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
191418. 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
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 Ontarios
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
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.