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Lest We Forget – Woodbridge War Memorial Tower

September 2020

In the years after World War I ended, cities, towns and villages across Canada erected cenotaphs to honour the men from their communities who died in the war. Most consisted of a carved square granite column listing the names of the dead, topped with a granite statue of a uniformed soldier.

Some are bigger and a little more elaborate, such as the Woodbridge War Memorial Tower, which honours the twenty-six men from the Woodbridge area killed in the First World War.

Dedicated on 16 November 1924, it was built out of field stones from the area and topped with a glass domed beacon light. The tower measures 11 feet by 60 feet, sitting on a 14 foot by 34 foot base. There domed beacon light is decorated with crenellated stonework, with small window openings encircling its base. Once illuminated, the beacon light can be seen from nearby Highway 7.

The memorial park is an impressive and beautiful memorial park, consisting of numerous features. The tower is atop a hill, with four tiers leading to the top, accessed by a staircase up the middle, each level supported by retaining walls made of cut stone blocks. The stone used on the upper level came from the former Humber River Bridge on Highway 7 that was demolished in 1924 when Highway 7 was widened.

Three field guns are also part of the memorial plaza, two on either side of the tower, and a third gun on the second level up from the bottom, beside a flag pole. The two guns beside the tower were manufactured by Krupp of Germany, one of the largest German armament manufacturers of the 19th and 20th centuries. They were former German Naval Guns that had been captured by the Royal Navy during the war and converted to field use.

Woodbridge resident Major Alexander MacKenzie, a politician, WWI soldier and a lifelong conservationist, was able to secure 1,000 pine seedlings from the Department of Lands and Forests to plant around the property. Major MacKenzie also secured five Royal Oak saplings that had been offered to Canada by the Royal Family, which were planted along the west edge of the property, and have since grown into large trees.

At the base of staircase is a stone-block monument with the inscription on the front side:

THIS MONUMENT IS
DEDICATED TO THOSE FROM
THE COMMUNITY OF WOODBRIDGE
WHO SERVED OUR COUNTRY.
ESPECIALLY THOSE WHO MADE
THE SUPREME SACRIFICE

On the back side of the monument is a portion of the poem “For the Fallen” by Lawrence Binyon:

THEY SHALL NOT GROW OLD
AS WE THAT ARE LEFT GROW OLD

AGE SHALL NOT WEARY THEM
NOR THE YEARS CONDEMN

AND AT THE GOING DOWN OF THE SUN
AND IN THE MORNING
WE WILL REMEMBER THEM

A bronze plaque at the base of the tower itself commemorates those fallen from the Woodbridge area in First World War:

In Honor of the Men of this Community Who Laid Down their Lives for King and Country in the Great War 1914-1918.

FRANK BIRCH  127th.BN.
JAMES BORLAND  127th.BN.
FRED EVANS  226th.BN.
NORMAN FLEMING  P.P.C.L.I.
GEORGE GRUMBLE   127th.BN.
H.S. HARRIS  220th.BN.
RICHARD HARRISON  1st. C.M.R.
WM. HASLAM  4th C.M.R.
D.R. MACKENZIE   127th.BN.
BEATON McGILLIVRAY  P.P.C.L.I.
PERCY McKAY  2nd C.M.R.
HERBERT MILLER  14th.BN.
STANLEY ROBB  4th C.M.R.

EDWARD MORGAN  4th C.M.R.
JOHN MORGAN  C.F.A.
ROBERT RAYSIDE  3rd.BN.
ERNEST SMITH   127th.BN.
ROY TAVERNER  3rd.BN.
REX TINKES  C.F.A.
STANLEY WARREL  42nd.BN.
ROY WARREN  126th.BN.
CHRISTOPHER WATT  M.T.
JOHN WILSON  4th C.M.R.
DAVID WITHERSPOON  5th C.M.R.
WALLACE WOOD, LT.  4th.BN.
J.A. WRIGHT  123rd.BN.

The monument and memorial park can be found at 80 Wallace Street in Woodbridge.

Sources: https://www.cdli.ca/monuments/on/woodbrdg.htm, http://ontariowarmemorials.blogspot.com/2012/12/woodbridge.html, https://www.torontopubliclibrary.ca/detail.jsp?Entt=RDMDC-TSPA_0108757F&R=DC-TSPA_0108757F, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lex_MacKenzie, https://www.cdli.ca/monuments/on/woodbrdg.htm
http://www.cmp-cpm.forces.gc.ca/dhh-dhp/nic-inm/sm-rm/mdsr-rdr-eng.asp?PID=5484.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/lest-we-forget-woodbridge-war-memorial-tower/

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