Malvern’s ‘Big Book’ remembers school’s vets

Malvern principal Diane Sharpe, left, and writer and Malvern parent David Fuller look at photos of Malvern veterans on Oct. 24. The book, known generally as the ‘Big Book’, is titled Malvern Students, Members of the Armed Forces, WWII. PHOTO: Andrew Hudson
Malvern principal Diane Sharpe, left, and writer and Malvern parent David Fuller look at photos of Malvern veterans on Oct. 24. The book, known generally as the ‘Big Book’, is titled Malvern Students, Members of the Armed Forces, WWII.
PHOTO: Andrew Hudson

Malvern’s Second World War memorial isn’t a statue, it’s a pair of books.

“Adams, D.” It’s the first name you encounter on opening the ‘Big Book’ and it’s just about the only thing you will learn about him, if you are lucky enough to see it in the archives of the Malvern Red & Black Society (MRBS), which are open infrequently and only by appointment.

Looking at his proud face leading the parade of 27 black and white photos that follow on the page, you might notice he’s wearing an army uniform, but that’s all you’ll discover. There is nothing else to learn, no other clues as to who he was or why he went to war, or why his photo is in this oversized album – officially titled Malvern Students, Members of the Armed Forces, WWII – when others are not.

If you turn the page – gingerly, because the binding is coming apart and the large cardboard mattes are separating – you will realize there are dozens of his fellow grads from Malvern Collegiate Institute looking back at you from every page – more than 400 individuals, men and women.

The photos, barely held in place by 65-year-old cello tape, are yellowing where the glue has attacked them and some are falling out of their allotted space as the tape has dried out and given up on its job of holding them fast. It must have taken many hours to mount each picture in its cut-out and then carefully write, in the same careful hand, each name underneath.

The ‘Big Book’, as it’s known to archives volunteers, is a companion volume to the better known Memorial Book that was created around the same time and illuminated by Doris McCarthy, celebrated Canadian artist and a Malvern alumna. For a time, it lay under a glass case, mounted on top of a wooden stand that now sits inside the school office, usually empty. The book itself is kept in a vault due to its condition and value as a work of art. Together, these two volumes are the school’s tribute to those graduates who served and died in the Second World War, just as the cenotaph in front of the school is the more visible memorial to the grads who died in the First World War.

Both these artifacts are now showing their age and need repair, and the MRBS has launched a fundraising drive to restore and preserve them. With an initial donation of $500 from the proceeds of the 110th reunion held earlier this year, the society is appealing to the community for additional contributions to fund the painstaking work of removing and cleaning the photos, repairing the album and remounting them using proper archival methods. Both books need repairs to their binding too, particularly the Big Book, which is held together with aging masking tape.

In addition to restoring them, the work will include scanning of each photo for use in a database compiled by MRBS volunteers and made available to the public online.

Your author has been investigating the stories of the more than 1,200 former students who served in both wars and this information will eventually be incorporated into the resource.

MRBS member Donna Halliday spent considerable time combing through the archive to collate the lists of  Those Who Served from Remembrance Day programs and other sources.

The project will be led by the Toronto District School Board archives and will be carried out after an assessment of the books has been completed and funding secured. The work, by professional conservators, will be painstaking and costly.

“It is every bit a preservation project like the one mounted to restore the cenotaph three years ago,” said Adele Ashby, MRBS past president.

“We have chosen this book as the focus of our fundraising efforts for the Malvern archives in the hope that we can have the book restored by May 2015, the 70th anniversary of the end of the war in Europe,” said Vandra Masemann, MRBS president.

Donations can be mailed to MRBS care of the school, 55 Malvern Ave., Toronto, ON, M4E 3E4, or online at the school’s website. Look for the “Donate to MCI” link, which will take you to the Canada Helps website. To earmark your donation for this project, select “WW2 Book Restoration” in the pull-down menu.

In the decade after the Second World War, there were no editions of the Red & Black Society’s newsletter, The Muse, published, so there is little on record that tells the story of how the Big Book was compiled. We can assume there was an appeal to the community to send in photos and, of the 1,137 grads who served, a third of them are represented by a photograph. There are some notations on the back, describing what branch of the service they joined and perhaps the year the person enlisted, but only a few. If you remember anything of how the big book was compiled, we’d like to hear from you. The work of tracing Malvernites who went to war continues and anyone with information should email


Malvern CI Remembrance Day speaker served in Afghanistan

The annual Remembrance Day ceremonies at Malvern Collegiate Institute will be a little different this year, and the change is a sign of the times. This year’s guest speaker is a war veteran who’s barely into her 30s, a reminder that, although many think of Nov. 11 as a chance to reflect on wars of long ago,  Canada’s soldiers, sailors and aircrew continue to serve their country around the world.

Major Rebecca Evans
Major Rebecca Evans

Major Rebecca Evans was a student at the school from 1996 to 2001. Her first experience with anything military was becoming an Air Cadet. Evans, who served in Afghanistan, was chosen to speak as a way of reminding us that the members of Canada’s forces, both men and women, carried on serving after the armistices of 1918 and 1945.

On graduating in 2001, Evans was accepted to Royal Military College in Kingston. She graduated in 2005 as an army logistics officer and, after an initial period of service in Canada, was sent overseas as personal assistant to the first commander of Canada’s Joint Task Force in Afghanistan, her first of two tours in that war-torn country.

On her return to Canada, Evans was chosen to lead the combat supply platoon at 1 Service Battalion in Edmonton, her first command appointment. She next became quartermaster at the Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians) Regiment where she oversaw deployment of its tank squadrons to Afghanistan.

Upon completion of her tour at the tank regiment, Evans joined 1 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group, which includes three battalions of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, and returned to Afghanistan for a second tour of duty. In 2012, she returned to Canadian Forces Base Edmonton as adjutant until she was promoted to major and posted to CFB Borden, west of Barrie, to be a company commander for the maintenance and logistics support company.

The annual Remembrance Day ceremony, which begins in the auditorium at 10 a.m., will include remarks by a Malvern history teacher and student leaders of Malvern’s Support our Soldiers club, which raises funds to support veterans in need. The Malvern band and choir will also be preforming songs in tribute to veterans and soldiers currently serving.

Community Members are welcome to attend. Contact the school by e-mail at or by phone at 416-393-1480.

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