Of the approximately 6,000 members of the University of Toronto who served in the Great War, 628 lost their lives.
In December 1918, president Robert Falconer of the University of Toronto made an urgent request, “We must lose no time in fixing the memory of the Great War... Now is the time for the Alumni and their friends to set about the erection of some memorial.”
Falconer’s call was heard. In 1919, one year after the end of the war, the cornerstone was laid for the Soldiers’ Tower as the haunting notes of the “Last Post” trumpeted before a still audience. Standing at almost 43.6 m, the Soldiers’ Tower is the second-tallest war memorial in Canada.
Mere decades later, members of the university community were called into service for the Second World War. Of the 10,000 engaged, 557 did not return. To recognize their sacrifice, the tower’s mandate was extended. The names of all 1,185 University of Toronto men and women who died in the wars are inscribed at the tower. Within the tower itself, the 51-bell carillon provides an audible reminder of their service. The stories of the sacrifices of so many are told in the Memorial Room museum, which is regularly open to visitors.
By Cody Gagnon