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Maple Leaf Legacy: A global memorial

They called it "The Great War" and "The War to End All Wars" – though of course it didn't. When hostilities erupted in Europe in 1914, Canadians rushed to Britain's side. But the cost was terrible: more than 60,000 were killed, 172,000 wounded. There are no more Canadian combat veterans alive to recall the horrors of the First World War, but their voices and memories live on in the archives of the CBC. Lest we forget, here are some of their stories.

It began with one photograph of a tombstone, with the carved maple leaf indicating a fallen Canadian soldier of the Great War. To Steve Douglas of Kitchener, Ont., the image was more than keepsake, it was inspiration. Douglas embarked on an ambitious project to photograph and upload images of all 117,000 Canadian war graves around the world. As we hear in this clip, the photographs bring a sense of closure, described by one family as "a heart cord reattached." 
. The Maple Leaf Legacy website states its aims as follows:
"The Maple Leaf Legacy Project is an enormous volunteer endeavour to procure a photograph of each and every Canadian War Grave from the South African War (1899-1902), World War 1 (1914-18), World War II (1939-45), Korean War (1950-52) and all United Nations Peacekeeping Missions to the present day."

. Photographs on the site are available through a searchable database, and are free to download. As of Nov. 4, 2006, the site had 97,095 photographs of Canadian war graves or commemorations, contributed by 694 volunteers. That leaves about 20,000 graves left to be photographed.

. Creator Steve Douglas conceived the website as a millennium project in 1997. That year, Douglas was working as a freelance graphic designer and photographer in London, Ont. A photo of an uncle's war grave taken in England two years earlier got him thinking about families who never get to see the grave of a relative killed overseas. He moved to Ypres, where hundreds of Commonwealth war cemeteries are just a few hours away. Similar projects have since been undertaken in Australia and New Zealand.
Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: Nov. 10, 2003
Guest(s): Steve Douglas
Host: Peter Mansbridge
Reporter: Paul Workman
Duration: 3:12

Last updated: November 2, 2012

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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