Lest we forget: interactive map shows where Toronto’s fallen soldiers once lived

Lest we forget: interactive map shows where Toronto’s fallen soldiers once lived

Click on map for full version 

Earlier this week, OpenFile introduced its Poppy File, rolling out an impressive interactive map by Patrick Cain, the same guru who produced some of the most detailed maps of Toronto’s mayoral results. This latest cartographical contribution shows the home addresses of more than 3,200 people who died in World War II and listed a next-of-kin address in Toronto (click here for the interactive version).

Cain explains how the map was put together:

Citizens answered newspaper ads asking for names that might have been missed, and the file grew larger. Eventually, the cards documented more than 3,300 people who were killed in the war and had next of kin in Toronto. They died over Germany on air raids, fighting in Normandy and Italy, or as their warships or merchant vessels were torpedoed. Many were killed in training accidents. One is buried in South Africa and one in Yukon.

In the modern city archives, the cards fill 12 boxes.

I was given access to the card file earlier this year after making an access-to-information request, and paid many visits to the city archives, entering the basic details on each card into a laptop. It turned out that I was committed to what ended up being 55 hours of data entry, working steadily through box after box. Letters and scraps of personal information were a helpful reminder that I was dealing with records of real people, and that the grief over their deaths had once been fresh, and in some cases life-destroying.

We think this is an excellent memorial of the war for the Internet age. The obvious temptation is to look up a home address first, and see if any of the fallen lived nearby. Not far from Toronto Life’s offices, for example, there’s a poppy for Sgt. Thomas Alexander Vincent, who died on May 17, 1945—more than a week after the war in Europe ended.

But make sure to zoom out, as well: there are poppies marking the dead all over the city. The streets where we live all have stories to tell.

• Remembering Toronto’s fallen from World War II [OpenFile]