Canada’s Golgotha

For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 

1 Thessalonians 4:14

In the Canadian War Museum there’s a bronze sculpture by an obscure British artist named Derwent Wood. Entitled Canada’s Golgotha, the small bas-relief, less than a metre square, depicts a Canadian soldier crucified to the door of a barn while on-looking German soldiers mock his plight.

The origin of Canada’s Golgotha goes back to the Second Battle of the Ypres. The Paris correspondent of the Morning Post reported that Canadian soldiers knew of a sergeant who was nailed to a door with bayonets and then shot. The Toronto Star of May 11, 1915, told of a Canadian sergeant lashed to a tree by his arms and legs and bayoneted 60 times. As is often the case, the story came from a second-hand witness who died in the arms of the storyteller. “C. J. C. Clayton, a New Zealander who is serving with the British Red Cross and is now wounded, brings a message from Capt. R. A. Allen of the 5th Canadian Battalion, who comes from Vancouver and who died of wounds in a hospital in Boulogne May 2, confirming the horrible story of the crucifixion of a Canadian sergeant by the Germans …”

In commenting on the story, Canadian historian, Desmond Morton, says “It was a remarkably useful story. In a Christian age, a Hunnish enemy had proved capable of mocking Christ’s agony on the cross … providing a means of transforming casual colonials into ruthless fighters.”

But there are problems with the story. The German and Canadian governments believe the atrocity is unproven. The Imperial War Graves Commission says that Capt. Allen of the 5th Battalion died on April 30, not May 2. Furthermore, the sergeant is not identified. (A British wartime nurse pinpointed the incident and named Sgt. Harry Band of the 48th Highlanders as the victim. However, although a certain Harry Band died on April 24, 1915, with no known grave, he was a private from the 16th Regiment and not a sergeant). Yet the legend was born and has grown in the telling.

In contrast, Israel’s Golgotha is a historical reality (cf. The Works of Flavius Josephus, Dissertation 1, p. 665). There is no doubt that the crucifixion of Jesus Christ of Nazareth actually happened. It isn’t a legend or myth. “We believe that Jesus died and rose again” 1 Thessalonians 4:14. And as a result millions have banked their lives on it. As it says in God’s infallible Word, “They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull). Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get. It was the third hour when they crucified him. The written notice of the charge against him read: THE KING OF THE JEWS. They crucified two robbers with him, one on his right and one on his left” Mark 15:22-27.

Two Golgothas’; one Canadian and one Israeli, one recent and one ancient, one unproven and one proven, one designed to alienate and one designed to reconcile, one cast against the backdrop of hatred and one etched in love, one representing war and one representing peace, one largely forgotten and one ardently remembered …

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