York remembers those who put the greater good ahead of their own

As a bitterly cold November wind blew, more than 200 members of the York community gathered at the flagpole on the Harry Arthurs Common to participate in the University’s Remembrance Day service on Tuesday.

Above: Members of the York community, young and old, gather at the flagpole in the Harry Arthurs Common to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the end of the First World War as part of Remembrance Day 2008 ceremonies on the Keele campus

This year’s memorial service marked the 90th anniversary of the end of the First World War. Those who attended were led in a procession from the Vari Hall Rotunda to the flagpole by Ian MacDonald, a pipe major with the Toronto Police Pipe Band. Accompanying the procession were members of the 32 Canadian Brigade Group and guests from Land Forces Central Area.

The Canadian flag, set at half-mast, billowed in the chilly wind. Robert Tiffin, York vice-president students, delivered the opening address. “This morning we reflect on the high price of peace and freedom. We remember the men and women who have served their country during times of war, and especially those who have lost their lives,” said Tiffin. “This year we recognize the 90th anniversary of the end of the First World War, an epic struggle that involved virtually the entire nation and made enormous demands on all Canadians.

“Canadians fought to the very end of the First World War and they fought in many wars ever since,” said Tiffin. “Canadian Private George Price was the last battle fatality of the First World War; he was shot by a German sniper and died at 10:58am, just minutes before the armistice was declared."

Right: Robert Tiffin

"Our soldiers continue to fight to this day, hoping to bring peace and stability to the world," said Tiffin. "And so today we remember those who have served and those who fulfilled their duty, those who put the greater good ahead of their own and together we honour their memory.” 

York Professor Emeritus Albert Tucker, a veteran of the Second World War, recited Siegfired Sassoon’s poem “The Death-Bed”, and Lieutenant-Colonel Walter Perchal, former commanding officer of the Royal Regiment of Canada and a faculty member in the Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies, read the classic poem “High Flight” by Officer John G. Magee Jr.

“Canada has a strong and proud military tradition; certainly among that tradition are the members of the York community who are currently in its service,” said Perchal. “This week on Nov. 11, we remember all of our veterans’ sacrifices past and present and we reflect on the meaning of this service. One way to show remembrance and respect is to wear a poppy and we thank you for doing so. We are grateful that you have attended this ceremony at York University today."

Left: Walter Perchal

Perchal urged those in attendance to learn more about the Canadian experience by talking to veterans and asking to hear their stories. “Their stories are certainly well-worth hearing and are part of the history of this country,” said Perchal. He also outlined a new online initiative, Write to the Troops, that connects Canadians at home with Canadian troops serving overseas. "These soldiers are risking their lives for the same principles as those who lived before them. As our troops walk the hostile ground in foreign countries, they should know that Canadians walk with them," said Perchal. "Our veterans gave up their youth and so many gave up their lives. They fought for liberty and democracy. At this moment, on the 11th hour of the 11th day, we pause to remember and reflect upon their tremendous sacrifices. Let us not forget."

Perchal then read the "Act of Remembrance". Bugler Randall Pilson (BFA Spec. Hons. ’02) performed The Last Post. It was followed by two minutes of silence and then Pilson performed Reveille, and Lament was played by MacDonald.

Right: York community members laid wreaths of remembrance at the base of the flagpole

Wreaths of remembrance were laid at the flagpole by Robert Coutts, chair of york is U, on behalf of York students; Master Coporal Ricoh Kambo and Comrade Ed Wilson, a veteran, on behalf of the Canadian Military; Tucker on behalf of York University; and James Allan, director of Alumni, on behalf of York Alumni.

Student vocalists Laura Kelly, Hillary Coote and Jessica Scarlato, from the Department of Music, Faculty of Fine Arts sang O Canada, In Flanders Fields and God Save the Queen.

Following the ceremony, those in attendance were invited to the McLaughlin College Senior Common Room for a light lunch and a talk about the meaning of Remembrance Day.

By Jenny Pitt-Clark, YFile editor