The names are listed in lead letters that are slowly falling away from the granite background. They belong to the 25 men of Malvern Collegiate Institute killed during the First World War and remembered on the cenotaph erected by a grateful Beach community in 1922. Now, after 89 years of weather damage and benign neglect, the monument will be restored this summer and rededicated at a ceremony on Nov. 4.
Following a successful fundraising campaign that included grants from Veterans Affairs Canada and the Toronto District School Board, the monument will have its missing hand and sword replaced and lettering reaffixed by conservationist Sue Maltby. To create a replica of the missing sword (the hand was recovered and turned in to the school some years ago), Maltby will travel to the town of Alvinston, between Sarnia and London, where the monument’s twin stands outside the Lambton County Library Headquarters. Both sculptures were made by Emmanuel Hahn, who created hundreds of similar memorials for towns across Canada.
The stories behind the names on the cenotaph are being researched by Malvern parent David Fuller and an appeal to the community has gone out for anyone who is related to the men or knows about them to help with photos and personal recollections.
The first of the 25 names
The first name listed on the left-hand face of the cenotaph is that of Cecil Pugh Annis, a farming lad from Highland Creek who attended Malvern for three years before interrupting his studies to go to war.
Annis was among those who answered the call from Britain for another half a million men to join the army. They were needed, said one newspaper report, due to the high rate of “wastage” in the trenches, the military term for the vast number of men being killed, wounded or taken prisoner in battle. Annis went down to the recruiting office in Toronto on Easter Monday, April 5, to join the Canadian Expeditionary Force. He was the first Malvern student to sign up and would be one of the last of the 25 to die.
Although Annis’s story can be pieced together from official records, his story isn’t as well documented as that of William Commins, uncle of Beach resident Chris Commins, who has many family photos, stories and records of his ancestor’s rise to become a captain with the 75th Battalion.
Annis arrived in France to join the 3rd Battalion (The Toronto Regiment), in July 1915, only a few months after signing up. He spent almost a year in a relatively quiet sector of the front, training, building trenches and helping prepare for the planned offensive at Ypres in the summer of 1916. On June 13, in the battle for Mount Sorrel, he was wounded in the forehead and back and spent the next few months in hospital in England. He returned to the trenches on the Somme in September, only to be wounded again a few weeks later, this time more seriously. With his right eye gone and the other damaged, his war was ended – but his battles weren’t over. He spent the next year and a half recuperating from his injuries until, in December 1917, he was well enough to go home, discharged from the army as medically unfit for duty.
Lance Corporal Annis – he was promoted on the same day he was wounded – was visited at home by Malvern’s principal, Carl Lehman, and four of his teachers in October of that year. The community held a reception in his honour at Washington United Church, and he was presented with a walking stick. The newspaper report explained, optimistically, that he hoped to return to Malvern to complete his fourth year, if he regained the vision in his one good eye.
But it wasn’t to be. Cecil Annis was weakened by his ordeals and had developed heart disease to add to his troubles. He died at home on Sept. 20, 1918, less than two months before the war ended. He is buried in the family plot in the cemetery of Scarborough’s Washington United Church.
Annis’s story is just one of many that will be told in a commemorative history of the monument. If you or anyone you know can help with information on any of the Malvern men, contact David Fuller at email@example.com or call 416-429-3043. For a full list of the names on the cenotaph, visit the Malvern Red & Black Society website at www.malverncollegiate.com.
[Published in the Beach Metro News, March 22, 2011]