Long-lost names added to U of S war memorial

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August 6, 2014 - 5:09pm Updated: August 7, 2014 - 4:43pm
Original Roll of Honour at the Peter MacKinnon building. Bre McAdam/News Talk Radio
Original Roll of Honour at the Peter MacKinnon building. Bre McAdam/News Talk Radio

A First World War memorial that lines the halls of the University of Saskatchewan’s oldest building is getting a long-overdue addition.

Retired history professor Bill Waiser said during the war, the university’s board of governors decided to recognize every student, faculty and staff member who contributed.

Fortunately, the first two floors of the Peter MacKinnon building had the walls lined with decorative ribbons, so names were added to the ribbons to create the Roll of Honor.

“The irony is that there was space on the ribbons to put these names – so when you go there today you have 298 names inscribed in ribbons on the first and second floor it’s quite an honor,” Waiser said. “Even the name of a future Prime Minister appears on one of those ribbons – John Diefenbaker who was a law student at the U of S and served in the Great War and went on to be the PM of Canada.”

But after extensive research and fact-checking, Waiser said another retired faculty member realized the Roll of Honor was missing a few names.

“We found another 18 names of former students and staff that had some role in the Great War so we are unveiling a new plaque to recognize those individuals – they too deserve to be honored in the University’s first building – a second plaque will have an explanation about the names on the wall,” Waiser said.

The 18 men were added to the memorial during a ceremony Thursday at the Peter McKinnon building. Dr. Michael Hayden, a retired history professor, discovered the forgotten names 10 years ago while he was researching the 332 other people who were originally part of the school's memorial. He said he's happy those people have now been recognized during the Great War's centennial anniversary.

Hayden believes one of the men--Louis Brehaut--was left off because he had a nervous breakdown.

"Somebody who the war affected mentally, and in those days it was shameful. So I'm particularly happy to see Louis Brehaut there," he said.

With surnames such as Stewart, McIntosh and McKenzie, Waiser said most of the missed names are Anglo-Canadian.

“And that makes sense because most of the people enlisted to fight in the Great War were recent immigrants from Great Britain and they saw this as a chance to fight for the honor of Great Britain and also get a trip home to see relatives because they would have gone from Canada to Great Britain before seeing action on the Western front,” Waiser said.

Expressing his pride for Canada, Waiser added the Roll of Honor holds a special place in the university’s history, and remembering Canadian soldiers 100 years after the Great War is something all Canadians should pay close attention too.

“This is very special, the Great War was an event that changed Canada – the Canada soldiers went to save in 1914 was not the Canada that soldiers returned home to in 1918 – it was a defining event in our history and world history which makes the centennial of the war so significant.”

- with files from News Talk Radio's Francois Biber and Bre McAdam

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