POLITICS
07/02/2014 03:30 EDT | Updated 09/01/2014 05:59 EDT

Peace Tower Memorial Chamber to get new altars for remembrance books

OTTAWA - With less than a month to go before the centennial of the start of the First World War, the government is rushing to spruce up the Memorial Chamber in the Peace Tower.

Public Works is looking for bidders to produce new altars of stone and bronze to replace the wooden stands which now hold six of the seven Books of Remembrance.

The main altar carries the largest of the books, listing more than 60,000 Canadians killed in the First World War.

The new altars are to be built to a design created by Phil White, the Dominion Sculptor, who is responsible for carving statues, portraits and decorative pieces for the Parliament buildings and other government buildings.

The tender documents say the bidding process closes in two weeks.

The documents do not include any dollar figures, but say the work is to be completed within 12 weeks of a contract being signed.

They say the project is to produce "new, free-standing altars designed to complement the sanctity of the Memorial Chamber."

The original plan for the Memorial Chamber was to have the names of Canada's First World War dead engraved on the walls. But as the casualty lists grew, it became clear there would not be enough room.

A Book of Remembrance was chosen instead. Britain donated the altar to hold the book and it was unveiled in August 1927.

The book itself was not finished until 1942, when the country was in the throes of the Second World War.

A similar book with the names of the dead from that war was completed in 1957.

Five more books have been added over the years.

In 1962, two were dedicated. One carried the names of 516 Canadians killed in the Korean War. The second covered almost 300 Canadians killed in the Boer War and the Nile Expedition of 1884-85.

In 1973, another book was added, with the names of 2,300 Newfoundlanders killed in the two world wars, before Newfoundand joined Canada.

A book honouring the more than 2,200 dead of the Merchant Marine was added in 1993.

The most recent addition is dedicated to those who have died in the service of Canada since 1947, not including the Korean War. It has the names of 1,300 members of the Canadian Forces who died in Canada or abroad.