Remembrance Day 2014: Centenary event featured Honorary Call to Bar

Posted: 11/11/2014

WWI image of soldiers

Troop Drill, Stanley Barracks, 1918. City of Toronto Archives

Between 1914-18, hundreds of young men aspiring to join Ontario’s growing legal profession put their studies on hold to serve their country in what was then called the “Great War.”

Most returned from the trenches of the First World War, were called to the Bar of Ontario and became lawyers. Others were not as fortunate.

Each year, as the names of lawyers and law students who perished during the war are read aloud at the Law Society’s annual Remembrance Day ceremony, the students’ names are followed by the words, “never called.”

That changed on Nov. 10 when the Law Society held an honorary Call to the Bar for this group of students as part of a special Remembrance Day ceremony to commemorate the Centenary of the outset of the First World War.

“Throughout history, we’ve seen that war is often an outcome when political leaders fail to uphold the supremacy of the rule of law,” said Law Society Treasurer Janet E. Minor, before the ceremony.

“Our annual Remembrance Day service helps people realize and appreciate the hardships and losses of war — and this year’s Honorary Call will highlight and acknowledge the sacrifice made by the young law students who volunteered to serve their country during World War I and lost their lives at the threshold of joining the profession.”

Inspired by annual event

The Honorary Call ceremony was the brainchild of Toronto lawyer Patrick Shea, who became inspired after attending Remembrance Day ceremonies at Osgoode Hall.

“I thought we should do something in tandem with the 100th anniversary of World War I, by providing these men and their families with what the fates denied them almost a century ago,” he explained.

A former Reserve Officer in the Canadian Armed Forces and a partner at Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP, Shea proposed the idea to former Treasurer Thomas Conway in 2013. It was accepted and the ‘Great War Law Student Memorial Project’ was launched.

Shea spent almost two years scouring through archives in Toronto and Ottawa to find out more about the fallen students so he could create detailed biographies, complete with photos.

Through his exhaustive research, he was successful in locating several family members of the soldiers; they provided additional details.

The compiled bios were published prior to the November 10th ceremony.

Soldiers to be remembered on social media

To further pay tribute to the 59 soldiers, the Law Society tweeted their names all day on Remembrance Day, November 11, 2014. Join the online ceremony at http://twitter.com/lawsocietylsuc

Incredible loss

Before last night’s ceremony, Shea wondered what Ontario’s legal profession would have been like if these young men had survived and returned to become lawyers.

“There is so much lost youth,” he said. “And there are so many interesting stories. They came from all walks of life, from throughout the province and served in a variety of roles and ranks.”

Shea pointed out that in 1914, anyone interested in becoming a lawyer needed to serve as a clerk under a practising lawyer for three or five years, depending on their education (three years for university graduates and five years for high school graduates).

They also were required to attend lectures at Osgoode Hall for three years, pass the necessary examinations and pay the required fees.

The minimum age to seek admittance to law school was 16, while the minimum age to be called to the Bar was 21.

Shea’s research showed that the majority of fallen students were between 20 and 25 years old.

“They didn’t have to volunteer to serve, but they did,” he said.

Family members participated

Family members of the law students attended the November 10th ceremony and each received an honorary Call to the Bar certificate bearing the name of their fallen relative.

They also received a commemorative copy of Shea’s book of biographies, They Grow Not Old.

“It was an opportunity for the families of the fallen to sit together, compare stories and learn more about their lost relatives 100 years later,” Shea explained.

Photos from the ceremony are available here.

The names of the 59 fallen soldiers called to the Bar are as follows:

Private Thomas William Edward Allen
Lieutenant William Kay Anderson
Lieutenant William Douglas Bell
Lieutenant Roy Warren Biggar
Captain Gerald Edward Blake
First Lieutenant Harold Staples Brewster
Captain Stanley Howson Brocklebank, MC
Private Walter Everard Alway Brown
Major Jeffrey Harper Bull, DSO
Lieutenant Lawrence Code
Lieutenant Bryce Thomas Davidson
Gunner Grant Douglas
Second Lieutenant Guy Peirce Dunstan
Private George Clemens Ellis
Cadet Alman Minor Froom
Captain Hal Charles Fryer, MC
Second Lieutenant William Miller Geggie
Lieutenant Francis Malloch Gibson
Lieutenant Ambrose Harold Goodman
Second Lieutenant Thomas Gordon
Captain Oswald Wetherald Grant, MC
Second Lieutenant Robert G. Hamilton
Lieutenant William Neil Hanna
Sargeant Henry Stuart Hayes, MM
Lieutenant Bernard Stanley Heath, MC
Major Hugh Ethelred McCarthy Ince
Private William Adam Irving
Lieutenant Ernest R. Kappele
Private Henry Kelleher
Private Thomas Ewart Kelly
Lieutenant Lloyd Butler Kyles
Captain Edward Joseph Kylie
Lieutenant Geoffrey Lynch-Staunton
Lieutenant George L. B. MacKenzie
Second Lieutenant Roderick Ward MacLennan
Lieutenant George Geoffrey May
Lieutenant James Ignatius Joachim McCorkell
Second Lieutenant Ronald Gwynnyd Montague McRae
Captain Grant Davidson Mowat
Lieutenant Harold Gladstone Murray
Captain Hubert Patterson Osborne
Captain Franklin Walter Ott, MC
Lieutenant Henry Errol Beauchamp Platt
Captain Maurice Cameron Roberts, MC
Private William Melrose Roys
Lieutenant Stanley Arthur Rutledge
Private Stanley Smith
Lieutenant Thomas Herbert Sneath
Lieutenant John Herbert Adams Stoneman
Cadet David Alexander Swayze
Captain William K. Swayze
Lieutenant Royland Allin Walter, MC
Lieutenant Charles Herbert White
Lieutenant Maurice Fisken Wilkes
Lieutenant Reginald Prinsep Wilkins
Lieutenant William Hartley Willard
Lieutenant Arthur Patrick Wilson, MC
Lieutenant Matthew Maurice Wilson
Lieutenant Samuel Leslie Young