Lest We Forget: A Thank You from the Trenches

Four hundred and thirty-eight University of Alberta staff, alumni, and students served in WWI, including a contingent of male students who were posted overseas with the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI). While overseas, these men received care packages from the U of A’s Canadian Soldiers Comforts Club. This hand-carved plaque was sent home as a thank you for the knitted socks and baked treats included in those packages.

Carved out of wood salvaged from a bombed chateau in France, the plaque features the PPCLI regimental crest and names of battles fought: St. Eloi, Ypres, and Armentier. On the back of the plaque are the signatures of 20 U of A students and soldiers.

Only four of the 20 men that signed the plaque—F.P. Galbraith, R.M. Martin, Chas. F. Reilly, D.S. Edwards—survived the war. Three of these men maintained their connection to the U of A. Reilly, ’20 BSc Eng, ’27 MA, became the Students’ Union President in 1920. Galbraith, ’59 LLD (Honorary), served as the university’s eighth Chancellor (1964-1979). Don Edwards’ son, James (’62 BA) was Chair of the University of Alberta’s Board of Governors (2002-2006).

We are fortunate to have this First World War artifact as part of the University of Alberta Art Collection. In honour of the U of A students who served in the Canadian Armed Forces and gave their lives for their country, it is exhibited every November in the Old Arts Building and Convocation Hall. To conserve the original for future generations, a replica can be seen the rest of the year. Lest we forget.