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Lest We Forget Project:
Cenotaph Research

Notes for Teachers

Approximate Duration of Unit: 3 to 4 weeks
Maximum Preparation Time: 3 hours

At a Glance

The Lest We Forget Project combines historical research with community outreach. It provides the opportunity for students to conduct primary research, encouraging their skills in writing essays, complete with footnotes and bibliographies, and in using the computer to access archival sources and databases. Students are tasked with researching and writing about individuals who served in the First World War whose names are listed on the local cenotaphs in communities across Canada. Essentially, students become experts on the service persons they investigate and contribute to the wartime histories of their communities.

Library and Archives Canada appreciates that every classroom has different dynamics. With this in mind, the Lest We Forget Project is designed as a user-friendly educational resource, flexible enough to fit within any curriculum. Teachers may discover that there are more names on the community cenotaph than students in the classroom. As a result, the project may become part of the classroom curriculum for several semesters, allowing teachers to maximize their preparation time.

Teachers undertaking the Lest We Forget Project are encouraged to invite the local media to write and publish an article in the community newspaper about the students' participation in the project. Such publicity can generate community interest in the project which may lead to families of service persons loaning war documents, pictures and medals to students for their research.

Included at the end of these notes are documents for completing the project: an "Evaluation Grid," a "Step-by-Step Checklist" and the "Library and Archives Canada Order Form for Military Service Files". The "Starting Templates" and "Finished Templates" can be accessed in the main menu of this project site.

Getting Started

Several options for approaching the Lest We Forget Project are available to teachers. They can assign student groups to go to the places listed below to collect the names of service persons; they can have students collect the names of service persons found only on the cenotaph; or they can collect the names from the cenotaph and assign one service person name to a student or pair of students. Teachers can also ask their students if they have relatives who fought in the First World War. Those students who do, might wish to approach the project from a genealogical perspective.

The following is a list of places common to most communities where the names of service persons are commemorated.

  • cenotaph
  • public library
  • churches
  • school plaques
  • Legion
  • Air Force Wing
  • historical societies

Computer Set-up

It is beneficial but not essential to keep the Lest We Forget Project folders on the school computer network. The project folder is set up so that teachers can simply right-click and copy the files from the Library and Archives Canada Web site onto the school's computer network. The "Finished Templates" folder illustrates what the final product should look like. The work should be done in Microsoft Word or Corel WordPerfect format. Please note how files are labelled and follow the same organizational format when sending finished templates. By saving the "Starting Templates" onto school computer networks, students can click and drag their templates into the proper folders. Completed research should be saved onto a CD-ROM, and a directory created for each service person, identified by the individual's name and service or regimental number. A sample entry would be "Clarence Garfield Mainse, 781324".

Before actually beginning the project, teachers may wish to set aside one class period of their regular curricula to complete Steps One and Two outlined in the "Student Guidelines". This early preparation will ensure the timely arrival of military service files from Library and Archives Canada.

For overall consistency, teachers should ask their students to follow the same style for writing the essay, bibliography and footnotes. To ensure quality of work and to avoid grammatical and spelling errors, students should have fellow students proofread their final texts. When students have completed their work, teachers should have them keep one copy on disk, divided into four folders labelled "Service Personnel Information," "Military Service Record," "Essay," and "Grave Reference". It is important that the students write their names on their essays. A copy of the completed class work can be given to the community as an example of the research the students are doing. If possible, an essay can be submitted each week for publication in the community newspaper.

Teachers and students may wish to visit the Canadian War Museum to consult the original military service personnel files as part of a workshop. To arrange a visit for this purpose, teachers are advised to email:

Teachers can have photocopies or PDFs of the military files sent to their schools. The cost for copies is 30 cents per page. Payment is acceptable by credit card, as described in further detail on the "Library and Archives Canada Order Form for Military Service Files". Generally, it takes up to 30 days to complete the process, from the time the order form is received at Library and Archives Canada until the time the photocopied files are sent to the school. While waiting for the military files, students should complete the battle research, cemetery map and headstone location.

Enrichment Aspects of the Project

Community Service

As a separate component of the Lest We Forget Project, Library and Archives Canada offers the following suggestions to help students fulfil the Ontario graduation requirement of 40 hours of community service. Students may volunteer at museums or create a display based on the research conducted by the class. Local museums may be contacted for details. Students may volunteer to maintain the cenotaph and plaques dedicated to those service persons who lost their lives during wartime. Plaques can be found at local libraries, churches and municipal cenotaphs. Municipal offices and local churches may be contacted for details. Students may also volunteer to help maintain military medals and plaques at their local Legion or Air Force Wing. Local veterans' organizations may be contacted for details.

Battalion Research

The cenotaph research of the Lest We Forget Project is designed to help teachers and students gather battalion histories relevant to their communities. Battalion research provides highly detailed information on troop movements and battles. The ARCHIVED - War Diaries of the First World War, located on the Web site of Library and Archives Canada, enables students to do research using primary documents. From here students can cross-reference the date of death of their service person to the battalion and discover what the battalion was doing on the day their service person died.

Students can also do a general search of battalions on the Internet. This process may provide additional information to help construct a historical profile of their service person.

Photo Research

Students may request First World War photographs from their local Legion branch. They can scan the photographs of service persons and print the images on photographic paper. All photographs must be returned to the local Legion branch once the scanning and printing are completed. Teachers can use this part of the project as a cross-curricular element by partnering with teachers of media arts to scan and print the photographs. Another cross-curricular option is to create an interactive Web page for media studies. The site could feature the research completed by students, including the photographs, finished templates and essays on local veterans.

Teachers may also wish to post a notice in the community newspaper requesting photographs of individuals who fought in the First World War. Again, students are responsible for scanning the photographs and returning them to their respective owners. Students can then construct a photographic display for their school or community. This interaction with the public is an outreach component of the Lest We Forget Project and can be applied toward the 40 hours of community service that students are required to complete.

Newspaper Research

In many communities, the local public library has a collection of newspapers on microfilm or in storage. Students can search the death announcements from these newspapers to find out information about service persons and their relatives. Some local libraries do not have newspaper collections but do have a microfilm reader. In this case, teachers can request their public or school library to order microfilm reels from Library and Archives Canada through Interlibrary Loan. There is no fee for this service and reels can be delivered directly to the library requesting them.

Students can volunteer to create a military visual display at their local library for the benefit of the community. For example, they might arrange copies of the published death announcements and other military sources thematically, by battalion, by year, and so on. Such activities can be included as part of their 40 hours of community service.

Community Assistance

Listed below are community groups and organizations from which teachers can request research or funding assistance necessary to complete the Lest We Forget Project.

Research Assistance Groups

  • veterans' organizations
  • historical societies
  • museums
  • churches
  • municipal governments

Financial Assistance Groups

  • veterans' organizations
  • historical societies
  • business/industry*
  • churches
  • banks
  • Chamber of Commerce
  • Canadian Heritage
  • National Defence
  • Veterans Affairs Canada

* In Smiths Falls, Ontario, local businesses and veterans' organizations fund an annual one-week field trip to Europe. A student and a member from one of the veterans' organizations spend time in France and Belgium touring First and Second World War battlefields and photographing cemeteries and headstones of the war dead from Smiths Falls. These digital images have become part of a final package given to the community. Requests for digital images of headstones can be sent to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission for a fee. Contact the Commonwealth War Graves Commission at:
66 Slater Street, Suite 1707
Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0P4
telephone: (613) 992-3224
facsimile: (613) 995-0431

PDF Documents

Need PDF software to view the files? Downloadable Formats

To receive a free electronic copy of the 'Step-By-Step Guide for Instructors', 'First World War Information Package', and 'Second World War Information Package', please contact