Many Canadians are drawn to the November 11th Remembrance Day Ceremonies held at the National War Memorial to pay tribute to those who have fought and given their lives in the service of our great country. There are also a number of lesser known Canadian war memorials throughout the capital commemorating groups within the Canadian military, or specific struggles in which Canadian soldiers have served. The following bike tour visits these memorials, starting from the National War Memorial and ending at the National Military Cemetery. UPDATE -November 2017 – There is one detour from the original route, identified as the orange line on the map below..
The National War Memorial was unveiled in 1939 to commemorate those who served in the armed forces during World War 1. Subsequently it has come to symbolize the sacrifice of all Canadian Armed Forces in times of war.
Immediately in front of the Memorial is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This tomb contains the remains of an unidentified Canadian soldier who died near Vimy Ridge during the First World War and represents the many Canadian soldiers who have no known grave.
There are bronze panels on the east and west sides of the War Memorial that describe the significance of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the main sculpture – The Response.
Leaving the War Memorial, Head down to the Rideau Canal behind the National Arts Centre, which is presently under renovation. There are two very short flights of steps just before reaching the walkway path along the canal that have troughs to push your bike. Head south along the canal for a short distance until you are past the National Arts Centre and have crossed under the Mackenzie King Bridge and turn in to Confederation Park to where the South African War Memorial is located.
Continue through the park to the sidewalk along Elgin Street where one can see the National Aboriginal Veterans Monument.
The tour crosses Elgin Street at Laurier Street and follows the Laurier Bike Lane heading west before turning north along the bike lane that runs along Bay Street. After crossing Wellington at the northern end of Bay, head east for one block to Lyon St. There is a gravel path through the park just to the east of the National Archives building that leads to Lyon. Looking across Wellington up Lyon Street, one sees the Veteran Memorial Buildings. Beneath the arch connection the two buildings across Lyon St there is a stone relief carved by Ivan Mestvovic in honour of those Canadians who fought in the First World War.
Head west along Wellington, which has a bike lane beginning at Lyon Street. This bike lane continues across the Portage Bridge. Just before heading over the Ottawa River there is a path off to the right that leads down to the Royal Canadian Navy Monument.
Head back up to the Portage Bridge and cross over to the Quebec side of the river, then turn east along the Voyageurs Pathway that hugs the shore of the Ottawa River. One of the finest views of Parliament Hill can be seen from this section of path. The Memorial Chamber, located inside the Peace Tower, contains the Books of Remembrance recording every Canadian killed in service from Canada’s first overseas campaign, the Nile Expedition, to the present. UPDATE, November 2017. This is the first of tthe two detours decribed in the introduction. Due to flooding in the Spring of 2017, the path along the river between the Portage Bridge and the Museum of History was so badly damaged that the NCC decided to wait until next Spring to fix and replace this very symbolic stretch of pathway. As such, the detour along the wide sidewalk along rue Laurier is reccommended.
Our route heads back to Ottawa over the Alexandra Bridge to our next stop, The Peacekeeping Monument, dedicated to Canadians who have served as peacekeepers around the world. It is located on a traffic island along Sussex Drive between the national Gallery and the American Embassy. You can meander through the centre of this monument.
The next section of the tour continues north along Sussex Drive which has a bike lane. The Defence of Hong Kong Memorial is located at the corner of Sussex and King Edward Avenue. This Memorial is dedicated to those Canadian Soldiers who served in the defence of Hong Kong during the Second World War.
The first of the three memorial installations is dedicated to members of the Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery who gave their lives in battle. A sculpture of Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, created by artist Ruth Abernethy. John McCrae was a doctor who participated in the First World War. He was moved to write the poem In Flanders Field in memory of fellow Canadian soldiers killed during the Second Battle of Ypres. It is from this poem that the red poppy was drawn to become the symbol of Remembrance Day.
Across the park are the Commonwealth Air Forces Ottawa Memorial, and the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion Memorial dedicated to Canadian volunteers of the Mackenzie–Papineau Battalion during the Spanish Civil War.
The tour continues along Sussex Drive. At the southern corner of Sussex Drive and Stanley Avenue is the CANLOAN Monument, dedicated to Canadian soldiers who died while volunteering with the British army during the Second World War.
Head east along Stanley Avenue and the Rideau River Eastern Pathway. Then take the short gravel path that leads to Crichton Street and weave your way along Vaughan and MacKay Streets to where the bike lane along Beechwood Avenue begins. Further along one arrives at the entrance to Beechwood Cemetery. The National Military Cemetery is located within the grounds, as indicated on the above map.
the poem In Flanders Fields is cast onto a bronze plaque and mounted on a simple elegant plinth facing the rows of white tombstones.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
John McRae, 1915