It is now easier to participate in the Lest We Forget project, thanks to the increasing number of high-quality digital copies of military service files available online for the First and Second World Wars.
First World War (1914–1918)
The digitized military service files of First World War personnel include:
- An attestation paper that each individual signed on joining the military or upon conscription
- A record of service indicating the unit with which the individual served
- A casualty form indicating the individual’s medical conditions or wounds
- Other medical documents
- Discharge documentation
- A medal card for honours and awards the individual received
- And, in some cases, a telegram notifying the family of their loved one’s injuries, wounds or death, or other correspondence between military authorities and the family
At that time, the administration and command of the Canadian Armed Force was documented mainly in English. Consequently, there are very few forms or documents available in French. You will find many abbreviations on these forms; to find out what they mean, consult Military Abbreviations used in Service Files.
To select a digitized file
- Consult our Personnel records of the First World War 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 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
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.
Every month, we publish a progress report on the blog.
Please check the database regularly for new additions. If you still have questions after having checked the database, you can contact us at 1-866-578-7777 (option 8).
Making these records available in digital format for our clients will ensure:
- easy and quick downloading of high-quality digital copies of service files, free of charge
- long-term preservation of these unique and fragile paper documents
For more information on this initiative, please consult the Digitization of Canadian Expeditionary Force Service Files web page.
Second World War (1939–1945)
Only the files for those personnel who died in service between 1939 and 1947 are open to the public. The file can be specific to a service person killed in action, a service person who died subsequently of injuries incurred in service, or a service person who died from an accident or an illness while in service.
The digitized military service files of Second World War personnel include:
- A record of service documenting the unit with which the individual served
- Information on the individual’s cause of death
- Information provided to the family on the death of their loved one
- And, in many cases, correspondence between the family and military authorities, as well as information on honours and awards
During the Second World War, the three armed services (Canadian Army, Royal Canadian Navy and Royal Canadian Air Force) did produce more forms in French, although the working language was predominantly English. Correspondence with the families was in either French or English, depending on the language spoken by the service person. You will also find many abbreviations on these forms; to find out what they mean, consult Military Abbreviations used in Service Files.
To select a digitized file
- Consult our Service Files of the Second World War – War Dead 1939–1947 database
- You can do a search by given name(s), surname and service number of a soldier. 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. If you want to browse the digitized service files, select “yes” in the drop-down box beside the label Digitized File
- For information on how to consult or obtain copies of these Second World War – War Dead 1939–1947 files, please see How to obtain copies or consult a file