War on Campus

The “We Remember You” message around the cenotaph at RMC-St. Jean Sur Richelieu

Three semi-random bits of information have converged to spawn the thinkythoughts for this post:

Item the first:  I went to Cardinal Newman Catholic High School in Hamilton. A few weeks ago, John Henry Cardinal Newman was canonized at the Vatican. As I was reading some of the press about (now Saint) John Henry Newman on the Vatican newsfeeds, I realized how little I knew about him when I was there.

Item the second: A friend of mine has kids in William G Davis public school in Cambridge. During the summer, she happened upon the William G Davis trail on Toronto’s East Island. She walked it because she knew the name. Maybe it was just a fun happenstance that she saw the name of the trail  and recognized it. Maybe she was planning to walk the trail-of-unknown-name on Toronto Island either way. I pass by the school weekly-ish, and have for 8 years, but until I was writing this, I didn’t know he was a premier. Surprise!

Item the third: A recent-ish edition of the Queen’s Alumni Review was talking about the brand-new Richardson Stadium (where the Queen’s University Golden Gaels football team plays). This is the third iteration of George Taylor Richardson Memorial Stadium.

So random, right? These three data points made me think about how little I knew about most of the named bridges and elementary schools and auditoriums and memorial parkways and assorted other public buildings and infrastructure.  And it’s this last thing, Richardson Stadium, that brings us to the actual Remembrance season reflection.

Richardson Stadium is named after a Queen’s graduate (as one would expect). There are lots of buildings on campus named for past deans and chancellors. The difference here is that George Taylor Richardson was not a dean or a chancellor. And he died in WW1. That’s the part I didn’t now. I didn’t know he was a war casualty. This fact took me back to an issue of the Alumni Review (Issue 2, 2018 – The War and Peace edition).

Aaaand, I was in the rabbit hole.

Along the way I found out that there was a Canadian Universities Unit (CUU) in World War 1, consisting of students from several universities, Queens and McGill in the very least. But there were certainly students from many universities. They became part of the 38th battalion, which was part of the 3rd contingent of the Canadian Expeditionary Force in WW1.

The compulsion to serve wasn’t limited only to those. The University of Toronto sent 6000 men and women into WW1 and over 10,000 into WW2. University of Saskatchewan sent 345, almost half of which were wounded or killed. Dalhousie sent 600 to WW1.

Even in Canada, Universities were used for training and convalescence. The University of Toronto has an excellent gallery of then-and-now merged pictures that’s very moving. Dalhousie University hosted the 7th (Dalhousie) Stationary field hospital. Grant Hall and Kingston Hall at Queens became military hospital, and the school of nursing was established at Queens, partly as a response to the need for medical assistance. McGill also houses the Canadian War Poster Collection at the McGill Library Digital Collections.

Then, the sad need to memorialize those killed in action. There’s a memorial window at the Royal Military College, and the campus cenotaph, of course, but that’s a military school. Cadet Officers who train and graduate from RMC are already military members and they are already committed to service. But how have other schools done it?

Once you start looking, it’s amazing to me what’s hiding in plain sight.

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