BET U DIDNT KNOW: SOLDIERS’ TOWER
Soldiers’ Tower is a memorial to the men and women from the University of Toronto who gave up their lives for Canada. It is located on the south end of Tower Road, north-east of King’s College Road.
Note: This post is the second part of a two-part series on Remembrance Day at the University of Toronto. Click here to read part 1.
The University of Toronto played an important role during both World Wars, and this memorial honors those who enlisted in the war, and those who lost their lives. Here are some interesting things about Soldiers’ Tower:
1185 people lost their lives
In the 1914-1918 time period, 628 members of the University of Toronto community lost their lives while on active duty. And From 1939 to 1945, 557 more men and women from the University of Toronto community gave up their lives during the Second World War.
Soldiers’s Tower is old and tall
The tower was build in 1923-1924 and stands at 143 feet. It cost $252,500, but a total of $397,141 was raised by the University of Toronto Alumni Association, which is still the “keeper” of the tower to this day. The remaining funds generate interest which help with the upkeep of the tower and scholarships for children of the veterans.
The names of the fallen are written in stone
On the Memorial Screen, you can read the ranks and names of those lost in the First World War. And on the archway, you can read the names of those who lost their lives in the Second World War. If you go into the Memorial Room in the tower, you will find a Book of Service which lists biographies of these individuals.
The Memorial Room is a unique museum
The Memorial Room is basically a one-room museum on the second floor of the tower. It has a lovely collection of portraits, medals, plaques, and other memorabilia of the students, staff, and alumni who participated in the two World Wars.
The stained glass tells a story
In the Memorial Room, a massive stained glass window tells the story of Canada’s role in the wars. According to the Soldiers’ Tower Committee:“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.”
Flanders Fields has a U of T connection
In Flanders Fields was written by Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae who graduated from University College and the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto. While serving in the Canadian Army’s Medical Corps during the Great War in 1915, he composed this poem that has become synonymous with remembering our veterans. The Memorial Room at Soldiers’ Tower has a portrait of John McCrae, in addition to “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.”
The bells of the carillon are still played
On top of the tower, the carillon is still played. “Soldiers’ Tower Carillon is the only university carillon in Canada. Its 51 bells, which range in weight from four tons (the Bourdon) to 23 pounds, are hung on a four-tier frame in the top level of the tower.” (UTAA)
This is a very brief look into the Soldiers Tower. It not only houses an amazing collection of memories, it is a visually stunning structure that asks you to stop for a moment and think about the sacrifices that were made by our veterans. If you are ever in the area of U of T, I really recommend that you take a few hours out to spend at Soldiers Tower, sign the guest book, and remember.