Illustration by Jonathan Carlson

New Trail 100

The War Years

During the First and Second World Wars, the magazine connected grads serving overseas to those a little closer to home. The archives offer a glimpse into those times

Illustration by Jonathan Carlson
November 03, 2020 •

More has been written in this magazine about the First and Second World Wars than nearly any other topic. During the Second World War, the magazine served as a record of current events as well as a tool for connecting grads fighting overseas to those a little closer to home. Now, these issues give us a glimpse of life on campus during wartimes and a line to the sentiments of a bygone era.

The colour illustration above is based on this original by Ella May Walker, a well-known local artist whose husband, O.J., was a professor in the chemistry department.
Winter 1953

Despite having only 439 registered students when the First World War erupted, by July 1916, 222 members of the university community were serving in the Canadian Forces in some capacity, with 14 staff members on active service. “By the end of the war, the roll contained some 475 names; 82 died on active service.”

July 1924

Grads were encouraged to donate $10 or $20 (equivalent to $150 or $300 today) to establish a memorial on campus for those killed in the First World War. “Remember that those who ‘laid the world away’ valued not lightly what they sacrificed — comfort, ambition, learning, comradeship and life itself.” The war memorial was erected three years later in the form of an organ in Convocation Hall.

November 1942

In the midst of the Second World War, The Trail was renamed The New Trail. University of Alberta president Robert Newton explains: “We have hit a new trail. … The world war which consumes our wealth and drains our best blood is the reward of sins of omission. We failed to provide real equality of opportunity, whether for nations or for individuals. In this small world nothing less will do. We have fallen short and must do better. Naturally we must begin where we are. That need not discourage us.”

April 1945

The U of A sent a monthly newsletter of university news to soldiers during the Second World War. The New Trail printed this as a column called “The Chipmunk.” The inaugural newsletter included the lineup for a co-ed hockey game, news that the Tuck Shop had opened under new management and reflections on a talent night for which the author and his companion accidentally bought the ticket for the wrong night and so instead “plodded sadly homeward reflecting on such matters as youth and age and love and efficiency.”

January 1944

In October 1943, the Red Cross Blood Donor Clinic was opened in Edmonton to collect blood for transfusions in military hospitals overseas. The New Trail published the story of one donor’s experience giving blood: “I felt triumphant, but deep down I felt grateful that the Red Cross had made it possible for me to give a bit of myself to help the boys over there.”

Spring 1971

Student Counselling Services at the U of A was developed largely to support war veterans who flooded campus in the late 1940s.

December 1941

The Trail published the names of prisoners of war, soldiers killed in action and missing persons during the Second World War. However, after a request from the press censors, the magazine stopped publishing detailed information about men and women in the service.

Spring 1954

During the Second World War, military training became compulsory for all students. “This resulted in the formation of the University Auxiliary Battalion. In 1942–43, the Air Training Corps and the Naval Training Division completed the permanent representation of the armed forces on the campus.”

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