“As we walked through Mons, ten Canadian soldiers lay dead. By mid-morning, every one of them was covered with flowers, while hundreds of civilians passed by with tears in their eyes.”
I read this in the journal of R.H. Rabjohn, a Canadian soldier in WW1. He was also an artist and spent some of his time during the war sketching what he saw around him. His description of the scene in Mons helped me with the direction of this coin for The Royal Canadian Mint that commemorates Canada’s Hundred Days.
August 8th to November 11th 1918 is the span of 100 days that saw the Canadian Corps on their journey through to Mons, Belgium, where they arrived when the Armistice was announced and the end of the war had finally come. In those last hundred days the Canadians were tasked with attacking the Germans in a series of secretive assaults without having to stop and regroup, and break through the German defences. When they neared Mons, the end of the war was only one day away and the Canadians were ordered to liberate the city. They attacked from all sides and by 3am the Canadians broke through, sending the Germans running.
My illustration for this coin depicts two soldiers standing on a pile of rubble after the war. It could be Amiens or Mons or Valenciennes or Mont Houy. I wanted it to represent any place where Canadians fought to liberate these towns and cities in the last hundred days. In the foreground is a soldier’s grave, marked with a wooden cross and covered in flowers, placed there by civilians wishing to pay their respects to the soldier who helped to liberate them. It’s a beautiful tribute and unfathomable to me to imagine what it must have been like to be a solider in this war. Such a mixture of emotions – exhaustion, relief, sadness and jubilation – the soldiers must have felt at the end of the war.
I’ve learned so much about Canadians at war while working on coins for the Royal Canadian Mint and have a much greater understanding and appreciation of their sacrifices. I’m really honoured to have been able to participate in this Battlefront Series. One of the first coins I ever worked on for the Mint was actually the very first coin in this series.
While this series of coins may be complete, I’ve been so fascinated with what I’ve learned thus far that I have started my own research into learning more about both WWI and WWII. I would highly recommend the book A Soldier’s Sketchbook, where I found incredible stories and drawings from R.H. Robjohn.
I hope tomorrow on the 100th anniversary of the Armistice you can find a local service to attend to pay your respects to those who served your country.