November 10 marked the University of Toronto’s 93rd Remembrance Day service organized by the Soldiers’ Tower Committee. Held annually since Soldiers’ Tower was built in 1924, the service pays tribute to the many Canadian servicepeople. This year’s service recognized the 1,181 students and faculty members who sacrificed their lives fighting for freedom.
In attendance were members of the Soldiers’ Tower Committee, religious leaders, university faculty members, student organizations, veterans, and active members of the Canadian Armed Forces.
The service commenced with a few words of welcome from Matthew Jurczak, chair of the Soldiers’ Tower Committee, and a prayer from the chaplain, Major the Reverend Richard Ruggle.
The poem “In Flanders Fields” was read by Major Jana Lok of the 25 Field Ambulance unit and the Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing. The poem was written by University College alumnus Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, who was a veteran of the South African War and died in 1918 while serving in the later years of World War I.
Francis Vivian Morton, also one of the many U of T men who enlisted during World War I, was recognized for his service in a statement read by Austin Cotton, President of Toronto’s Theta Delta Chi Fraternity Chapter.
“In March 1915, this small-town boy from Portage la Prairie, Manitoba cut short his studies at University College and enlisted with several other U of T men in the 25th Battery, Canadian Field Artillery,” said Cotton.
“Reaching France with the same unit in January 1916, [Morton] served continuously for nearly two years, through the battles of St. Eloi, Ypres, the Somme, Vimy Ridge, Fresnoy, and Hill 70. He was killed at Passchendaele while in charge of his gun, which was in action on the afternoon of November 10, 100 years ago today,” continued Cotton.
Also recognized was the service of Jewish and First Nations people in the military via a memorial prayer led by Rabbi Julia Appel and a statement given by First Nations House Elder Andrew Wesley. Wesley recalled a story from his own father, who served in the First World War.
“They were 40 young Omushkagowuk who enlisted for the First World War. They left their hunting ground [way of life], families, and community to travel to a foreign country they never heard of,” he said. “Many of them did not speak English and many did not return; for them this was a sacred thing to do.”
The service concluded with the laying of wreaths and a playing of the “Last Post,” followed by a two-minute silence and a playing of the lament by a piper.
The Remembrance Day service at the university was one of many services held in the city. Others were held at the Ontario Veteran’s Memorial in Queen’s Park, and the cenotaph at Old City Hall.