Warrant Officer 1st Class James Henry Munroe was one of the first assistant bell captains at the Lord Elgin Hotel when we first opened in July 1941. He worked here for two months until he followed another calling.
Munroe went to 90 O’Connor St., a five-minute walk from the hotel, and enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) on Sept. 11, 1941, to join the Allies in the Second World War.
Though Munroe didn’t work at the Lord Elgin for long, on Thursday morning, the 75th anniversary of D-Day, we unveiled his photo which will be hung in the hotel’s lobby, immortalizing him as one of the most important employees the Lord Elgin may have ever had.
An estimated 4,414 Allies were killed on D-Day, including 359 Canadians.
Warrant Officer 1 James Henry Munroe was born on the 28th of August, 1920 in Pembroke, ON. Growing up and attending school in the Niagara region, Munroe was employed as a Bell Boy at the General Brock Hotel. After four years at the hotel, and a brief time working as a Machine Operator for General Motors, Munroe moved to Ottawa where he wedded Dorothy Olga Munroe (née Robinson) on the 16th of June, 1941. An active young man, Munroe’s hobbies included photography, hockey, and football.
Soon after his marriage and move to the Nation’s Capital, Munroe was hired as one of the very first Assistant Bell Captains at the newly constructed Lord Elgin Hotel.
Opening in July 1941, the Lord Elgin Hotel was commissioned by then-Prime Minister Mackenzie King as a landmark hotel along Confederation Boulevard. Mackenzie King’s vision for a grand boulevard was considered as a sign of hope and optimism for the British Empire during the darkest of days early on in the Second World War, and was symbolic of a bright and triumphant future for all Canadians.
Munroe’s tenure at the new hotel was cut short in the Fall of 1941 when he answered the call to join the efforts to defend the British Empire under the flag of the Royal Canadian Air Force. Shortly after enlisting, WO1 Munroe was deployed overseas leaving behind his wife Dorothy, and his infant daughter Carolyn.
At 19:10 on the 6th of June, 1944, WO1 Munroe departed England headed toward the coast of France in the role of Wireless Operator / Air Gunner alongside three fellow Canadians, one Australian and one Englishman in one of eighteen Stirling aircraft with the 299 Squadron as a part of Operation Mallard. During its mission, WO1 Munroe’s aircraft suffered mortal damage, crashing into the sea before reaching its destination.
Today marks 75 years since Allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy to open the way to Germany from the West. However, victory on D-Day came at a terrible cost, tragically taking the lives of 4,414 casualties from the Allied forces including WO1 Munroe.
Let us never forget the many men and women, such as Warrant Officer 1 James Henry Munroe, who paid the ultimate sacrifice in World War II in service to their fellow Canadians. To them, we owe our infinite gratitude for the liberties and freedoms that we enjoy today.
Today I received an email from Catherine O’Grady, the executive director of the Ottawa Jazz Festival. It appears our much beloved Jazz Festival may not be allowed to return to Confederation Park in 2020.
We totally support her position. What do we have parks for, if not for people to come together and enjoy! Ottawa is sometimes reputed to be ‘boring’. Festivals enliven our city and create the vibe we want. Yes, our city is beautiful and has lots of green space. What we need is more excitement, life and a joie de vivre we find in cities like Montreal. We need to be less concerned with some after hours noise and bruised grass and celebrate the cultural offerings we have!!! We hope you agree!!
Here is what she wrote:
Do you want to keep your Jazz Festival at Confederation Park? Have your say.
Dear Friends of the Ottawa Jazz Festival:
I recently met with Tobi Nussbaum, the new CEO of the National Capital Commission, to brief him on the festival’s plans for our 40th anniversary when we return to Confederation Park in 2020 after the completion of the sewer tunnel work there.
Mr. Nussbaum listened politely and then surprised me by saying it is not a “given” the jazz festival will be allowed back into Confederation Park. He explained the NCC is reviewing the role of the park, along with many of its other assets in the national capital region.
I know many of you have stuck with the jazz festival on Marion Dewar Plaza at City Hall as a short term measure while Confederation Park was unavailable to us in 2018 or this year — but with the understanding we could return in 2020 when the construction in the park is completed.
Now, however, it appears the park may not ever be available to us again. This is not only disappointing, it is not good for the festival or for you, our audience.
Over the years, so many of you have told me Confederation Park is THE best place in the city to listen to music: it’s a beautiful setting by the canal and among the trees in a safe, urban environment that is easily accessible by bus, bike, and on foot.
You have told me you love the sound quality there as well as the park’s proximity to the indoor venues at the National Arts Centre. And you have told me that sitting outside on the grass on a warm summer evening looking at the stars, enjoying the music with your friends, family and fellow jazz lovers are among the high points of your summers in Ottawa.
There may be no more such memories unless we — taxpayers and proud members of our community — speak out about how our tax dollars are used and the access we are given to the resources our taxes support.
There is no question about the economic value the festival brings to the region, to the city and to our neighbourhoods. But more than those economic benefits, the jazz festival brings to the city the things that make a community’s heart beat: creative excellence, cultural significance, international recognition, a sense of togetherness.
If being in Confederation Park is as important to you — music lovers AND taxpayers — as it is to those of us who put this event together for you each year, then please take a moment to add your name to the petition that’s linked here. And feel free to add your personal comments as well.
We want this festival to remain what it has become noted for over the past four decades: an unimpeachable musical event in a sublime setting in the heart of the nation’s capital.
Thank you for your support.
Catherine O’Grady, Executive Producer