Shelbourne Memorial Avenue

Memorial Avenue

Following the end of World War One in 1918, Canada began erecting statues and cenotaphs to honour the memory of its war dead. Among the memorials proposed was a Road of Remembrance or Memorial Avenue to serve as a tribute to fallen soldiers.

Shelbourne Street became the first such Road of Remembrance in Canada and was formally dedicated on the afternoon of October 2, 1921. The ceremony was held near the entrance to Mount Douglas Park where 7,000 people arrived to hear speeches by BC’s Premier John Oliver and Lieutenant Governor Walter Nichol.

The programme for the Memorial Avenue dedication ceremony outlines the purpose and importance of creating a Memorial Avenue in Saanich. “British Columbia owes, not only to her soldier dead, but to posterity, some monument which will adequately commemorate the heroic sacrifices … of the Great European War.” (Programme of Dedication Ceremony, 1921)

The original intention was that Shelbourne Street should include one tree for every British Columbian who died in the war. The London Planetree was selected because of its longevity. Some 600 trees were planted but that number proved insufficient as ten times as many men and women from British Columbia died in the Great War.

This brass commemorative plaque was found in a ditch and donated to Saanich Archives in 1980. It is one of many which were affixed to the memorial trees, but none of those original plaques remain on Memorial Avenue.

Memorial Avenue Rededication

On September 29, 2018, the Memorial Avenue Committee, led by Saanich residents Ray Travers and Mary-Jane Shaw, organized a rededication ceremony and commemoration of the 1918 Armistice.

In advance of the event, Saanich installed 30 Memorial Avenue sign toppers along Shelbourne Street. The ceremony included a traditional First Nations blessing and speeches by BC’s Lieutenant Governor Janet Austin, MP Murray Rankin, MLA Andrew Weaver, and Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell.


Memorial Avenue Interpretive Signs

The Shelbourne Street proposal was put forward by the Memorial Avenue Committee delegation at the November 27, 2017, Council meeting. That action plan, which was approved and funded by Council in March 2018, provided objectives to help preserve, enhance, maintain, and recognize the London Plane memorial trees along Shelbourne Street. One of the objectives of the plan was to provide interpretive panels in people-friendly locations along Shelbourne Street. In 2018, one hundred years after the end of WW1, Saanich placed the first four interpretive signs along Shelbourne Street to explain and illustrate the significance of this “Road of Remembrance”, and four additional signs were installed in 2019.

For further information about interpretive signs in Saanich, visit our Interpretive Sign webpage.

Interested in learning more?

Watch Trees of Remembrance: Shelbourne Memorial Avenue, a production of the War Heritage Research Initiative, Royal Roads University.