Dis­play hon­ours all those killed in the First World War

The Globe and Mail (Prairie Edition) - - NEWS - LAURA STONE

Cana­dian-led project pays trib­ute to the mil­lions of mil­i­tary per­son­nel from 16 coun­tries who died

The first name slowly comes into view: Fran­cis N. Cluff, a lieu­tenant in the Cana­dian in­fantry from Al­berta who died in the last year of the First World War, on Aug. 28, 1918.

It is pro­jected onto a 45-foot screen over­look­ing the Rideau Canal, at­tached to the down­town gov­ern­ment con­fer­ence cen­tre, a for­mer train sta­tion that will house the Se­nate while the Cen­tre Block un­der­goes ren­o­va­tions.

But Lt. Cluff’s name is not the only one up on the screen. Sur­round­ing it are those of eight other soldiers – from Italy, France, Ger­many, South Africa.

Lt. Cluff didn’t fight alone. And he didn’t die alone, ei­ther.

This is The World Re­mem­bers, a Cana­dian-led project that pays trib­ute to the mil­lions of soldiers, nurses and mil­i­tary per­son­nel from 16 coun­tries who were killed in the First World War. Although the numbers are by no means com­pre­hen­sive, the project rep­re­sents the first time they have been com­piled this way to rep­re­sent a global view of the war’s toll.

Lt. Cluff’s is one of 1,003,167 names that will be broad­cast on screens to hon­our them and the mil­lions more who were killed in 1918 – the dead­li­est year of the war.

Run­ning un­til Nov. 11, the dis­play, which also fea­tures pho­to­graphs from the war, can be seen at 83 lo­ca­tions in seven coun­tries, in­clud­ing the United States.

In Canada, the lo­ca­tions in­clude mu­se­ums, li­braries and pub­lic schools, as well as the main lo­ca­tion across from the Na­tional War Me­mo­rial in Otta- wa, which was funded by the de­part­ments of Vet­er­ans Af­fairs and Her­itage. A new name ap­pears ev­ery 90 sec­onds, rep­re­sent­ing the 23,731 Cana­dian soldiers and oth­ers who lost their lives. (Of those, 67 are women.) The dis­play runs over a 12-hour pe­riod dur­ing the day and overnight, be­gin­ning at 8 p.m. at the main site in Ottawa. The project also in­cludes a web­site and data­base that al­lows fam­ily mem­bers to search for loved ones.

The project, now in its fifth and fi­nal year, is the brain­child of ac­tor and di­rec­tor R.H. Thomson, who first con­ceived of it in 2010 with his pro­duc­tion part­ner Martin Con­boy. With an es­ti­mated cost of $1.8-mil­lion over eight years, it is sup­ported with a mod­est amount of fed­eral fund­ing and do­na­tions. Mr. Thomson hopes to find a per­ma­nent home for it af­ter Novem­ber.

He says the goal of the project is to hu­man­ize the cost of the war – and that means those from abroad, too.

“If you only re­mem­ber your own, you’re only re­mem­ber­ing part of the story. So you have to re­mem­ber ev­ery­body,” said Thomson, who lost seven grea­tun­cles in the war.

“It’s the peo­ple that mat­ter, and no one’s named them.”

He says the project also re­mem­bers Cana­di­ans from dif­fer­ent eth­nic back­grounds who fought in this coun­try’s name and were never prop­erly hon­oured.

At a re­cep­tion for the dis­play in Ottawa this week, rep­re­sen­ta­tives from around the world gath­ered to cel­e­brate the project.

“I think it is a real trib­ute to those soldiers and sailors … that gave up their lives to es­sen­tially en­sure the life that we now have,” said Michael Sal­vador, New Zealand’s de­fence ad­viser. “At the end of the day, when you’re buried, you’re along­side a whole range of dif­fer­ent na­tions, and it doesn’t make any dif­fer­ence what they be­lieve in. They’re all ly­ing side by side.”

Mr. Thomson says he is con­vinced that such a project could only be con­ceived by Cana­di­ans.

“When the Cana­dian turns up in Bucharest or Prague or Bu­dapest or Brus­sels or Lon­don, the per­son from that coun­try goes, ‘Oh yeah, Canada, you’re ev­ery­body,’ ” he said. “Canada is in a per­fect po­si­tion to ac­tu­ally say ev­ery­one should be part of this project, be­cause ev­ery­one’s part of Canada.”

DAVE CHAN /THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Names of fallen are pro­jected on to a large out­door screen in Ottawa on Thurs­day to com­mem­o­rates the 100th an­niver­sary of the end of World War One.

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