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The Memorial Cross (Silver Cross)

The Memorial Cross, commonly known as the Silver Cross, is a medal that no one really wants. Receiving the medal means that you have a lost a love one in the service of Canada.

In my novel I have a scene where Katherine MacNutt is holding a Silver Cross medal because she suffered the loss of her son, Jaime, in France.

In fact, the first issue of the Silver Cross was on December 1, 1919. The idea of the silver cross was first proposed by Canadian author, William Alexander Fraser, in an article to the Toronto Star published on September 26, 1916. He wrote to the Star:

"...that Canada might pay a beautiful and deserved tribute to the mothers of slain Canadian soldiers by having struck a medal named the Silver Cross." ... "The mothers are the heroines of the bitter home trenches. They suffer in silence with no reward but the sense that they have answered the call with their heart's blood-their sons."

He wrote a letter with the idea to Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden requesting his support. It wasn't until after the war ended that the Memorial Cross medals were issued to the mothers and wives of the soldiers who lost their lifes during the First World War.

The medals are made of Sterling silver and, when they were first issued, were worn around the neck by a purple ribbon. The purple colour suggested suffering and mourning. Many of the crosses issued during the Second World War were worn as broaches by the mothers and widows who lost soldiers.

Prior to 2007 the Silver Cross was issued only to the mothers and widows of the soldiers who died because of wounds incurred during their military service. In 2007 the criteria was expanded so that three members of the family who suffered a loss, such as a husband, or a father, would be eligible to receive a Silver Cross.

On Remembrance Day, Nov 11, a Silver Cross mother lays a wreath to commemorate the fallen men and women at the National War Memorial, in Ottawa, on the behalf of all Silver Cross recipients.

A Memorial Cross is displayed on Canadian Tomb of the Unknown Soldier as well there is also a large replica of a Memorial Cross-hangs above the door of the Memorial Chamber in the Peace Tower of the Centre Block of the Parliament Buildings.

The Memorial Chamber is where the seven Books of Remembrance are displayed. Only a daily basis a page is turned to display the names of the fallen.

Sources and further reading


Memorial Crosses - Canadian Orders, Medals And Decorations - Records & Collections - Veterans Affairs Canada

Directorate of Honours and Recognition (DH&R) - Canadian Honours Chart

Silver Cross Mothers - Books Of Remembrance - Records & Collections - Veterans Affairs Canada

Books Of Remembrance - Records & Collections - Veterans Affairs Canada