100 years later, St. John's Sergeants' Memorial still stands as city's first public war memorial

·2 min read
Frank Gogos is chair of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment Museum. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC - image credit)
Frank Gogos is chair of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment Museum. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC - image credit)
Jeremy Eaton/CBC
Jeremy Eaton/CBC

The first public memorial built in St. John's after the First World War has turned 100 years old.

Unveiled on July 1, 1921 by then governor Sir Alexander Harris, the Sergeants' Memorial sits in Veteran's Square along Queen's Road in Newfoundland and Labrador's capital city.

Prior to the construction of the memorial, Remembrance Day ceremonies took place in Bannerman Park from 1917 to 1920, according to Royal Newfoundland Regiment Museum Chair Frank Gogos.

"At the end of the war the 2nd Battalion, which was the training depot in Britain, closed up. The mess had a profit of about 250 pounds," Gogos said Wednesday. "As they were shutting down the organization, they decided to spend it on a memorial."

The memorial is made up of two pieces, highlighted by a large cross that Gogos says was sourced from Edinburgh, Scotland at the end of the First World War.

CBC/Royal Newfoundland Regiment Museum
CBC/Royal Newfoundland Regiment Museum

"The stone on the bottom is actually Newfoundland granite," he said. "They made two. They bought the cross some time around 1919, but it wasn't til '21 [that] they were able to build it.

Before the opening of the National War Memorial on Duckworth Street in 1924, Gogos said the Sergeants' Memorial served as the focal point of Remembrance Day ceremonies in the province and still carries significance today.

Veterans, peacekeepers and other members of the Royal Canadian Legion and Royal Newfoundland Regiment will often perform their own remembrance ceremony before marching to remember with the public on Memorial Day and Remembrance Day.

Royal Newfoundland Regiment Museum
Royal Newfoundland Regiment Museum

While the memorial has not gained as much attention as the national memorial, Gogos said the Sergeants' Memorial serves as a key part of the province's wartime history.

As he stands at the foot of the cross to mark 100 years, he hopes people across the province can continue to learn about its importance for many more hundreds of years.

"It's like a lot of sites around St. John's. You grow up around here, you see it everyday, and generally it doesn't speak to you unless you're specifically interested or part of the groups and organizations that pay their tributes."

"Every time we get a chance to educate people on the importance of certain monuments, it's a good thing."

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