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Alumni: Giving U of T more reasons to be proud

 

Soldiers' Tower Committee Information


Photography: Robert McIntyre

REMEMBRANCE DAY

The annual Service of Remembrance, when the university community gathers to remember the faculty, staff, alumni and students who fell in the First and Second World Wars and other action, will take place at the foot of Soldiers' Tower on November 11, 2013 from 10:20 am to 11 am.

The service includes the recitation of the poem In Flanders Fields, written by UC alumnus John McCrae, the singing of traditional hymns, readings, laying of wreaths, The Last Post, The Lament, Reveille, and the Royal and National Anthems. A reception in the Great Hall of Hart House follows the service, and the Memorial Room museum in Soldiers' Tower is open for visitors.

If you have questions about Remembrance Day at Soldiers' Tower, contact Kathy Parks at 416-978-3485 or soldiers.tower@utoronto.ca 

Chris Miller (BASc 1948), a U of T graduate and veteran, shares some personal reminiscences about the generation that grew up fast. Read his story here.

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Remembrance Day 2009. Image:  G. Toledo
Remembrance Day 2009. Image: G. Toledo

THE SOLDIERS' TOWER

Situated at the western end of Hart House and standing 143 feet tall, the Soldiers' Tower is a world-renowned memorial to the 628 members of the University of Toronto who gave their lives while on active service in 1914-1918 and to the 557 men and women lost from 1939 to 1945. It was built in 1923-24 using $397,141 raised by the University of Toronto Alumni Association (UTAA) to build a War Memorial and establish scholarships in memory of those students, faculty, staff and alumni who served in the Great War. The initial cost of the Tower and Memorial Screen, the clock and the carillon was $252,500. The interest on the surplus is still in use today for War Memorial Scholarships and for tower expenses. Carved in stone on the Memorial Screen are the ranks, names and units of those lost to the university in the First World War. The two walls of the archway record the service of the men and women lost in the Second World War.

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MEMORIAL ROOM

The Memorial Room, located on the second level of the tower, is reached through a doorway east of the tower. On display are portraits, photographs, medals, memorial books, plaques, flags and mementoes of the wartime service of students, staff and alumni. On entering The Memorial Room, one is struck by the great stained glass window commissioned for the Soldiers' Tower and dedicated on November 6, 1995. Designed and installed by The Russell C. Goodman Stained Glass Studios, of Parry Sound, its symbolism is based, in part, on John McCrae's poem In Flanders Fields. They blended the finest hand-blown antique glass with the highest-quality craftsmanship. The Victory Torch in the centre stands for the attainment of peace and of hope. The maple leaf, rising above, represents the emergence of Canada as a nation devoted to freedom, understanding and world peace. The poppies at the foot of the crosses invoke remembrance. The four lower panels depict the men and women of the services: a sailor, a soldier, an airman, and a nursing sister representing the women of all three services.

Portraits of some illustrious graduates of this university are on display: Lt.-Col. John McCrae, who wrote In Flanders Fields; Major Thain MacDowell, VC, DSO, who earned the Victoria Cross in the battle of Vimy Ridge; Major Fred Tilston, VC, awarded the Victoria Cross for his efforts in Hochwald Forest (Germany), 1945; and Sir Frederick Banting, a pioneering researcher in the discovery and development of insulin, who lost his life in an air crash while in the armed services during World War II. Resting on a metal pedestal in the centre of the Memorial Room is the University of Toronto Roll of Service 1914-1918 and the Memorial Book for 1939-1945, which list those who perished in service to their country. The 1914-1918 Roll of Service also contains records of those who returned safely. It contains more than 6,000 names.

One display case houses an extensive collection of decorations and medals from the Fenian raids to the latest Canadian Medals, including personal sets donated by alumni. There are other portraits, photographs, mementoes and memorial plaques. One of the latter lists the 31 ships of the Royal Canadian Navy lost in World War II; another commemorates the 67th (Varsity) Battery. The King's Colour of the 2nd Canadian Pioneer Battalion is displayed in a specially designed case. Normally such colours are laid up in a church or cathedral, but this battalion of the First World War presented its King's Colour to the university because the majority of its officers were graduates of the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering.

High in the room hang the Union Jack, the Canadian flag, the United Nations flag and the ensigns of the Royal Canadian Navy, the Canadian Army, and the Royal Canadian Air Force. Higher still, inscriptions on the stone walls list the number and dedication of the bells of the carillon. The Soldiers' Tower Committee of the UTAA is responsible for the displays in the Memorial Room. Members of this committee volunteer to open the Memorial Room for a few hours on Remembrance Day, U of T Day and Spring Reunion weekend, as well as on weekdays of the first full week of each month from September to June and on special occasions.

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THE CARILLON

Click here to view a website dedicated to the Soldiers' Tower Carillon, which includes photographs, music downloads and news of upcoming concerts.

The Soldiers' Tower Carillon was dedicated on October 6, 1927. Originally there were 23 bells, the minimum number for a carillon. Additional bells were donated in memory of the members of the university who fell in the Second World War. The playing clavier and practice console are in the Clock Room on the tower's third level. The Soldiers' Tower Carillon is played on special occasions such as Convocations, Remembrance Day, Spring Reunion and U of T Day, and occasionally when special recitals are arranged. The best places to listen to it are Hart House Circle lawn, the back campus, and the Hart House and University College quadrangles. Following many recitals, the carillon is open for public viewing and a demonstration. Meet at the base of the tower and prepare to climb a spiral staircase of 111 steps. 

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SOLDIERS' TOWER COMMITTEE

The Soldiers' Tower Committee of the University of Toronto Alumni Association, in conjunction with the university, administers and funds various aspects of Soldiers' Tower. Among its accomplishments is the establishment of the small museum in the Memorial Room on the second level of the tower, which includes a collection of medals, many pictures and the great memorial stained glass window.

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CONTACT US

To contact the Soldiers' Tower Committee, contact Kathy Parks, Administrator, Soldiers' Tower Committee, 416-978-3485 or soldiers.tower@utoronto.ca. Alternatively, leave a message on the Alumni Hotline at 416-978-0424 or 1-888-738-8876.

Information on the hours the Memorial Room is open and when the carillon is being played during any given week can usually be obtained at the Hart House Hall Porter's desk, 416-978-2452 or inquiries@harthouse.ca.

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WEBSITES OF INTEREST

The links below will take you away from the Soldiers' Tower Committee page. To return, simply use your browser's Back button or bookmark this page before leaving it.

Campaign to Preserve the Soldiers' Tower
Over the years, the elements have taken their toll on the Soldiers' Tower and it is now in great need of maintenance and improvements. The university is seeking to restore the tower to its former glory.

Books of Remembrance
View the names of Canadians who fought in wars and died either during or after them, from the books kept in the Memorial Chamber of the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Including the Debt of Honour Register

Memorial Wall of Names Foundation
To create a national memorial for Canada's fallen

The Memory Project

A multi-year campaign by the Dominion Institute to tell the stories of Canadian veterans via the Internet

In Flanders Fields
The poem immortalized by John McCrae — physician, soldier, poet and U of T graduate

The Royal Canadian Legion
Details on the national ceremony, children's posters, a history of the poppy, and more

Veterans Affairs Canada
Promoting the health and well-being of Canadian veterans, and working to connect the generations

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PREVIOUS EVENTS

D-DAY 2009

The Government of Ontario and City of Toronto commemorated the 65th Anniversary of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy with a parade and ceremony in and around the legislative building. The University campus grounds were used for the staging of participants. The Memorial Room in the Soldiers' Tower was open to the public, and was staffed by volunteer members of the Soldiers' Tower Committee. View our photos.

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