“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.”
— Laurence Binyon, 1939
These moving words from more than 80 years ago echoed in minds and hearts on the morning of November 11, as students from the Prep and Upper School joined Principal Sam McKinney and Old Boys from the Armed Forces in honouring those who served and those who continue to do so today.
Viewed by members of the community including many alumni living across the globe, the commemoration video began with a rendition of O Canada by Jeremy ’25 and Henry ’21 reading the land acknowledgement.
The ceremony turned to a meditation on loss, sacrifice and remembrance, as the principal stood at the grave of UCC’s first fallen Old Boy from the Great War. C.G. Gordon MacKenzie from the Class of 1907 was a member of the Royal Scots Fusiliers, and died on October 29, 1914. The First World War saw approximately 1,100 alumni, staff and faculty enlist, and 179 losing their lives in the conflict.
“Service and sacrifice have long been values important to all of us,” Principal McKinney said. “Remembrance Day provides the community an opportunity to join together and honour our history and the generosity of spirit and courage that helped create hope in some of our darkest hours.”
While pointing out the Upper School’s war memorial tablets, McKinney noted that they are “a constant reminder of service, courage and hope which lives on today in all we do at the College," urging everyone to “build on our past and create a better future for all of us.”
A musical elegy followed, played on the violin and cello by Ian ’21 and Eugene ’23.
Veteran Fraser McKee ’43 offered a personal remembrance of a fallen naval comrade from the Second World War, a young man “with the same age and ambitions,” killed when his ship was sunk. McKee considers himself “fortunate that I can remember someone special.”
Prep School students paid tribute to those who served, reading poems of war and remembrance, including Nameless Men by Edward Shillito and Anthem for Doomed Youth by Wilfred Owen. Photos of soldiers, standing proudly in uniform or in the midst of combat, along with war-related artwork, formed an affecting backdrop.
Greg Burton ’77, a retired Lieutenant Colonel in Princess Patricia’s Light Infantry offered four lessons to take from war, including the necessity of not becoming complacent.
At various locations across campus, Upper School students recited lines from the renowned Canadian poem of remembrance, In Flanders Fields, by John McCrae, interspersed with biographies and photos of individuals who died serving Canada.
Capt. Trevor Young ’02 of the Canadian Forces reserve noted that remembering those who gave the “ultimate sacrifice” is also “a source of optimism...When called to serve for a cause bigger than themselves, young Canadians will answer that call.”
A moment of silence followed. Then the notes of the "Last Post" rang out, allowing the dead to rest in peace. Students placed wreaths on the athletic field as a bagpiper played and the ceremony closed with the words,
“Even in the darkest of times there is light
And where there is light, there is hope.”