Extensive digital database about Great War now housed at UVic


Nov. 8, 2016

A young Albertan soldier recently promoted and fresh from a sniper’s course was killed by a sniper’s bullet himself after being moved to the front lines in the Somme 100 years ago during the First World War. The poignant details of his time in the battlefield and valuable records about thousands of Canadians during the Great War are part of one of the best online sources of its kind—meticulously curated by a Canadian living in Ohio—now to be housed at the University of Victoria.

These records are readily available to scholars, family members and history buffs, thanks to Marc Leroux’s website (www.canadiangreatwarproject.com), with a new look set to be unveiled Nov. 11 by UVic in time for Remembrance Day. The Canadian Great War Project—founded 10 years ago by Leroux—is a crowd-sourced inventory of digital data on more than 176,000 of the 619,636 soldiers, nurses and chaplains from Canada during the First World War.

“This is a jewel and a national treasure, and its preservation no longer has to rest solely on the shoulders of only one person,” says project manager Jim Kempling, a PhD candidate in UVic’s history department. “Marc has made a monumental personal contribution to preserving the record of sacrifice of so many Canadians during the Great War. It’s remarkable that one person living in the States can make such an impactful difference to Canadian history and we are honoured he chose UVic to be the permanent site host.”

The site features over 18,000 pages of war diaries, nearly 30,000 images and approximately 500 letters, and hosts close to 185,000 visits each year. There is even a list of well-known Canadians who served in the war, including former Prime Ministers John Diefenbaker and Lester B. Pearson.

Over the years, Leroux has encouraged the active participation of qualified researchers including those within local communities, church associations and history groups. Kempling calls it “a big leap” for crowd sourcing long before anyone used the term.

UVic’s Humanities Computing and Media Centre coordinated the web development and continues to assist with the full transfer of data from Leroux’s server to UVic Libraries’. The move from the current site to an enhanced site will be phased in over several months, with the first release providing a much enhanced search engine for the soldier database.

The repatriation of the site received funding from Veterans Affairs Canada.

A media kit including screen grabs is available at this Dropbox link.


Media contacts:

Jim Kempling (PhD Candidate, Dept. of History) on cell at 250-658-8546 or jimk@uvic.ca

Kempling is also available for interviews on Remembrance Day and through the weekend

Marc Leroux (Canadian Great War Project) by email at marc@marcleroux.com

Leroux is not immediately accessible by telephone; but interviews can be arranged via email

Tara Sharpe (University Communications + Marketing) at 250-721-6248 or tksharpe@uvic.ca

Follow us on Twitter: @uvicnews

UVic media relations & services: www.uvic.ca/communicationsmarketing/media


A decade ago, Marc Leroux began hunting for information about his grandfather, who had served with the Canadian Expeditionary Force. His search led to the development of the Canadian Great War Project.

The soldier service records within the Canadian Great War Project are drawn from an array of other sources including Library and Archives Canada (LAC), the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and private collections. The LAC maintains a database of personnel records of the First World War including location of enlistment and place of birth. The Canadian Great War Project includes more information than that, including photos, letters, newspaper clippings and transcribed documents, as well as the service records.

A more rigorous and consistent search engine now covers discrepancies in spelling or punctuation. For instance, if someone searches by regiment, all entries will appear for Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry whether identified as “Princess Patricia legion” or “PPPCL” or even “Princess Pat’s.”

The UVic Special Collections and University Archives is home to an extensive digital collection on military history, primarily on the First and Second World Wars and including the Veterans Oral History Project (with over 700 recordings of Canadian veterans including reminiscences of Passchendaele and Vimy Ridge); The World of Mary’s Wedding – Reminiscences of World War One (related to an opera—which premiered in Victoria in 2011—based on the play, Mary's Wedding); Birth of a Regiment (about Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry); and A City Goes to War (about Victoria and other cities during the Great War).

Kempling led the latter two projects and turned at the time to Leroux for assistance with underlying data but, over time, their collaborative effort led to discussions about how best to ensure the long-term preservation of Leroux’s project. In 2015, Leroux agreed to transfer his site and all its data to UVic at no cost in order to ensure free access, technological enhancements, academic oversight and the continued involvement of community researchers.

The UVic History Department, supported by the Humanities Computing and Media Centre at UVic, also has a comprehensive inventory of digital history and online historical work related to the First World War.