Stratford War Memorial 1919–22
This work is a departure from the motif typically seen in Canadian war memorials, of a lone soldier on a pedestal, and it is Allward’s first fully realized sculpture honouring Canadians killed in the First World War. It features two bronze sculptures mounted on one of three blocks, which are positioned on a granite base comprising two layered slabs. The figures symbolize the triumph of right over brute force, a theme that Allward had previously explored in his sketch model The Service of Our Men–Crushing the Power of the Sword, 1918, for the proposed Bank of Commerce War Memorial, and would revisit at the Vimy Memorial, 1921–36.
In his description of the Stratford War Memorial design, Allward points out that spiritual man is represented at the highest point of the base that connects the two statues, his head looking upward toward the heavens and his left hand holding a palm branch, symbolizing peace; the second statue, representing strife, walks down an incline, dragging a broken sword in defeat. Below the figures is the inscription, “They gave their lives to break the power of the sword.” The names of local residents who died in the conflict appear on two blocks, on either side of the central block.
Allward completed the bronze figures for the Stratford War Memorial before leaving for Europe in June 1922 to work on the Vimy Memorial. The unveiling of the monument, situated on a small triangular plot of land, took place in front of a large gathering from Stratford and the surrounding area in November of that year. George Kay, a member of the Soldiers’ War Memorial Committee, enthusiastically reported to Allward a couple months later that
the people generally seem greatly pleased with the work, and while there are a few who would have preferred something more conventional we hope that the appreciation will grow when they have time to think out the meaning the figures are intended to convey…. [I] was touched to see the groups of people who lingered about it for many days after it was unveiled. For at least a month whenever I passed that way, by day or evening, there were people about it, and it is still heaped with wreaths and flowers, and I feel that in erecting a local shrine to the fallen we have filled a want which was deeply felt.
The Stratford War Memorial was modified in 1955, when four bronze plaques bearing the names of those who died in the First World War, the Second World War, and the Korean War were installed on the fronts and backs of the two side blocks, covering the original engraved inscriptions, which by then had become almost illegible. In 1961 the monument was moved to a more spacious setting in the city’s Memorial Park.