The idea to establish a memorial in London to honour the approximate 114,000 members of the Canadian Armed Forces who were killed in the two World Wars was conceived in the 1980s by General Desmond Smith, a charming Canadian military character who was living in retirement in London with his wife Belle Shenkman, who was a well-known supporter of the arts in Canada and Britain. Committees were formed in London and in Canada under the banner of the Canadian Memorial Foundation to raise money for the project, which was completed in 1994. The memorial, in Green Park close to the Canada Gate and to Buckingham Palace, consists of an attractive granite and bronze sculpture designed by the late French-Canadian sculptor, Pierre Granche. It is divided by a walkway into two halves, one representing Canada and the other Britain. The inscription reads,
‘In two World Wars one million Canadians came to Britain and joined the fight for freedom. From danger shared, our friendship prospers’.
The memorial was unveiled by the Queen in a magnificent ceremony on 3rd June, 1994. As an early member of the London committee, I had a ringside seat to witness a unique and historic gathering of members of the Royal Family, including the Queen and Prince Philip, the Queen Mother, Princess Margaret, Princess Diana, Prince Andrew, Princess Alexandra and her husband Angus Ogilvy; the prime ministers of Canada and Britain, Jean Chretien and John Major; the Canadian High Commissioner, Frederic Eaton; and several prominent Canadian businessmen who had contributed to the fund raising for the memorial, including Conrad Black, Paul Desmarais, Fred Mannix and Peter Munk. It was an unforgettable ceremony which provided wonderful photo-opportunities, as shown in the picture taken by David Kay.
In 2008 the Canadian Government assumed responsibility for the maintenance of the memorial, which attracts many Canadian and other visitors. The Canada Memorial Foundation continues in its other role of providing scholarships for British graduates and undergraduates wishing to study in Canada.