Here in Kingston at City Park, residents have a place to picnic in the spring, summer, and fall. A splash pad for kids of all ages to cool off in during the hottest days of the summer. A rink to skate on during the cold winter days, and baseball diamonds to pass the summer nights away on. City Park is also the home of four different war memorials that honour the soldiers, sailors, and air force personnel who served in the First World War, Second World War, and Korea.
Bordered by King Street, Barrie Street, and West Street, park visitors can walk through at a leisurely pace, enjoying the serenity of this downtown greenspace, and stop at four different sites that commemorate Kingston’s military past. Where Stuart Street meets the northern end of Barrie Street is the Royal Canadian Air Force memorial. This simple stone monument educates the visitor to Kingston’s role in the Commonwealth air forces and the development of the Royal Canadian Air Force. Commemorating the 416 RCAFA Wing, the monument is elegant in its simplicity. From the First World War to Korea, Canadians flew into danger countless times, and some never returned.
At the corner of King and Barrie Streets is the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery memorial. Names like Moore, Williamson, and Clarke are just a few etched on the stone, and just some of the Kingston residents who never came home from their duty. Plaques with names such as the Somme and Cambrai from the First World War are bookended with plaques naming the Gothic Line, Ortona, and the Liri Valley from the Second World War.
Moving up King Street towards West Street, one of the smaller monuments in the park can be seen in two parts. The Burma Star Association exists to help veterans who served in the Burma theatre of war during the Second World War. Commemorating those who died and those who returned, the stone monument is paired with a bench just behind the memorial.
Located at West and Wellington Streets is the tallest war memorial in the park, which commemorates the 21st Canadian Infantry Battalion from the First World War. The monument is topped with a statue of a First World War soldier who looks like he is leading the charge into battle. Look closer at that statue of the young man in uniform and you will see an ordinary face that has been placed into an extraordinary circumstance. The soldier doesn’t look superhuman, he looks like any solider in uniform who is doing his duty.
If you are not moved by the visage of the young man upon the column, walk behind and read the names of the places where this soldier would have fought at. Places like the Somme, Passchendaele, and Flanders are just a few of the hell holes where many like this sculpted soldier fought, and where so many died so young.
Thursday, June 6, 2019 is the 75th anniversary of the D-Day Landings in Normandy, France by the Allied Forces. On this day in 1944, the largest invasion fleet ever was assembled to storm the beaches of Nazi-controlled France and begin the ending of the Second World War. The last of the veterans who stormed those beaches will soon be a memory and their stories will only be read in the history books. If you have a moment on June 6, take some time and go for a walk in City Park. Visit the memorials and learn a little bit about Kingston’s service in the First and Second World War. Spend a minute or two and read what is carved in stone. Read the names and learn the locations that were so important, and where people died for freedom.
It is the smallest act we can do to commemorate the past and those who continue to serve our country today. As the Burma Star Association memorial states, “When you go home tell them of us, and say for your tomorrow we gave our today.”
Here in Kingston at City Park amongst the frisbee’s and food trucks and laughing kids getting soaked in the splash pad, we have tributes to the Kingston residents who fought and died so that we may be free. Go and learn about those who didn’t make it home, and remember them.
Bill Gowsell was born and raised in Kingston. With an interest in history, food, wine, and all things Disney, Bill has been writing for the last eight years on a variety of topics. During the summers he can be found at the family cottage north of Kingston, or at the bottom of Lake Ontario… scuba diving.