March 15, 1827, King's College - the precursor to the University of
Toronto - was granted its royal charter by King George IV. Throughout
2002, U of T celebrated 175 years of Great Minds. As part of the
celebration, the U of T website featured excerpts from The
University of Toronto: A History, written by Martin Friedland, University
Professor and Professor Emeritus of Law at U of T.
4, 1914, the Great War began. President Robert Falconer was still
on a visit to Europe. When he and his wife finally were able to find
passage back to Canada in early September, he was interviewed by a Globe
reporter. "There was not even a whisper of war," he stated,
"everything seemed to be going on in a normal way, even in Hamburg."
of war may have caught Falconer by surprise, but the potential for war
clearly had been there. In his inaugural address in 1907, for example,
Falconer had warned that there were "here and there symptoms that
may cause the patriot to fear lest not many hours of our day will have
passed before heavy clouds gather." The storm had now burst.
"This is the greatest
of moral struggles," he said. "Are there to be democracies ... or
will force tower arrogantly above freedom and enslave intellect?"
opening address to the student body in September 1914 described the
conflict in moral terms. "This is the greatest of moral struggles,"
he said. "Are there to be democracies ... or will force tower arrogantly
above freedom and enslave intellect? The struggle," he went on,
"had to come. It is well to have it decided one way or other finally,
for our own sakes and for our children's." Growing numbers of students
enlisted. Even before Falconer had returned to Canada, about 250 Toronto
graduates and undergraduates had left for England.
University of Toronto person to die in combat was the Trinity student
R.E. Mackenzie Richards, who was killed near Ypres, in France, on November
13, 1914. By the spring of 1915, nearly 500 undergraduates, 700 graduates,
and 70 faculty members were on active service. In February 1915, a special
convocation was held to grant degrees to nearly 50 of those students
who were about to leave for overseas.
Innis, top left, later a professor of political economy, was wounded
at Vimy Ridge. Frank Underhill, middle, later a professor of history,
was wounded on the Somme front. Norman Bethune, top right, who had enlisted
in 1914, part way through medical school, was wounded and returned to
Canada, and graduated in 1916. John McCrae, bottom left, the author
of 'In Flanders Fields,' died on active service in 1918. Thain MacDowell,
bottom right, won a Victoria Cross for his actions in capturing two
German machine guns.
who did not at first join the active force joined the Canadian Officers
Training Corps (COTC), which had been started at the University just
after the war began. On October 21, shortly after Ottawa's official
recognition of the University of Toronto's contingent, classes were
cancelled to allow students to hear an appeal from President Falconer
for recruits for the COTC. Within twenty-four hours, more than 500 students
had enrolled in the corps, and by early December, 1,800 men were drilling
under the overall command of Professor W.R. Lang, the head of chemistry.
McLennan's official pass for work with the British Admiralty in
1918. McLennan and others from the physics department were particularly
active in aiding the war effort.
and laboratories ended every afternoon at 4 o'clock to permit their
attendance. One participant recalls marching through vacant farm land
north of St Clair Avenue. Later, they drilled in the incomplete Great
Hall of Hart House and used the unfinished theatre as a rifle range.
Sets resembling a ruined Belgian village, painted by Lieutenant Lawren
Harris (later of the Group of Seven), were used on the range.
Camel aircraft in front of University College, 1918.