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Wesley College and the First World War

Wed. Nov. 8, 2023

Private Logie ButchartA conflict that lasted 4 years and claimed the lives of millions worldwide, the First World War marked an important point in Canadian history, distinguishing itself in our national consciousness as a period defined by the valour of those who served and the sacrifices made by those who still lie buried in the cemeteries dotted across the Western Front.

On the home front and in the years immediately following 1918, communities who had been affected by the war looked for ways to reckon with the scars left by the conflict and honour those who answered the call. Like many of our educational contemporaries, Wesley College saw hundreds of students leave in the midst of their studies to serve on the muddied battlefields of France and Belgium. In a 1919 edition of United College’s Vox Wesleyana, readers were able to see who among their classmates served as part of the magazine’s wartime Honour Roll list. Flanked by the Canadian Red Ensign and Union Jack, with “For King and Country” proudly emblazoned above the United College crest, the list contains the names of 384 students, their graduation year, and regiment.

Situated close to the battlefields of Vimy Ridge and the trenches that surrounded Arras in 1917, Villers Station Cemetery is home to a collection of Canadian soldiers who died during the allied offensives of that summer. Private Thomas Logie Butchart is one of the soldiers included on the College’s Honour Roll list whose remains stayed in France after the armistice was signed on November 11th, 1918. Born in Minnedosa in 1897 and a student at Wesley College during the outbreak of the war, Private Butchart joined the Canadian Expeditionary Forces as an infantryman and was shipped to France as part of the New Brunswick Regiment. A member of “A” company in the Avion sector, he was sadly killed by enemy artillery on June 20th, 1917.

In an effort to keep her son’s memory alive and honour his valiant service, Logie’s mother, Mary, reached out to W.C. Graham, Principal at Wesley College in 1946 to create a new endowment. Designed with military families in mind, the bursary’s terms were unique in that “only soldiers, the children of soldiers, or direct descendants of soldiers,” were eligible to receive financial support from the endowment. Now one of UWinnipeg’s oldest awards, the Logie Butchart Memorial Bursary is our institution’s active link to the First World War—an award borne from a conflict that cost the lives of 60,000 Canadians and forever changed the course of world history.

Taking time to reflect on our history as an institution is an important part of what Remembrance Day asks of us each year. Of the 384 students listed on the Vox Wesleyana Honour Roll, 40 never returned to their families or our campus. A fraction of the total cost in human lives Canada paid during the conflict, but no less meaningful. The bravery of former students-turned-soldiers and the ultimate sacrifice that was made by individuals like Thomas Butchart should never be forgotten. Their struggle is what binds our institution to the legacy left by the First World War, the growth Canada experienced as a nation, and the creation of memorial awards that honour their service and support our students today.

Lest we forget.

Read the 1919 Edition of Vox Wesleyana

Learn more about Logie Butchart