A simple silver chalice is inscribed with the names of 18 U of T members who died during the First World War. The men served with the 67th Battery Canadian Field Artillery of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, organized at the university in 1916. The battery was the first U of T corps sent overseas to serve as drafts at Vimy Ridge and Passchendaele (856 battery members eventually served overseas).
After the war, a number of the survivors formed an association so that the members of the 67th could keep in touch with one another – which they did for the remainder of their lives. Lunches and dinners were held regularly at Hart House.
The association also purchased a small cottage, christened Château de la Haie, on Sturgeon Lake, north of Peterborough, Ont. Here, after raising the Canadian flag and firing shells from a captured German howitzer over the water, they would begin their annual meetings. Forming a circle, the gathered members would fill the chalice with red wine, and, starting with the secretary, each man would hold the vessel aloft, read out loud an inscribed name and offer a toast to his fallen comrade. The chalice was then passed to the next man in the circle and this solemn ritual repeated until all 18 men killed in action had been saluted.
“The annual meetings were very emotional,” says Major Roy Oglesby (MA 1948), founding member of the Soldiers’ Tower Committee and curator of the Soldiers’ Tower Memorial Room museum. “Members came from as far away as British Columbia and Nova Scotia.”
After many vets died, the chateau was sold and the war memorabilia housed there were boxed up for the Soldiers’ Tower museum. This is where you can see the chalice today.
The Soldiers’ Tower Memorial Room is open weekdays from 1 to 3 p.m. on the first week of every month.
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