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Remembrance Dog Tags – Fallen Canadians in the Defence of Hong Kong


To increase youth awareness of Canadians who served in the Defence of Hong Kong and died in service.


Youth will:

  • better understand the contributions of Canadians who died in military service in the Second World War’s Defence of Hong Kong and are found in the Canadian Virtual War Memorial;
  • learn more about military identity discs, known as 'dog tags'; and
  • develop an awareness of the importance of remembering the sacrifices and achievements of Canadians who gave their lives in military service over the years.

Target Audience

This activity is suitable for ages 12 to 17.

Sequence of Events and Anticipated Time Frame (approximately 75 minutes)

(This activity can be modified to fit available time.)

  • Introductory discussion [15 minutes]
  • Research and preparation [15 minutes]
  • Presentations [30 minutes]
  • Wrap-up discussion [15 minutes]
  • Possible extension activity [variable]


Introductory Discussion [15 minutes]

This dog tag activity is designed to help youth "put a face on remembrance." Canada’s efforts to protect world peace have come at a high cost. Over the years, more than 118,000 Canadians have died in military service.

During the Second World War, most of Canada's overseas military effort took place in Europe, but our troops also saw action elsewhere. Some 2,000 Canadian soldiers joined an Allied force to help defend the British Crown colony of Hong Kong in late 1941, just in time for the outbreak of war in the Pacific. Sadly, more than 550 Canadians died, either in the fierce combat of December 1941, or in the oppressive conditions of the Japanese prison camps throughout the rest of the war.

This dog tags activity highlights only some of the Canadians who died in the Defence of Hong Kong and in the years spent as prisoners of war. Taking a few moments to think about these individuals is a way to remember all those who served.

Ask youth what they know about the Second World War. Are they familiar with the Defence of Hong Kong? You may want to invite them to read The Defence of Hong Kong historical sheet as an introduction to this lesson.

What is a military dog tag?

Ask youth if they know what a military "dog tag" is. Have they ever seen one?

A dog tag is a piece of formal identification for military personnel. It must be worn when soldiers are on duty. The name "dog tag" comes from the similarity to real tags used to identify dogs. It was officially called an "identity disc" or I disc. The tag bears important information on the individual, such as the name, rank, service number, blood type and religion (to call the appropriate clergy person in case of injury or death).

Identification tags have been worn by Canadian troops since the First World War. The Canadian tags are now designed to be broken in two pieces in the event of death; one piece remains with the deceased and the other piece is sent to the Department of National Defence.

Research and Preparation [15 minutes]

Using card stock paper for added strength, print the dog tags of Canadians who died in the Defence of Hong Kong (PDF). This document contains information on 105 individuals from across Canada who died during the Defence of Hong Kong and in the years spent as prisoners of war.

  • Cut out the individual pieces. If you wish to re-use the dog tags, laminate them.
  • Make two holes in each of the dog tags and attach a piece of string or metal beaded chain.
  • Distribute the dog tags.
  • Have youth research the individual on the Canadian Virtual War Memorial website and ask them to add the service number and age of their fallen service member directly on the dog tag.
  • Youth may search the Internet to find out more personal information about their fallen soldier, such as their hometown, place of enlistment, places served, cause of death, place of burial, etc., which could be included in their presentation.

What is the Canadian Virtual War Memorial?

This site contains a registry of information about the graves and memorials of more than 118,000 Canadians and Newfoundlanders who served valiantly and gave their lives for their country. Included on this site are the memorials of more than 1,800 men and women who died in service to Canada since the Korean War, including peacekeeping and other operations. The site also contains digital images of photographs and personal memorabilia. The purpose of the Canadian Virtual War Memorial is to recognize and keep alive the memory of the achievements and sacrifices made by those who served Canada in the defense of freedom and so have contributed to the development of Canada as a nation.

Presentations [30 minutes]

Have each youth present 'his' or 'her' fallen soldier to the group.

Wrap-Up Discussion [15 minutes]

Lead a discussion around the dog tag activity by asking the following questions:

  • Do youth have a better appreciation of the contributions of Canadians in uniform who died in service?
  • Are there other ways to use the dog tags to honour those who served? (For example, wearing the dog tags at a remembrance ceremony, etc.)
  • Is it still relevant, in todays’ society, to take the time to remember Canadians who died at war decades ago?

Possible Extension Activity [variable]

Youth may wish to vary this activity by doing research on a relative or someone from their town or region who served in uniform. If the individual is a Veteran, and if this person is available and interested in coming, he or she could be invited to share his or her personal experiences in the military with the class.

You might want to refer to the Defence of Hong Kong historical booklet and a story about Fighting on Christmas Day 1941 in Hong Kong on the Veterans Affairs Canada website for additional information, or visit the Memorials section and learn more about Yokohama War Cemetery, Sai Wan Memorial, Sai Wan War Cemetery and Stanley Military Cemetery.

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