Faculty, students, staff, and community members gathered Friday at Soldiers’ Tower for a solemn ceremony memorializing the University of Toronto’s veterans, and all those who perished in the defense of the country.
“Today we honour all those who were killed in Canada’s wars,” said Reverend Major Canon W. Ebert Hobbs, a veteran of World War II and member of the Royal Canadian Legion, in welcoming the gathered crowd. “We especially remember the 1,185 men and women of this university’s community who died in the First and Second wars and whose names are engraved on the memorial walls.”
The musical components of the ceremony were provided by Hart House Choir and an accompanying band, which performed a number of hymns. There was also a student recitation of “In Flander’s Fields,” famous poem written by Lt. Colonel John McCrae, a U of T alumnus and veteran of the Battle of Ypres.
A reading about the tragic and costly Dieppe raid by Dr. Ann Tourangeau prefaced prayers from Rabbi Aaron Katchen and Jiexun (Jacob) Liao..
The traditional laying of the wreaths saw a dozen placed beneath the arches of Soldier’s Tower. Individuals wreaths were laid for the university, students, Old Comrades, the Royal Regiment of Canada, and the families of the deceased and those with loved ones still fighting overseas.
“These wreaths help us to remember people who, when our freedoms were threatened, quickly volunteered to stand between us and the force of destruction,” reflected Rabbi Katchen. “They were very ordinary people who did extraordinary things.”
John Loach led the audience in two minutes of silence to remember those who gave their lives for the country.
Veteran Alastair Gillespie, among several in attendance, described the ceremony as, “beautifully done.” Gillespie says that Remembrance Day to him means “many different things, but the one thing that sticks out in my mind is remembering those who didn’t make it.” Gillespie hopes that from the ceremony, “students are able to get a sense of their history and how we came to be.”
Reverend Hobbs, who has participated in the U of T ceremony for 15 years, says he continues to be amazed at the number of people who attend every year. “Remembrance means remembering individuals. I lost two friends in the war. I was a little bit younger so I wasn’t overseas fighting but basically for me, it’s about remembering people and their willingness to do what they did,” Hobbs said.
The reverend hopes that “students will get out of the service that the peace and quality of life we enjoy was paid for with a price, and we need to try very hard to not let that happen again. I think we are working towards that. I believe that peace begins in the heart within individuals and how they treat other people.”
The ceremony concluded with the sounds of trumpets, bagpipes and the playing of the national anthem. A reception in the Great Hall of Hart House followed.