Manitoba History: To Honor and Remember: Remembrances of the Great War, The Next-of-Kin Monument in Winnipeg

by Marilyn Baker
School of Art, University of Manitoba

Manitoba History, Number 2, 1981

This article was published originally in Manitoba History by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make this online version available as a free, public service. As an historical document, the article may contain language and views that are no longer in common use and may be culturally sensitive in nature.

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War memorials exist for most of us as mute records of a bygone age. They were, however, an expression of personal loss: loud cries of anguish made permanent in stone or bronze. Following World War I, construction of monuments was often a collective effort to honor and remember the sacrifices of the Great War. The Next-of-Kin monument in the grounds of Manitoba’s legislature is one such memorial whose story is both typical and unique, an expression of collective grief and a response to personal loss.

This monument, surmounted by a World War I soldier, planned since 1921, was unveiled and dedicated by members of the Soldiers’ Relatives Memorial Association of Winnipeg, on 13 May 1923. Dedicated to the memory of 1,500 Canadian soldiers from Manitoba who lost their lives in World War I, it portrays—as Marguerite Taylor, its maker, pointed out, “the time peace was declared, when the victorious soldier threw his rifle into his left hand and triumphantly whirled his tin hat in the air. I wanted to do a happy soldier” she added, “so the bereaved wives and mothers would not be too much saddened when they looked at it.” [1]

For the Next-of-Kin monument, as it is traditionally called, the soldier’s rifle rests on its butt end on the ground. In response to the news that war has finally ended his hat begins its ascent into the air. His pose contrasts with the more familiar one that epitomized the Canadian soldier’s role on posters and in real life. Rifle ready and helmet secure, Canada’s youth, a half million strong, charged head-long into battle at Ypres, the Somme, Vimy Ridge, Cambrai and a dozen other battlefields. Between August 1914 and the war’s conclusion on 11 November 1918, the cost in lives had approached 60,000 men.

Credit for the design of the Next-of-Kin monument has been claimed by Colonel J. N. Semmens of Winnipeg. [2] Semmens was the associate architect for the McKim, Mead and White Bank of Montreal building on Portage and Main and, after the war, was to serve as the architect of many other important Winnipeg buildings. Though he was indeed the designer of the Next-of-Kin monument, the soldier monument was made by Winnipeg artist Marguerite Taylor. A Paris-born student of the French sculptor Antoine Bourdelle Taylor had settled in Manitoba, perhaps as early as 1904. For the statue which was cast in London she used a real soldier as her model—“A little Sergeant Major who posed for me in London. He was very proud of his boots and puttees for he had worn them at Passchendaele.” [3] Colonel Semmens contended however, that “... the perfection of detail of the bronze soldier’s equipment” was due to his drawing on which Taylor had relied. [4]

As a sign of affection, a tribute to personal loss and lasting remembrance, a preliminary decision to erect the monument was made on 16 July 1920. Seven men, all relative of deceased soldiers, were indignant that no permanent war memorials had as yet been erected in the city To this end, they formed a committee intent on the erection of an appropriate monument to the memory of their “glorious dead.” As G. W. Cooper of Elmwood, one of the founding members of what would become the Soldiers’ Relatives Memorial Association, put it at an organizational meeting of the association in November 1920:

It makes my blood boil to think that the people who lost their loved ones have to assume the responsibility of erecting a monument to their memory It should not be left to us to do it. It should be done by the citizens of Winnipeg as a whole. It was a stigma on the name of Winnipeg that nothing had been done so far. [5]

Nevertheless these soldiers’ relatives felt that the erection of such a monument was an obligation. As Mr. Justice Galt indicated:

It is, therefore, up to us to take the lead and show that while we have made great sacrifices. we are prepared to go still farther rather than allow the names of those whom we have lost to be forgotten. [6]

Indeed, the founders of the Soldiers’ Relatives Memorial Association were in agreement that while a war memorial building which was currently supported by many citizens’ and veterans’ organizations would serve the living, more traditional war monuments were also required. [7] It was felt that they could construct a fitting memorial of a “personal nature” through $25,000 in donations collected entirely from relatives of the deceased. Actually the cost of the monument by April of 1922 was estimated at $15,000. It would be paid for by donations from those relatives who could afford to contribute—many couldn’t, or could only afford a minimal amount, 50¢ to $1.00—and a donation of $2,500 from City Council. Indeed, despite a tight budget at City Hall, only one Alderman was unwilling to grant the association’s request. Most felt like Alderman Shore that the fact that “this memorial would be the only one in Winnipeg on which all the names of the men who enlisted in Winnipeg would appear” was reason enough to provide the necessary additional funding. [8] Thus, City Council members apparently agreed with Mr. Deacon, one of the association members, when he explained that:

Many towns and villages had taken steps to see that the name of deceased soldiers from these districts were perpetuated. and Winnipeg must not be behind in such a good cause. [9]

Nor were they alone in Winnipeg in feeling the necessity for such memorials. In 1919 and for some years after there was considerable discussion concerning appropriate commemorative gestures—great halls contended with giant obelisks and cenotaphs, grandiose malls with spacious thoroughfares in the minds of city planners, while murals commemorating Canadian participation in the great war were being readied for installation in the Parliament Building proper. [10]

In June of 1920 the Women’s Canadian Club actually erected a temporary cenotaph in front of the Bank of Montreal “to be replaced, in time, it is expected, by a great monument to commemorate the deeds of Winnipeg heroes who fell in the Great War.” [11] At the time Lieutenant Colonel Reverend A. W. Woods, D.S.O. prayed that from “these foundations ... a greater memorial may rise, not only of bronze and marble, but also of lives consecrated to thy Glory and to the service of mankind.” [12] Mrs. Code, whose only son Edward died in the Great War, expressed a more personal response at the dedication ceremonies: “Our fondest hope is that this cenotaph may meet with deep reverence and that it may be a solace to many lonely hearts and an inspiration to all.” [13] In November of 1920 the French Combatants Association unveiled on the St. Boniface Cathedral Grounds its memorial to the 150 Canadian soldiers who had died in service under the French flag. [14] Indeed, this unveiling may have been a further prod to Soldiers’ Relatives Memorial Association members to hasten the completion of their own:

... the erection of a permanent monument that shall commemorate the individual names with rank and decorations of all those Canadian soldiers who themselves or their next-of-kin. at the time of their enlistment resided within eight miles of the intersection of Portage Avenue and Main Street in the city of Winnipeg. [15]

Three years later at the dedication ceremonies, T. R. Deacon, the association’s president, provided the explanation behind the choice of the figure surmounting the monument: it represents life and triumph. “Dead? No!” Deacon declared at the dedication ceremonies, “they are immortal.” [16]

On the sides of the stone monument are four bronze plates which had been supplied by Henry Birks and Sons Limited of Winnipeg. At the top of the plaques angels provide a canopy for the names of more than 1,500 soldiers. Though it might have been cheaper, the association rejected the suggestion that they go to the U.S. to have the plaques made. [17] Further in accordance with their wishes, no distinctions of class or rank were to determine the ordering of the names. Nor did a soldier’s relative have either to belong to the association or to contribute to its funding to be included on the plaque. [18] In addition to soldiers’ names, the following statements were inscribed in stone beneath Marguerite Taylor’s soldier, above the side panels and nameplates:

... on the west side we have placed these words, Erected by the loving hearts of Kinsmen. Upon the east side you will find these words: At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them. On the south side we have the words: They died the noblest death that men may die. Fighting for God. Truth and Liberty. [19]

At the time of its dedication, the response to the monument was very favorable—from association members and from the public as well. Mr. Justice Dennistoun paid positive but patronizing, tribute at the unveiling ceremony to Mrs. Taylor’s work:

... the talented sculptor whose brain and hand conceived and carried into execution. the fine figure before us. As a work of art it appeals to our sense of beauty, and as a physical achievement it excites our admiration. that a woman’s hand could create the heroic figure. vibrant with life and action, from the common materials—metal and clay-transformed by fire. [20]

T. R. Deacon also commented that, “... the high standard of excellence attained in this figure alone would be sufficient to establish an artist’s reputation. I know of nothing in Canada that excels ...” [21] While an unidentified writer in the local paper noted that “the statue is pronounced by art lovers to be a very fine piece of work, reflecting highest credit on the artistry of Mrs. Taylor.” [22] Recognized as a work of art, the monument had also become something of an embarrassment by the time of its dedication in 1923. Constructed for the most part by donations from private individuals, it constituted a slap in the face for civic authorities who had not been able to produce a monument of their own. An editorialist in the Winnipeg Tribune pointed out on the occasion of the dedication ceremonies for the Next-of-Kin monument that it,

... calls attention once again to a condition of affairs in which Winnipeg can take no pride. namely, the fact that there is still no civic memorial to the soldiers who made the great sacrifice. Various measures are in hand toward the end that Winnipeg’s gratitude may be fittingly expressed. But the first memorial of the kind has been erected by the relatives of the fallen. relatives who themselves have made a great sacrifice. Let us hope that before another year passes a suitable civic memorial will have been erected. [23]

Nor was this monument the only expression of private and particular grief in these years. Private organizations and companies were increasingly producing numerous plaques and monuments: C.P.R., Eaton’s, Alumni of the Manitoba Medical College, the Women’s Canadian Club again, with a plaque for Valour Road, to name but a few. The most notable of this kind of monument was perhaps the Bank of Montreal statue of a World War I soldier erected by bank officials in December 1923 at the corner of Portage and Main in commemoration of employees who had perished in the Great War. [24] The monument was by a sculptor of considerable reputation, James E. Fraser, and it replaced the temporary Cenotaph placed there three years earlier by the Women’s Canadian Club.

Though the Next-of-Kin monument is very familiar to Manitobans, prominently positioned as it is on the grounds of the Legislative Building, the main purpose for its construction is no longer so obvious. Mr. Justice Dennistoun, as one of the grieving relatives, explained the major reason behind the committee’s decision to construct the monument in the first place:

We have had here no green cemeteries to which we could go, no place where we could deposit a few flowers, or train a creeping vine upon a modest but appropriate tombstone for our dear ones. They rest far away across the sea. But now we feel that in this monument we have created a place to which we may turn with affectionate regard for it represents to us in concrete form what has hitherto been the imaginary creation of our dreams alone ... For us it is but a symbol—a symbol of a multitude of small white crosses for each of us. one cross somewhere beyond the seas ,and there are some of us who can visualize no cross. but only the rolling waves of a vast ocean, or an unmarked, unidentified grave in what was once No-Man’s Land. [25]

Very soon the Next-of-Kin monument would become a collective headstone, not just for the 1,500 from Winnipeg who had died, but for all losses and suffering which had been the result of the Great War. Lacking an appropriate civic monument, it became the site of commemorative ceremonies on 28 June 1924 for fourteen Canadian nurses who lost their lives when the hospital ship Llandovery Castle was torpedoed by the Germans on 28 June 1918. None of the nurses’ bodies were ever recovered; not even a cross marked their resting place, noted Mrs. A. D. McLeod, president of the Nursing Sisters’ Club, when she placed the wreath of roses and carnations at the base of the monument. [26]

Over the years it has been the site of numerous ceremonies and events. Among the most dramatic perhaps were those held by the Fort Garry Conclave of the Most Noble Order of Crusaders. A Tribune reporter detailed one such occasion in 1928, the year that Winnipeg finally unveiled its own civic memorial nearby:

As the strokes of midnight boomed out the last minutes of Saturday to the rain sodden air, a gowned and cowled company strode slowly to the Next-of-Kin monument at the corner of Broadway and Osborne.

Their heads were bowed and the rain-dimmed light from nearby street lamps glistened fitfully on bared swords. But for the moderness about them they might have been knights of a middle age crusade come to pray at some shrine before riding off to Battle ...

The service at the Next-of-Kin monument here followed a short service in St. Stephen’s Broadway church, where Major W Robertson, chaplain of Military District 10, officiated.

There, many citizens, some of whom had lost relatives in the Great War, joined the hooded, gowned crusaders in their simple and impressive commemoration of the dead ...

Filing from the church the Crusaders led the way down Broadway to the memorial where the midnight service was held and as they marched solemnly along the chimes rang out from the church tower ... [27]

Each year, for many years, the men of the Manitoba chapter of the Fort Garry Conclave of the Most Noble Order of Crusaders, an organization open to subjects of British birth only, assembled “to honor the memory of Britain’s war dead personified in the Unknown soldier, their patron saint, who lies buried with the heroes of the age in Westminister.” [28] Manitobans had no unknown soldier’s grave where they might assemble–though there had been a plan to bring to Manitoba a World War I soldier’s body, unknown and unidentified, and place it for burial on the grounds of the Parliament Building. [29] This plan never achieved, the soldier of the Next-of-Kin monument became a logical alternative and the focal point for commemorative ceremonies.

CPR First World War monument
Source: Archives of Manitoba, Foote Collection

Almost immediately the Next-of-Kin monument became a symbolic memorial for all who had lost their lives in the brutal conflict, not just for those deaths which had initially inspired its construction. Nor has the construction of a truly uninspired civic memorial in 1928 done much to take that meaning away. [30] At the time of its dedication Mr. Justice Dennistoun anticipated that time would bring an addition purpose for the Next-of-Kin Monument:

We need no monument to enable us to remember them, but the time will come when this will become a stone of memory in the true sense, for they who come after will not have the personal knowledge that is ours. [31]

Whether the Next-of-Kin monument continues to fulfill this purpose or has become a mute memento of a bygone age depends on one’s historical empathy and on the force of the monument itself. Knowing the anguish and grief that prompted its construction helps to span the forgetfulness that time has wrought.


1. Vaughan L. Baird, The Sculptress: Marguerite Taylor 1966, unpaginated.

2. “Design of Monument Work of Colonel Semmens,” Winnipeg Tribune, 10 May 1923. Semmens was born about 1879; he died 4 November 1960. He designed the Winnipeg Civic Auditorium, the R.C.M.P. Barracks, the Northend Library, St. Boniface Sanitorium, Grace Maternity Hospital, Daniel McIntyre School, and the Winnipeg Electric Company. He joined the Winnipeg Grenadiers in 1910, and in 1914 he became a major to command and raise a company for the 45th Battalion He was second in command of the 78th Battalion, becoming their commanding officer in August 1917.

3. Lillian Gibbons, “She Left a Legacy” Winnipeg Tribune 10 April 1964 (Clippings file PAM), and “Noted Sculptress Is Winnipeg Citizen,” Winnipeg Tribune, 12 May 1923. Marguerite Taylor, nee Judd was born in France where her father was a professor in the schools of Paris. She received her “brevet superieure” at 17 and at some point before her marriage to Hilliard Taylor she studied under Antoine Bourdelle. Arriving in Winnipeg sometime between 1904 and 1906, she enrolled part-time in the newly established Winnipeg School of Art in 1914 and 1915. but during the war she went to England to be near her husband. She studied sculpture in London from 1916-20 at the Polytechnic School of Art, Regent Street, under H. Brownward, A.R.CA. at South Kensington with John Huskinson, a pupil of Dalou, and at St Martin’s School of Art with Professor M. K. Crossan who had studied with Gilbert. She did other war memorials: most notable was La Canada in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan (1927). The Chief Peguis monument in Kildonan Park (1923) is also hers.

4. “Design of ...” Winnipeg Tribune, op. cit.

5. “Will Erect Memorial to Winnipeg Soldiers” Manitoba Free Press, 4 November 1920.

6. Ibid.

7. See: “War Memorial will be large office building” Winnipeg Tribune, 12 May 1919 “War Memorials” editorial, Manitoba Free Press, 28 May 1919. “Suggestions for Soldiers’ Memorials” Manitoba Free Press 29 March 1919.

8. “War Memorial To Cost $15,000” Winnipeg Tribune, 29 April 1922 and “Civic Board Grants $2,500 for Memorial” Winnipeg Tribune, 22 April 1922, p. 3.


10. See: “Fame of Manitoba’s New Capitol Spreads to all art lovers in the world” Winnipeg Tribune, 17 July 1920. “Suggestions for ...” Manitoba Free Press, op. cit. In art, the most notable of the provincial government’s responses to World War I were panels by the American artist Augustus Vincent Tack in the legislative chamber, Frank Brangwyn’s panel at the top of the grand staircase hall and Albert Hodge’s caryatid figures in the interior. On the exterior of the Parliament Buildings a coffer surmounted by a crown and flanked by two martial figures on the east represents war that on the west peace, a coffer with garlanded maidens reclining guard the treasure—these are also from a design by Hodge. Despite the fact that Albert Hodge’s decoration on the building was external. it was apparently not considered or recognized as a war monument sufficient to express public loss and most people today are certainly not aware of its meaning. Tack’s paintings. commissioned in 1919 and installed in 1920, show in each panel an heroic figure who is representative of the spirit of sacrifice by the young men in the recent war: That on the left Courage—Vigilance shows by his attitude readiness to spring to the defence of his country That on the right Sacrifice—Loyalty is also ready and willing to offer himself for Justice and Liberty. See: Thomas W Leslie, Legislative Building in Manitoba, Winnipeg, 1925.

11. “Thousands Witness Unveiling of Cenotaph to City Heroes” Winnipeg Tribune, 14 June 1920.

12. “Cenotaph Dedicated to Glorious Dead” Manitoba Free Press, 14 June 1920.

13. Ibid., and “Cenotaph to Commemorate Deeds of Fallen Heroes” Winnipeg Tribune, 9 June 1920.

14. “Observing Armistice Anniversary Today” Manitoba Free Press, 11 November 1920.

15. “Will Erect ...” Manitoba Free Press, op. cit.

16. “Winnipeg Memorial to War Dead Unveiled” Winnipeg Tribune, 14 May 1923, p. 10.

17. “Civic Board Grants $2,500 for Memorial” Winnipeg Tribune, op. cit.

18. Ibid.

19. Ibid.

20. Ibid.

21. Ibid.

22. “Memorial to Winnipeg Dead” Winnipeg Tribune, 7 May 1923.

23. “Soldier’s Monument” Winnipeg Tribune, May 1923.

24. “Montreal Bank Statue Unveiled,” Winnipeg Tribune, 5 December 1923, p. 5 and “Bank to Unveil War Memorial” Winnipeg Tribune, 4 December 1923, p. 15.

25. “Winnipeg Memorial” Winnipeg Tribune, op. cit.

26 “Service at Monument” Winnipeg Tribune, 30 June 1924.

27. “Silent, Gowned Crusaders Honor the Unknown Soldier” Winnipeg Tribune, 12 November 1928.

28. Ibid.

29. “Veterans Here to Seek Government’s Help for Plan” Winnipeg Tribune, 13 November 1920, p. 1.

30. See J. H. Gray, The Roar of the Twenties, Toronto, 1975 (Chapter 12: The Battle of the Winnipeg Cenotaph).

31. “Winnipeg Memorial ...” Winnipeg Tribune, op. cit.

More information:

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Next of Kin Monument (Winnipeg)

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Winged Victory Monument (2109 Portage Avenue, Winnipeg)

Page revised: 2 September 2013