WebStamp February 06, 2019
The Boer War Connection In The Beltline
Calgary’s first commissioned public artwork, the South African War Memorial, was unveiled by the District Officer Commander Colonel Cruickshank on June 20, 1914. One of the best-known landmarks in the beltline was placed in remembrance to the volunteers from Alberta who gave their lives defending the British Empire in the South African War. It was paid for entirely by donations from the citizens of Calgary sparked by a reimbursement of funeral expenses incurred by the Veterans of Calgary. The expenditures were for giving a Soldier’s Funeral for a South African War veteran discharged from the Lord Strathcona’s Horse Regiment that was found frozen to death on the outskirts of Calgary.
There was a very impressive unveiling in Memorial Park with veterans in uniform and their families. To guard the flower beds at the park Boy Scouts, firefighters, and cadets were mobilized for the task. The general public had to pack the streets to catch a glimpse of the address by R.B. Bennett, K.C., M.P, a Prayer of Invocation, and the playing of “O Canada”. Afterwards, over 2000 red-coated troops; the 15th Light Horse, 19th Alberta Dragoons, 23rd Alberta Rangers, 25th Battery Canadian Field Artillery, 4th Field Troop Engineers, No. 14 Company Army Service Corps., No 17 C Field Ambulance, Provisional Brigade, Corps of Guides (the forerunner of Military Intelligence), Army Service Corps, 103rd Calgary Rifles marched past the statue.
Louis-Philippe Hébert, one of Canada's earliest world-class artists, was commissioned by a committee with representatives from the Western Veterans Association, the City of Calgary, the Canadian Club, and the Daughters of the Empire in 1911. As our nation’s first Canadian-born commemorative sculptor he has created 40 other monuments including; 6 in front of the Québec parliament in Québec City; Monseigneur de Laval (Quebec); Maisonneuve, Jeanne Mance, Monseigneur Bourget and Edward VII in Montréal; and a statue of Queen Victoria in Ottawa.
The South African War Memorial was Hébert’s last major piece of artwork and was his first and only equestrian statue. To ensure the accuracy, Hébert received a genuine Calgary Quarter Horse at his Montreal studio and periodically visited Calgary to study the animal in its natural habitat. There continues to be a debate on who the soldier is. Some say it is modelled after Lieutenant Colonel R.L. Boyle and others say it is Captain Thomas Henry Johnson, a new recruit fresh off the boat from the UK, who modelled for Hébert for the memorial. Eneas McCormick, the early Calgary saddler who with W.J. Riley founded Riley & McCormick in 1902, also was one of Hébert’s models for the Alberta Soldier and is a striking resemblance.
When you happen to be downtown in the Beltline be sure to visit the monumental historic South African War Memorial in Memorial Park. Experience a vital part of Calgary’s history appreciating the sacrifices and contributions of our veterans maintaining World Peace.
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