After serving 11 years as the West Shore’s focal point to honour Canada’s military veterans, the cenotaph in Langford has seen better days.
Weather beaten and well trod upon, concrete tiles at the base of the war memorial are chipped or falling away as mortar has disintegrated. To bring the monument back to mint condition, the City of Langford is seeking a grant from Veterans Affairs Canada, which will pay for half the repairs. The City will chip in the rest.
“Anything that keeps the cenotaph in good shape is good for for us and for the veterans. Anything they do would be great,” said Ron Caven, sergeant at arms with the Prince Edward Branch No. 91 in Langford. “It’s time it was tidied back up.”
Langford parks planner Jane Waters said it’s not yet known what the repair cost will be – two different consultants are looking at options for refurbishment and preservation. A parks staff report estimated repairs anywhere from $16,000 to $40,000 and suggested replacing existing tiles with granite. Veterans Affairs will donate up to $25,000.
“We’re not looking to change the design, just the best solution to make it long lasting,” Waters said. “There’s been wear and tear and skateboard action. We want to do a nice finish on it.”
Derek Rowe of Renaissance Studios designed and built the original $80,000 cenotaph in 2001, using money fundraised through the community. The “Mourning Mother” stature represents a young Canada mourning its war dead, and the pillars represent peace and freedom.
The Veterans Memorial Park cenotaph closely matches the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France, although at one-third the scale. A key element of the Langford memorial is a 90 pound stone donated from the original First World War memorial at Vimy.
“(The monument) does degrade on its own, but unfortunately skateboarders running over it have made a mess,” Caven remarked. “Stones have degraded. Corners are broken off.”
“For me as a retired veteran of 40 years, I see people putting stuff on the cenotaph, but it shouldn’t be touched. It should be left alone,” he continued. “It’s there for people to remember, to remember members of their family. A lot of people don’t understand what its for.”
Waters expects Veterans Affairs to announce its funding decision early next year. If given the go-ahead, repair work will probably take a few weeks during the summer.
“It is a sacred site and a main focus for Langford’s downtown,” Waters said. “It is a really popular park.”