Remembrance Day Address
November 11, 2009

Patrons and Builders, Dr. Everson, Governors and Trustees, Mr. Steel, Mrs. Ormond, alumni, faculty and staff, students, friends of the College:  Good morning everyone and welcome.  As we gather to honour Canada’s war dead, we remember the Fallen -47 Old Boys who lost their lives in the two world wars.  We are indebted to them and to all who have served in defense of our country and its noble ideals.  We also acknowledge the many Canadians currently serving overseas, particularly our troops in Afghanistan, where 133 Canadians have died since that mission began.

We are privileged, this morning, to be joined by a number of Old Boys and Old Girls, representing what historians have labeled “Canada’s most heroic generation.” Growing up during the Great Depression, they went on to serve, both at home and abroad, during the Second World War.

Since a number of our alumni guests are related to the Fallen, their presence reminds us that those who died were not just names or numbers.  They were living and breathing human beings who are still missed by their loved ones.  The words of the Reflection in the College Hymn Book come to mind:    

Voices of the Past,
Links of a Broken Chain,
Wings that bear us back to Times
That cannot come again.
Yet God forbid that we should lose
The Echoes that remain.

The stories of our alumni who served in the two world wars are both heartbreaking and inspiring.  They enlisted in disproportionately high numbers and participated in all of the key battles.

During World War I, for example, along with several teachers, close to 300 of our Old Boys enlisted in the armed forces.  Forty-five received Decorations, including the prestigious Military Cross.  Eighty were wounded, and 35 lost their lives, including three pairs of brothers.

Our Old Boys were at Ypres in 1915 when the Germans first used chlorine gas. Even as the cloud of gas drifted over their trenches, the Canadians held their positions.  Within 48 hours, however, a third of them was killed, including Francis Malloch Gibson, a much-loved Old Boy who was described as a “model of kindness, good behaviour and efficiency—a true Canadian officer and a good soldier.”

Two years later, in the Spring of 1917, our Old Boys helped to turn the tide at Vimy Ridge where the Canadians secured the extraordinary victory that had evaded other Allied troops.  But the price they paid was a heavy one—10,000 casualties in six days!  Among the dead were Old Boys Charles Campbell Gwyn, Charles Burnaby Tinling and Victor Gordon Tupper.  On the eve of the great battle that would take his life, Tupper wrote to his father: “I know what I am up against and that the odds are against me… I am proud to be where I am now.”

Similarly, during the Second World War, hundreds of our alumni served King and country, including the Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Army Overseas, General Harry Crerar.  Our Old Boys served proudly in the Royal Canadian Navy, and our first wartime casualty was Fred Ker whose ship went down somewhere in the north Atlantic. In 1940, as pilots in Fighter Command, Our Old Boys helped to defend Britain against the Luftwaffe’s bombing raids.  In 1942, they participated in the ill-fated raid on Dieppe.  Almost 5,000 Canadians being killed or taken prisoner, including two of our Old Boys, John Currie and George Harvey, who ended up in a German prisoner of war camp.  

A year later, our Old Boys participated in the conquest of Sicily, helping to defeat the Nazis in Italy, despite fierce resistance, at places such as Ortona and Rimini.  On June 6, 1944, along with thousands of other Canadians, they were there when the Allied forces landed on the coast of Normandy.  Fourteen thousand Canadians participated in the heroic landing at Juno Beach.  Sadly, 359 of them lost their lives, including Old Boy Major Douglas Young who was killed when his landing craft was hit by a shell.   

Most of us will never have to risk our lives in battle.  We live in different times; our lives have been shaped by different circumstances.  Nevertheless, we have much to learn from the Fallen.  Just as they were called upon to serve in the crucible of war, we have a responsibility to serve in our own time and in our own way.  In doing so, we must strive to make the most of our God-given talents and to do whatever we can to help make the world a better place.  That is our Vision.

On this day, we remember all who have served or are serving their country, particularly the Fallen, our 47 Old Boys who did not return home.  Our sacred trust is to ensure that their names be not forgotten.




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