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 Wars
  • 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 plaques. 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: 1914-1918 database.  You can do a search by given name(s), surname and regimental number of a soldier.  By clicking on Hide/Show Advanced Search Options, you will also be able to search by his place of birth, his address at time of enlistment or his unit.  If you want to browse the service files that are already digitized, select yes in the dropdown box beside the label Digitized File.

Important Note: The digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) service files is underway and a substantial number of digitized files have been added 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.

Second World War (1939-1945)

Search for soldiers in our Service Files of the Second World War – War Dead 1939-1947 database.  You can search by the soldier’s given name(s), surname and service number. By clicking on Hide/Show Advanced Search Options, you can also search by the soldier’s place of birth, his address at the time of enlistment, his rank, or his unit. For information on how to consult or obtain copies of these files, please see How to obtain copies or consult a file.

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

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

Step 5

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 levels.

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