1920s WWI commemorative shield found

Missing for 46 years, we can proudly share the story of the shield thanks to an antiquarian store owner who came across the shield and in July 1986 turned it over to the Edmonton Public School Board Archives and Museum.

One of the most unique artifacts on permanent display at Edmonton Public Schools Archives and Museum is a large bronze shield.

A gift from the school children of Edmonton, Middlesex, England, the shield was presented to school children of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada at an outdoor ceremony on the grounds of what was called the Memorial Hall on September 1, 1920. British school children wished to express their generation’s appreciation for the valour displayed by Canadian servicemen in World War I and purchased the shield through penny contributions. In addition to the shield, a 27-foot Union Jack was also presented at the historic ceremony. The shield and flag were brought to Canada by the Imperial Press Party, a group of journalists and newspaper owners on a cross Canada tour. They were led by Lord and Lady Burnham.

One of the highlights of the ceremony was an announcement by the official presenter, Lady Burnham, of an essay writing contest with a $10.00 prize. The theme of the essay was to focus on the meaningfulness of the Edmonton, England – Edmonton, Canada ceremony. Edmonton Public School Board Trustees added another $50.00 to be awarded in prizes for the same competition. The essay competition was open to all children regardless of what schools they attended. There were 69 entries from grades 4-12 submitted.

This patriotic ceremony was the largest of assembly of students, teachers and parents in the history of Edmonton prior to 1920. Approximately 15,000 attended from 43 public and eight separate schools.

After the ceremony, the shield was fastened to the flagpole on the Memorial Hall grounds (Macdonald Drive and 99 Street) but it disappeared shortly after its installation. Thanks to the efforts of a keen antiquarian store owner, John Tiemessen, and avid historian Mike Kostek, the story of the shield is told through the display on the first floor of the Archives and Museum.

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