Each day, hundreds of people walk past the Memorial Screen in an arcade west of the Soldiers’ Tower on the University of Toronto’s downtown campus. Those pausing to look see the names, ranks and units of 628 university alumni, faculty, staff and students killed in WW1 – carved in limestone.
Battle names form a band across the top of the arcade. Step inside. On the left end, alumnus John McCrae’s poem, In Flanders Fields. The first arch of names starts “To the glorious memory of members of this university who fell in the Great War, 1914 – 1918. Take these men for your ensamples. Like them remember that prosperity can be only for the free, that freedom is the sure possession of those who have the courage to defend it.”1
The centre arch is topped with the U of T crest. The third arch says “ΑΠΟΘΑΝΩΝ ΕΤΙΛΑΛΕΙ2 … And so they passed over and all the trumpets sounded for them on the other side.3 … Justorum animae in manu Dei.”4 On the right end, “Nothing is here for tears, nothing to wail or knock the breast; no weakness, no contempt, dispraise, or blame; nothing but well and fair and what may quiet us in a death so noble.”5
The units represent the range of battalions, corps and services in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, including the Canadian Medical Army Corps (the university had provided an overseas base hospital). Members of the university community also served in the armies of Britain, France and US. Only one woman amongst them: Nursing Sister Lily Denton Keys died of pneumonia while serving in an Ottawa convalescent hospital.
The names and circumstances of those who died and those who served were published in the University of Toronto Roll of Service, published in 1921. The memorial screen was designed by the Toronto architectural firm of Sproatt and Rolph, along with the Soldiers’ Tower.
1 Pericles, Funeral Oration.
2 Hebrews 11:4. Translation: Although he died, he continues to speak.
3 John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress.
4 Wisdom 3:1. Translation: The souls of the righteous are in the hands of God.
5 John Milton, Samson Agonistes.