the Second World War is one of the most picturesque Remembrance Day ceremonies, and it started with the work of Saull and the 1948 Oak Bay Municipal Engineer, Arthur Musgrave. Oak Bay Archives recently came across a correspondence of this and uncovered yet another treasure, photos of Saull with the sculpture at his barn in 1948, before it was trucked down to Uplands Park and installed. An Englishman born in 1913, Saull was a member of the Royal Air Force. He later immigrated to Canada and studied under renowned Canadian artist and sculptor Emanuel Hahn who is responsible for a series of iconic Second World War memorial sculptures in Eastern Canada. It was Hahn who endorsed Saull with a letter to Musgrave.

READ ALSO: Full crowd for Remembrance Day ceremony at Oak Bay cenotaph

“Oak Bay [staff] actually sent letters to the families of all the deceased from WWII with a request of how the family would like the name to appear in the cenotaph, and to ensure the correct spelling,” said Caroline Duncan of Oak Bay Archives.

“There may be other names who should be on the cenotaph from WWII but we don’t know that yet, and [Oak Bay Archives volunteers] are trying to determine that.”

The inclusion of more names, and people, is also something that factored big into the strategic plan, said Ney. “We redesigned the ceremony to include youth choir and also to step away from the mono-religious aspect and make it more inclusive,” Ney said. “There’s also a desire to honour veterans of all the wars Canadians were in. We’re not there yet, but that could be the next step. We originally set out to re-imagine that site as a place to remember and reflect beyond the Remembrance Day ceremony.

“It will be interesting to see how much further we go, but this [strategic plan] is a beginning piece to expand on.”

Arrive early to the experience the annual Remembrance Day ceremony, which starts at 10:55 a.m. at the Oak Bay Memorial Cenotaph. Limited parking is available at Cattle Point.

reporter@oakbaynews.com


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Recognize this sculpture? It’s the woman of the Oak Bay Memorial Cenotaph in the barn that sculptor James Saull used in 1948, prior to its installation in Uplands Park. Saull modelled the woman on his wife. (Oak Bay Archives Photo)

An Oak Bay Star (News) story from Nov. 9, 1983, about the work James Saull did as a 69-year-old to revitalize the Oak Bay Memorial Cenotaph he built in 1948. (Oak Bay Archives Photo)

A series of sketches drawn on photos from 1947 or 1948 that depict different options for the Oak Bay Memorial Cenotaph that was later installed there. (Oak Bay Archives Photo)

The first Remembrance Day ceremony at the new Oak Bay Memorial Cenotaph in 1948. (Oak Bay Archives Photo)

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