As the war clouds gathered prior to 1914, McGill University began to prepare itself for a role in support of the nation and Empire. The University's engagement began as far back as 1905 when the first university officer training corps in North America was created.   By 1913 the Canadian Officers Training Corps (McGill University Contingent) stood at a strength of 70 individuals.  With war declared in August 1914 the University organized an additional McGill Provisional Battalion of 300 volunteers. By the end of the war six full companies were organized for overseas duty, partly as a result of compulsory military training begun in 1916. In addition to serving in a number of Canadian infantry battalions and siege batteries, the university also produced two much-needed field General Hospitals.

Photo of Vimy Memorial courtesy of Steve Olive In all 3,059 McGill men enlisted in the Active Forces. Of those 363 lost their lives and 791 decorations were awarded, including two Victoria Crosses. Women, not eligible for the Active Forces, also contributed in important ways. Many were ambulance drivers working close to the various fronts (including France, Belgium and Serbia), nurses and volunteers – particularly in service to the Red Cross.  McGill also contributed research into areas such as armoured vehicles, acoustics, anti-submarine technology, explosives  and  medical research and practice. 

At the conclusion of the war McGill was recognized for the contributions of its staff, students and graduates by  governments and private foundations. After the war a number of memorials were installed around the campus and in 1926 the University produced the McGill Honour Roll documenting the members of the university community who were lost in The Great War. In the words of official McGill war historian Robert Fetherstonhaugh:

"In the period of the Great War, McGill University experienced pride in the achievement of graduates, students, and staff members overseas and, frequently, grievous loss. Though each man of the 3,059 who served held in the University's regard a place that was peculiarly his own, tribute to all all was paid in the McGill Honour Roll, published in 1926. Prepared with admiration for the services it recalled and pride in the fellowship it honoured, the volume stands as the great memorial in which McGill preserved, individually, the service record of her sons."

McGill Honour Roll Details