The end of the Second World War and the resulting influx of returned soldiers to campus, sparked discussion about the establishment of a “living” memorial dedicated to the memory of those who died during the war. At the same time there was significant interest in providing adequate physical education and recreational facilities on campus.
The original gymnasium built in 1929 had been intended to serve a student population of approximately 1,500. However, by the mid-1940s this figure had increased to over 6,500. The original gymnasium, as with many other campus facilities, had become inadequate to meet the growing demands of the time
The concurrent interest in securing a living memorial on campus and the desperate need to expand the University’s physical education and recreational facilities first found joint articulation at a Student Council meeting in November 1945. A motion tabled by Ole Bakken “THAT the War Memorial for the students of the University of British Columbia who served in the Second Great War be a modern gymnasium complete with swimming pool and other facilities….” carried unanimously.
The scope of the memorial was later expanded to include all of the men and women of British Columbia who served in the two world wars. The idea enjoyed great popularity amongst the students and shortly thereafter they started planning for a fund raising campaign to begin the following spring.
The official War Memorial Gymnasium opening took place as part of the University’s fall congregation ceremonies on 26 October 1951.
Held inside the gymnasium, the congregation ceremony included the conferring of degrees and the installation of Sherwood Lett as the University’s new chancellor.
Following the congregation exercises, family members of service personnel who lost their lives in the two world wars joined members of faculty and special guests in a short procession to the glass-walled Hall of Remembrance.
There, Major-General B.M. Hoffmeister unveiled a wall inscription that read as follows:
TO THE MEN AND WOMEN
OF OUR UNIVERSITY AND OUR PROVINCE
WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES FOR FREEDOM
THIS BUILDING IS DEDICATED
BY THE STUDENTS AND FRIENDS OF
THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA
With a bugler sounding The Last Post and the unveiling of the wall inscription the War Memorial Gymnasium officially opened. Just over two weeks later, the Hall of Remembrance played host to the University’s November 11th Remembrance Day ceremony, a ritual since repeated in an almost unbroken chain.
There will be a Remembrance Day Service at War Memorial Gym at 10:45 am. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War and special mention of this anniversary will occur during this year’s Remembrance Day Ceremony.
For more details on the ceremony click here.