Description of Historic Place
Last Post Fund National Field of Honour National Historic Site of Canada is located in the west end of Montreal Island, in Pointe-Claire, Quebec. Inaugurated in 1930, this military cemetery was created to provide a burial service for veterans who died in a hospital or a public establishment after their military service. Marked at the entrance by the Remembrance Gate that houses a chapel, the cemetery was designed on an axial plane with a Beaux-Arts inspired centre line, revolving around roundabouts. It has approximately 9,500 pink granite gravestones arranged flat on the ground, side-by-side in rows, and a number of commemorative monuments that, in the sober landscape, accentuate the solemn military character of the location. Official recognition refers to the land occupied by the cemetery at the time of designation corresponding to the perimeter formed by the trees and the high wooden fence.
Last Post Fund National Field of Honour was designated a national historic site of Canada in 2007 because :
- it constitutes the place most closely associated with the work of the Last Post Fund, an important charitable organization that offered funeral services and a fitting burial to veterans at a time when there was no official government policy, and continues to take an active part in the burial of Canada's veterans today;
-i t reflects the tradition of military cemeteries, typifying such principles as the equality of soldiers in death, military comradeship and discipline, and perpetual remembrance in its uniform arrangement and the orderly placement of the graves, its monuments, and its axial plan;
- it constitutes a place of remembrance dedicated to the men and women who served under the colours, evoking some two hundred years of Canadian military history.
Founded in 1909, the Last Post Fund was a charitable organization that became a partner-agency to the Department of Veteran Affairs Canada, handling the burial of Canadian veterans. It is a pillar of the veteran community, administering a government program to which it contributes a growing share through activism, as demonstrated by its actions to honour with dignity the men and women who served Canada. The Last Post Fund provided a honourable burial for over 100,000 veterans and their family members throughout the country.
The cemetery is an obvious example of military tradition as demonstrated by the choice of the Beaux Arts style layout characterized by symmetry, simplicity and regularity. Burials, generally with two veterans per grave with officers and soldiers resting side by side, are marked by granite headstones engraved with standard inscriptions. Like the landscaping, the commemorative monuments also help to establish the solemn military character of the site, particularly by evoking the symbols associated with the classical tradition of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC).
Designed as a monument to the memory of all the soldiers who honourably served the nation, the National Field of Honour evolved over time. Soldiers from practically all conflicts now rest there, beginning with the soldiers of the British garrison posted in Montréal in the 19th century. The place names accentuate the commemorative character of the site, recalling important people, events and battlefields in Canadian military history.
Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, December 2005.
Key elements that contribute to the heritage character of the site include:
- its location in the west end of Montreal Island, in Pointe-Claire, Quebec;
- the characteristics of the original Beaux-Arts style plan, including the geometrically shaped axial plane with a north-south centre line plan marked by three roundabouts, paths leading to lateral walkways and regularly shaped, tree-dotted open spaces reserved for plots;
- the imposing Tudor-inspired Remembrance Gate at the entrance of the cemetery, including its wide arch flanked by twin projecting columns, raised parapet, interior plan that notably includes a chapel, and the commemorative stained-glass window of the “weeping soldier”;
- the features that give the site its solemn military character, including cannons on carriages, and the tall metal mast of a ship bearing the Maple Leaf;
- the commemorative monuments, including the Air Force Memorial, the Army Memorial and the Marine Memorial, respectively marked with a Cessna propeller, a six-inch canon and an anchor; the rough granite War Veterans Memorial; a stone obelisk; the granite Peace Monument atop of which a dove with a leaf is perched and the Doug Ferguson commemorative monument and water garden that includes a waterfall pouring into an irregularly shaped pond;
- the monuments recalling CWGC traditions, including the five-metre granite Cross of Remembrance engraved with an inverted sword recalling the Cross of Sacrifice; and the Commonwealth War Graves Memorial made up of two low, sleek parallel walls;
- the area around Currie circle reserved for commemorative ceremonies, punctuated by concrete benches set back from the graves;
- the equal-sized pink granite headstones, laid flat on the ground, some marked by a bronze plaque, with adequate size and standardized deep inscriptions identifying the two veterans (or sometimes a family member) resting in the same grave, arranged in regular rows, without distinction as to rank, giving the site consistency, as is the case in the section reserved for urns;
- the section reserved for Jewish veterans, including individual headstones and the monument bearing the star of David;
- the headstones of British garrison soldiers posted in Montréal from 1814 to 1869, arranged in a circle at the centre of an ivy patch;
- the lawn, trees and fence marking property limits which create an enclosed space conducive to contemplation;
- the selection and arrangement of landscaping features, including trees bordering the walkways, namely maple, weeping willow, Norwegian maple, cedar hedges and plant beds;
- the landscaping features that hide utility buildings from gravesite view;
-the columbarium in the form of a circle with its two rounded low walls circling a colonnade of three obelisks;
- the place names recalling people, events and battlefields important to Canadian military history, including the names of walkways and roundabouts;
- the associations with the Last Post Fund, including the emblem on the south face of the gate, the Arthur H.D. Hair welcome centre and the tombs of administrators located at the centre of the roundabouts;
- the continuity of its purpose as a military cemetery, a place of remembrance and a centre recognized for commemorative activities;
- the viewscapes from various points of the site, including rows of headstones and roundabouts that invite contemplation.