The question of markers for soldiers' graves is perhaps receiving more attention at the present time than at any other time since the world began, or at least that we have record of. Now the great world war is over, we feel that it is necessary to mark the graves of our fallen heroes with a suitable marker that shall be permanent and lasting, as the memory of those heroes who fought and bled that the principles of justice freedom and humanity should prevail. We feel very proud of the records of our men on the battlefields of France and Flanders, and wish to do everything in our power to show our respect, loyalty and sympathy, not only to the men who have passed on, but also to the friends and relatives they have left behind to mourn their loss.
The custom of erecting wood crosses over the graves of men who have fallen on the battlefields is one that has been very generally followed in the past. These crosses have been the means of satisfying the sympathy and sentiment of the people while the incidents of the war were fresh in their minds, but after a period of years, the wooden crosses have often been allowed to fall into decay, and in a good many cases the graves have been obliterated and lost track of. This is not as it should be.
We as members of the Association of American Cemetery Superintendents, having charge of the principal burying grounds on this continent, have more than a passing interest in the style of marker to be used to mark the graves of our heroes. It is our duty and our privilege to point out to those in authority the unfitness of markers used in the past both in design and material. It is also our privilege to so mould public opinion that the markers used in the past will not receive their approval at this time.
In Prospect Cemetery, Toronto, we have adopted the flat marker which when set lies level with the sod. I have here a plan of our Veterans' Section, also a blueprint and specification of what we call a Veterans' Grave Marker. Before adopting this design I took the matter up with the local Veterans' Associations and had them approve of both the design and specification. In my opinion this marker serves the purpose very well, but I must admit that it does not satisfy a certain section of the public who are continually agitating for a more showy and pretentious marker. I wish to quote a few lines from an article which appeared in one of our national weeklies just recently:
"By some line of reasoning, which it is incomprehensible to fathom the graves in the military sections of these cemeteries are forbidden to be marked by upright stones. The memorial stones must be placed flat on the ground. The result is that before many months have gone the inscriptions thereon are defaced by the scratches of boots, the letters become choked with dirt and in some cases the regimental badges and other devices have been deliberately stolen. In other countries the soldiers’ grave is honored. The marble slab points up to heaven and bears the legend which every passerby may read, that there lies a man who made the sacrifice for his country. Every soldiers’ organization must take this matter up and have this ridiculous ukase cancelled, even if some grass-cutter in a cemetery has to do a little more work in trimming the sod around an upright stone."
This is the kind of propaganda we have to meet and contend with in advocating the use of a flat marker level with the sod for the marking of veterans' graves; as I said before, we as an Association are vitally interested in this marker, and one is tempted to ask, are we doing all we should in educating public opinion along the right lines in the marking of veterans' graves?
In dealing with this question, we must realize that tolerance must be shown to those who do not agree with us, because it is very difficult to remove deep-rooted customs and sentiments. I would like to make one suggestion in connection with this matter. That this Association take into serious consideration the appointment of a committee to thoroughly discuss this question and prepare an article for publication in the trade papers, covering the whole question in a broad manner, an article that could be reprinted in booklet or leaflet form and used by any cemetery for propaganda purposes if necessary. I think if this were done it would be a great help to a good many cemeteries in counteracting the many ideas advanced, which are not in keeping with modern cemetery practice.
Specification of Markers for Veterans' Plots
Size: The face of marker shall be twelve (12) by twenty (20) inches the thickness of marker shall not be less than four (4) inches and not more than six (6) inches in depth.
Material: Marker shall be of Pink Laurention Granite, of even color and free from blemish.
Finish: Face to be ten cuts to the inch, sides pean hammered and bottom rough pointed.
Lettering: Six rows of lettering will be allowed as shown on attached blue print, the information on each line as follows: Top line, Number and designation of Corp, Battery, Battalion or Unit deceased was a member of; 2nd from top, In Memoriam; 3rd from top, Rank and Name 4th from top, Private Information; 5th from top, Date of Death; Bottom line, Age of Deceased. The height of each row of letters shall be as follows: First, Second, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth rows, three-quarters of an inch and the Third row one and one-quarter inches. The letters to be plain block letter, thickness of finished letter to be one-fifth of the height as shown on drawing. All lettering to be known to the trade as lead lettering; letters must be V grooved half the width of bar at each angle a hole shall be driven, dove-tailed, as deep as the width of bar of letter.
Spacing: The tops of each row of letters shall be the following distance from the top of the marker: 1st row, 1¼ inches; 2nd row, 3½ inches; 3rd row, 5 inches; 4th row, 7 inches; 5th row, 8½ inches; Bottom row, 10 inches.
Emblems: All emblematic devices must be of bronze. The emblematic device at the top can either be the Maple Leaf as shown on drawing or the Regimental, Battalion or "Arm of Service" emblem; the choice of emblem to be optional with the friends of the deceased. The two emblems at the bottom corners can either be the Maple Leaf or Fraternal Emblems, whatever design decided upon to be the same in both corners. All emblems must be provided with the dowel pins and set in white cement, flush with the face of the marker. Any or all emblems may be eliminated if desired.
Workmanship: All workmanship must be of the best kind now in use and where there is any uncertainty of the work required by the plan and specifications the Superintendent shall require the best class of work that any interpretation will admit.
From the publication:
AACS - Proceedings of the 34th Annual Convention held at Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
September 7, 8, 9 and 10, 1920