The Halifax Memorial was erected by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to commemorate men and women of the Forces of the Commonwealth and Empire who fell in the First World War (1914-1918) and Second World War (1939-1945) and who have no known grave. It commemorates particularly those Canadian and Newfoundland sailors, merchant seamen, soldiers and nursing sisters who lost their lives at sea, and also bears the names of men of the Canadian Army stationed in Canada who have no known grave. It is commonly, although inaccurately referred to at the Sailors’ Monument.
The Memorial stands in Point Pleasant Park, Halifax, where it can be seen by all ships entering or leaving the harbour; it is common for naval vessels of all nations to pay respects by saluting when passing. The monument takes the form of a 12-metre tall Cross of Sacrifice, similar in design to those erected in Commonwealth war cemeteries throughout the world; one can also be seen at Fort Massey Cemetery in Halifax. The cross stands on an octagonal platform of Quebec grey granite, the faces of which bear twenty-three bronze panels inscribed with 3,257 names. Panels one to three contain 272 names from the First World War, while panels four through twenty-three display 2,845 names from the Second World War.
The original memorial for those lost during the First World War was erected near the site of the present one at Point Pleasant in 1924. In 1956 that memorial was re-erected on the southern slope of Citadel Hill, with separate, detached panels added for the names of those lost in the Second World War. However the memorial on Citadel Hill deteriorated to such an extent that it was deemed unworthy of its purpose; it was dismantled in 1966 and the eroded stone was consigned to Bedford Basin as the “Last Post” was sounded.
The current memorial at Point Pleasant was unveiled in November 1967, with naval ceremony, by The Honourable Henry Poole MacKeen, SM, QC, Lieutenant-Governor of Nova Scotia, in the presence of Mr. Roger Teillet PC, Minister of Veterans Affairs.
As indicated on the memorial’s front central panel, the register of the names inscribed is kept at the Halifax Central Library at 5440 Spring Garden Road. It consists of three volumes and is held in the closed stacks on the library’s fourth floor under the following call numbers:
The full list of names can also be accessed at the web site of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (https://www.cwgc.org/).
Among the names from the First World War are those of 44 sailors who died in the Halifax explosion, along with those of the four RCN midshipmen who died at the Battle of Coronel and who were Canada’s first casualties of that war. In addition to Robert Hampton Gray VC, the Monument holds the names of recipients of the Albert Medal (3), the Distinguished Service Cross (5), the Military Cross (2), the Distinguished Service Medal (2), the Military Medal (1), the British Empire Medal (2), as well as 3 Mentioned in Dispatches.
The Royal Canadian Navy holds commemoration ceremonies twice a year at the Halifax Memorial: on Battle of the Atlantic Sunday (the first Sunday in May) and on Remembrance Day, November 11th.