Remembing Toronto’s war dead

Former Toronto Star mapping guru Patrick Cain has put together a remarkable project for Remembrance Day. Cain took a buyout from the Star and this summer began working with, an online news site in Toronto.
With a little time on his hands, Cain asked the folks at Toronto City Hall for access to a treasure trove of index cards documenting more than 3,000 servicemen who died in the Second World War and had next of kin in Toronto. The cards were created during and after the war and became the basis for the city’s book of remembrance.

Cain took his laptop to the city archives and spent hours typing the information in. Particularly important was the address for each of the fallen.

Cain then took the addresses and geocoded them so they could be displayed on a Google map.

The result is an interactive map covered in traditional poppy symbols, each one memorializing a serviceman. Click on a poppy and you can see the name, the rank, place and date of death and the branch of the armed forces in which the person served.

This is the kind of up-close-and-personal journalism that is possible when you bring the web and mapping tools together. To many readers the map might look like a sea of poppies. But those with a connection to these war dead, or who have a special interest are liable to come back again and again.

Cain’s map provides what no list or book of remembrance can give, and that is a sense both of how no area of the city was spared during the savage bloodshed of that war, and how some were hit particularly hard. “There is street with three houses in a short distance who all died on the beach at Dieppe,” Cain told me.

He said one of the most interesting parts of the job was to match up some of the data in cases where a 1940s address no longer exists. Three of the fallen turned out to be from a neighbourhood demolished to make way for the westbound lanes of the Gardiner Expressway.

You can find Cain’s work, including maps on deaths at Dieppe, Normandy and at Sea, rolling out this week on Cain’s own website has a larger version at