There’s so much beautiful Victorian and Edwardian architecture on the University of Toronto campus that it’s really easy to overlook this Great War Memorial. What at first glance appears to be a decorative border along the top begins with the numerals 1914 and the word Ypres, and is followed by other place names of the battles fought by Canadians in France during the “War to End All Wars.”
In 2010 prospective students tour the U of T campus concerned with the problems of the 21st Century.
The Great War was a long time ago. Yet if we look inside the memorial, we can see the names of the 628 young men educated at this university who lost their lives in the trenches of Europe and were buried in Flanders Fields.
A doctor educated at the University of Toronto wrote the most famous poem of the Great War, so it is no surprise to find the poem carved into the left side wall.
The 45 year old Dr. John McCrae died of of pneumonia in January of 1918, “over there,” so he didn’t live to see the ceasefire that marked the end of hostilities on 11 a.m. on 11 November 1918.
The war to end all wars clearly did not.
You’d think we would have learned something from it. Instead, Canadians are today serving and dying in a war not so romantic as Dr. McCrae’s Great War, but every bit as deadly.
Canada’s mission in Afghanistan is winding down and so far in 2010, 14 Canadians have died in action
In Flanders fields, the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands, we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
John McCrae B.A. 1894 M.B. 1898