The town cenotaph
Stone and bronze, a list of family sorrow
Fused with a communities’ sincere gratitude.
Sentries still stand from the first Great War
In this peaceful prairie town.
The sacrifice made for King and country.
For family and future.
Sentries of bronze and stone still stand
In these peaceful prairie towns
Sorrow, gratitude, still vigilant.
In the cold dark air.
In warm golden waves of wheat.
A never-ending watch.
Neither freedom or loss ever taken for granted.
— Ken Gigliotti, November 2012
The idea for photographing war memorials goes back to the time I first moved to Winnipeg in 1979.
The bronze statue in front of the Bank of Montreal at Portage and Main and the CP Rail statue of an angel carrying a fallen soldier upward struck me as remarkable works of art as well as sensitive, fitting memorials to a time of great personal loss felt by so many Manitobans .
As I travelled through many of Manitoba’s communities both large and small in the course of my job as a newspaper photographer, I was struck by the long lists of names proudly displayed on every cenotaph, and the loss to the communities those names represented.
It inspired me to create a video some years ago that runs every Remembrance Day. Last year I created a short slide show of cenotaphs and war memorials in Winnipeg.
Recently, my wife and I spent several days touring the province looking for cenotaphs in as many towns as we could get to.
My wife and I enjoyed the tour. We stopped in Gladstone for an outdoor lunch at a main street cafe. We had ice cream in Baldor and discovered deep-fried pickles in Souris.
Wherever we went, when we asked people randomly on the street where the cenotaph was, we were quickly pointed in the right direction.
The old war — and our old soldiers — have not been forgotten. The memorials have all been well kept, some have been restored and had fresh flowers and cut grass. In Neepawa, there were ribbons and poppies in June in a town that gave more than its share to both World Wars. Manitoba’s memory is strong. Just take a drive down highways 1,2,3 or 16. Go north to Pine Falls and as far west as Virden and Melita to see some of the many remarkable tributes both old and new — from a simple tree to bronze and stone monuments, all remembering Canada’s sacrifice.
And be sure to stop at Douglas, on the road to Shilo, to read the chilling warning to those who send others to war for unjust reasons.
Lest we forget.
- Ken Gigliotti