Veterans of the Armed Forces are an integral part of Norwich University’s history and legacy. On previous Veterans Days, we’ve shared our project to make Norwich veterans’ stories more accessible on our website and an excerpt from a Norwich student editorial after the signing of the armistice on November 11, 1918. This Veterans Day, we are once again looking to our past and bringing you the story of Norwich University’s earliest Veterans Day observances.
November 11th was acknowledged as a day that should be commemorated and celebrated almost immediately upon the signing of the armistice between the Allies and Germany. Norwich cadets likely celebrated privately and may have participated in parades and observances taking place in Northfield and Montpelier. The earliest record of a commemorative event taking place on campus is in 1921, when a speech given in the chapel marked the occasion.
The following year, in 1922, a more elaborate ceremony was held. The Corps of Cadets marched to Mount Hope Cemetery and laid a wreath on the grave of Philip Sherman, a Norwich alumnus who was killed when a German U-boat sunk the SS Tuscania in the Irish Sea. The ceremony was led by Commandant Frank Tompkins. Tompkins himself had served as a colonel in France during World War I, and had requested to return to his assignment to Norwich University after recovering from a severe burn wound.
On that day, Colonel Tompkins and his Corps of Cadets participated in what is now a nearly 100-year-old tradition of the Norwich community gathering in solidarity and solace to mark this day. This year’s Veterans Day observance will include a Corps of Cadets Review Parade and remarks by Brigadier General Jeffrey Farnsworth, Class of 1986.