On November 11, the University of Toronto held its annual Remembrance Day ceremony in honour of U of T alumni who served during World War I and World War II. This year, the event was mostly virtual due to COVID-19, with a small in-person ceremony at Soldiers’ Tower, which was built in 1924 to commemorate those who died during World War I.

The service was live-streamed with a recording posted on the University of Toronto’s alumni website. The “Virtual Service of Remembrance” was part of Remembrance Week, during which time Toronto honours veterans and soldiers who served in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and Afghanistan.

The event featured pre-recorded vocal music performances, and instrumental musicians performed from behind plexiglass barriers.

Various representatives who attended in person had the opportunity to lay wreaths at Soldiers’ Tower in honour of different constituencies of U of T. Among these representatives were U of T President Meric Gertler, U of T Faculty Association President Terezia Zorić, and University of Toronto Students’ Union President Muntaka Ahmed.

The service began with words from Michelle Alfano, Chair of the Soldiers’ Tower Committee, who noted that 2020 marks 75 years since the end of World War II. 

“Today we wish to humbly acknowledge the bravery and commitment of our U of T alumni… and all Canadians involved in the war effort, with the full knowledge that, had they not done so, our lives and our liberties would be very much changed to the detriment of all Canadians,” said Alfano.

A speech by Richard Ruggle, the officiating chaplain for the ceremony, followed. Ruggle spoke about the sacrifices made by the more than 100,000 Canadians who volunteered in World War I and World War II. 

“They shall not grow old, as we who are left grow old,” Ruggle said, quoting Robert Laurence Binyon’s “For The Fallen.” Ending on a hopeful note, Ruggle reminded viewers that “as we remember the trauma that many soldiers try to forget, we commit ourselves to work for reconciliation so that people may live together in peace.”

Ruggle’s speech was followed by a naval hymn, as well as a recitation of the poem “In Flanders Fields” by John McRae, a U of T alum who died in 1918. The recitation was given by Ann Urquhart Knopf, whom Ruggle introduced as “the daughter of the late Lieutenant-Colonel Gerhard-Knopf.”

Following the hymns, U of T alum and military historian Eric McGeer honoured Jack Clancy, a U of T alum from St. Michael’s College. McGeer said that Clancy was “involved in three decisive operations in the liberation of Europe” and also served in Korea. 

Clancy helped set the stage for the Normandy invasion — often referred to as D-Day — and was given the Military Cross that same year for a separate military endeavour. He also contributed to the “airborne attack over the Rhine that opened the final assault into Germany,” said McGeer, and Clancy followed this by helping to prevent Soviet movement into Denmark in 1945.

The event culminated in the customary moment of silence. “When the first Remembrance Day observance took place 100 years ago today, the silence in memory of the fallen quickly became the defining moment of the service,” reflected Chaplain Ruggle as he initiated the moment of silence. “Silence can speak when words fail. Now we, too, remember in silence.”