A sculpture commemorating more than 93,000 Canadians who fought in the Italian Campaign of World War II—an often overlooked but vital part of Europe’s fight for liberation from Nazi Germany—has been unveiled beside Toronto City Hall. The battle referenced in the artwork occurred at Christmastime in 1943, when the Canadian Forces in the Italian Campaign of World War II fought a fierce battle to liberate Ortona, Italy from Nazi Germany. An ancient town on the Adriatic Sea, the medieval rubble on the narrow streets of Ortona forced Canadians to street-fight and viciously smash through buildings to ultimately liberate the devastated town.
During the entirety of the Italian campaign which lasted 20 months, Canadians along with the American, French and British troops fought to liberate Italy from Germany and force German resources to be rerouted from the Eastern Front to the Italian Campaign, easing the pressure in Germany’s attack against the Soviet Union. More than 26,000 Canadians were wounded during the Italian campaign, nearly 6,000 of whom had fatal wounds.
To honour these lesser-known heroes of World War II, the Italian-Canadian community has donated the sculpture depicting the aftermath of destruction in Ortona, through the Peace Through Valour committee. The bronze monument, located behind the Winston Churchill monument in the northwest corner of Nathan Phillips Square’s Sculpture Court, was created by world-renowned Canadian artist Ken Lum.
The 3D-printed sculpture depicts a 7-foot by 7-foot topographical map of Ortona illustrating the ruin and destruction the town endured during the battle, with each corner of the map guarded by figures of Canadian soldiers standing vigil. Lum took inspiration for the sculpture from photographs and paintings of the town’s destruction by Canadian artist Charles Comfort. Lum said the model is meant to be looked at with downcast eyes and is scaled to be engaging to people of all ages.
Several veterans from the Italian Campaign were present at the unveiling of the sculpture, one of them being retired Sgt. Herb Pike who was a member of the 48th Highlanders of Canada. In his speech, he thanked the Italians for welcoming the Canadian Forces at the time. Other burials, commemorations and monuments for the Canadian soldiers in the Italian Campaign are located in Commonwealth war cemeteries throughout Italy and in the Cassino War Cemetery south of Rome.