It takes an army of volunteers to photograph the graves of an army of volunteers.’ That’s what it says on the Maple Leaf Legacy Project web site and that is exactly what has been built up over the past seven and a half years. A small but dedicated army of volunteers around the world has been hunting out and photographing Canada’s war graves of the twentieth century.
The Maple Leaf Legacy Project is the result of a search by a Canadian, Steve Douglas, a native of Kitchener, Ontario, for a millennium project in April 1997. In his search to do something meaningful, worthwhile and with a lasting benefit for Canada and Canadians, his interest in computers, photography and in remembrance of Canada’s war dead resulted in the Maple Leaf Legacy Project.
The aim of this massive project is to photograph or obtain a photograph of every Canadian War Grave of the 20th Century, 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. Each war grave will be displayed on its own web page so that those who cannot travel to distant battlefields and cemeteries can at least see a photo of the grave of a loved one.
Douglas is currently based in Ieper (Ypres) Belgium because of the access to the majority of war cemeteries of the western front. He owns a small English language military bookshop and battlefield tour company.
This project has the added benefits of being a valuable addition to the historical archives of Canada, a research and teaching tool, a permanent record of Canada’s war graves and a unique and creative blend of modern technology, photography, history and good old fashioned hard work. It is also an opportunity for Canadians and friends of Canada around the world to contribute to a unique project, the archival records of Canada and to the memory of those who fell for Canada and for the cause of freedom and peace around the world.
To quote a section of the MLLP web site,
“It is with the greatest respect and appreciation for the memory and sacrifices of Canada’s war dead that this project is undertaken. We hope to create a Virtual National War Cemetery so that the thousands of relatives and descendants of Canada’s war dead, who may not be able to visit the grave in person, because of the great distances involved, will at least be able to see a picture of the headstone and the inscription.”
Up to now the focus has been on obtaining the photos of each individual grave but the beginnings of the searchable database is expected to be up and running in early 2009. It will, however take many years to get all the info and photos in to the database. Families are urged to submit photos and biographies of their relatives to assure they are permanently archived.
The Maple Leaf Legacy Project is a volunteer, registered charitable organization in Canada, with over 800 dedicated volunteers worldwide who have contributed photographs or other services to assist with this huge endeavour. As of 2008 there are over 105,000 war graves or commemorations photographed on hand. They are always looking for more volunteers and tax deductible donations.
Author & Founder Steve Douglas may be contacted through the website at http://www.mapleleaflegacy.ca
Maple Leaf Legacy Project
PO Box 30,
8900 IEPER 1,
Tel: (0032) 57 214-879
Image with the Canadian Flag on the Headstone is courtesy of Peirz on Flickr.com