Information for students

The goal of this project is to conduct primary research on individuals who served and died in the First and Second World Wars in Europe. You are asked to write an essay that tells the story of one service person's actions during the war.

Step 1

  • Collect the names of service persons commemorated in schools, public libraries, churches, Legion, Air Force Wing and historical societies
  • Collect the names from the cenotaph
  • Find out if you have relatives who fought in the First or Second World War
  • Or your teacher will assign to you and your fellow students the name of a service person

Make sure to copy the name of the service person exactly as it appears on the cenotaph or plaque. This will allow you to access the databases of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Veterans Affairs Canada and Library and Archives Canada.

Step 2

First World War (1914–1918)

  • Select a digitized file by consulting our Soldiers of the First World War database
  • You can do a search by given name(s), surname and regimental number of the soldier. By clicking on Show Advanced Search Options, you can also search by the soldier's place of birth, his address at the time of enlistment, or his unit. If you want to browse the digitized service files, select yes in the drop-down box beside the label Digitized File

Important note

The digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) service files is under way and we have added a substantial number of digitized files to our website as part of the Government of Canada First World War commemoration activities. We will add new files every two weeks, as the CEF digitization initiative is a priority for us. LAC will ensure that Canadians have access to the files throughout the digitization process, scheduled for completion by the end of 2018.

Second World War (1939–1945)

Step 3


  • Be very careful in copying down information and ensure that you cite all information properly
  • The two most important pieces of information you need are the service or regimental number (e.g., 781324) and the battalion to which your service person belonged. Once you know the specific battalion (e.g., 2nd Battalion), you can research it further on the Internet or in War Diaries held at Library and Archives Canada

Step 4

  • Find out what battles were taking place at the time your service person died. Check The War Times Journal for an overview of the major battles of the First and Second World Wars; click on Portal, then Wars & Periods. Select World War One or World War Two and then scroll down to Battles & Campaigns. For the First World War, consult also Trenches on the Web Library
  • Continue your research by consulting the Internet resources listed under Further Research and on the First World War and Second World War pages of the Military Heritage section of Library and Archives Canada website
  • Consult books and other publications at your school or local library. You will find a list of books under Published Sources on the First World War and Second World War pages of the Military Heritage section of Library and Archives Canada website


Be sure to cite all Internet sources and publications correctly in your bibliography.

Step 5

  • Examine the documents contained in your service person's military file carefully
  • You will find many abbreviations on the forms; to find out what they mean, consult Military Abbreviations used in Service Files
  • Once you have completed these steps, you are ready to write the history of your service person. See the essay on Clarence Garfield Mainse for inspiration
  • Library and Archives Canada wishes to thank you for working on this national project and for taking the time to write a historical account about one individual who served and died in the First World War or the Second World War—a history for all to appreciate at the local, national and international level