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December 1998

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New College Archive Will Honour Profession’s Contributions Beyond "the Duties of Teachers"

This report, rather than dwelling on present turmoil, is devoted to remembrance of things past.

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By Margaret Wilson

In 1922, R.W. Anglin, Registrar, Department of Education, published The Roll of Honour of the Ontario Teachers Who Served in the Great War 1914–18. The minister of education of the day desired "that due recognition should be made of the service rendered by the teachers of Ontario in connection with the Great War."

Peter Murphy, member of the College and a staff member at the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association, donated this fascinating little book to the College. In it, my long-ago predecessor notes the extensive war work done in classrooms and after school hours by teachers who stayed behind, and that "a number of lady teachers gave up their positions and enlisted in the military nursing forces."

At the beginning of the war, there were 2,288 male teachers engaged in Ontario’s schools – 848 enlisted, 101 of them died and 210 were wounded.

After Peter acquired the book, he went on to research the life and death of the most-decorated teacher, Lieutenant Samuel Lewis Honey. Lieutenant Honey was awarded the Military Medal in France in January 1918, the Distinguished Conduct Medal at Vimy in April and was posthumously awarded the highest honour, the Victoria Cross for gallantry, at Bourlon Wood in September 1918.


Honey was born at Conn in Wellington County and attended elementary and continuation schools. He was only 16 when he started teaching at a school on the Six Nations reserve near Brantford. He then taught at Drumbo in Oxford County, where his pupils are described as having "routed" his predecessor. But he was so successful there that, although he was not yet 18, he was admitted to the London Normal School.

He graduated, taught for a year in the Londsborough School in Huron County, spent the next school year studying at Walkerton High School and in June 1914, passed the Honour Matriculation examinations. He received the $60 Carter Scholarship from the Department of Education and probably dreamed of university, but war had broken out. In the autumn of 1914, he returned to teaching, this time at Bloomington School in York County. But in January 1915, he enlisted as a private. He was commissioned after Vimy.

Many of the leadership qualities of the good teacher are evident in the soldier he became. He led by example, shared credit for his achievements and paid great attention to the needs of the men he led.

In September 1918, at Bourlon Wood, our small-town Ontario teacher took command when the other officers of his company were casualties and under heavy fire led a dash to the objective, which was gained with more casualties. An enemy machine gun nest continued to fire. He rushed it single-handed, capturing the guns and 10 men. He then repelled four counterattacks, but died a short time later from his wounds.


Peter Murphy provided us with a file on Lieutenant Honey, which includes a photograph from the Canadian War Museum, copies of newspaper clippings, a Honey family photograph, his teaching registration, military records and other memorabilia. We will establish an archival file in his memory and other teachers whose contribution to their country went well beyond the Education Act and its "duties of teachers." If you have materials you would like to contribute to these archives on Ontario teachers, teaching and the lives of teachers and are interested in donating them, I would be pleased to talk to you.

Meanwhile, as the current crises ebb and flow, remember the greater sacrifices of Samuel Lewis Honey and the other men and women who died in two world wars that we might be free to argue and debate as endlessly as we do.