The Hall of Remembrance has been created to memorialize and remember those U of T student-soldiers who fought and died in the World Wars. All of the information displayed on this page has been compiled using the Canadian Virtual War Memorial and from the records graciously provided to us by the Soldiers’ Tower Committee. The information is accurate to the best of our ability. We hope to continue revising and contributing to this record, which currently consists of over 1000 student-soldiers who lost their lives in the World Wars. If you have photographs, contributions, or revisions, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
In compiling the Hall of Remembrance, we were struck by the harsh reality of war and its inherent arbitrariness. The WW1 record for U of T student-soldiers was compiled by The Varsity, U of T’s student newspaper, during the era of the Great War. Its mere existence points to the respect and sense of sacrifice granted these young men (and a few women). Each student-soldier is memorialized with a photograph, a biography of their time at U of T, and details of their service, including cause of death. We were surprised to discover that there was no comparable book created for the WW2 soldiers during or shortly after the war. In fact, a memorial book was not created for the WW2 soldiers until the 2000s, and though it is a valuable resource, it lacks photographs and biographies and is limited to the student-soldier’s college and military details. In our opinion, this is reflective of the difference in attitudes that accompanied each war; reverence and even excitement during WW1, and exhaustion during WW2. Even without examining the content of these resources, their creation – or delay in creation, in the case of the WW2 Memorial Book – reflects important historical nuances.
Furthermore, we found that even in the WW1 Roll of Honour, the repetitive nature of the descriptions of cause of death for each student-soldier are reflective of the numbness with which individuals during the era developed towards the terrible loss of life during the war. Indeed, we found it both disturbing and numbing to read of each soldier’s cause of death, ranging from “killed by machine gun” to “killed by shell” to “killed in accident.” Notably, this detail is omitted from the WW2 Memorial Book.
The Hall of Remembrance is a project primarily focused on empathy: by memorializing each student-soldier – over 1000 of them – we are working to humanize the cost of war. When one understands how great the loss of a student-soldier like Melvin Oliver is, one is better able to comprehend the overwhelming loss of thousands of Melvin Oliver’s, and thereby to better comprehend the reality of war. We hope that our online format will make the stories of these soldiers more accessible to all, and ensure that they are not forgotten.