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Remembrance Dog Tags - Fallen Canadians in the Battle of Passchendaele


To increase youth awareness of Canadians who served in the Battle of Passchendaele and died in service.


Youth will:

  • better understand the contributions of Canadians who died in military service in the First World War’s Battle of Passchendaele and whose names 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 18.

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.

The Battle of Passchendaele was fought between July and November 1917. British, French, Australian and New Zealander forces faced off against a skilled and well-prepared enemy. For weeks, shells poured down, smashing buildings and vegetation. Explosions destroyed the drainage system, and the heavy rains transformed the battlefield in a quagmire of shell craters filled with filthy water. The Canadians were called in to do their part in these difficult conditions. The four divisions of the Canadian Corps took part in attacks in later October and early November; each meter of the battlefield bitterly contested. In the end, the fighting to capture Passchendaele and the surrounding ridge cost almost 16,000 Canadian casualties, including more than 4,000 fatalities. Approximately 500,000 Allied and Germans shed their blood in a battle that has come to represent the horrors of the First World War.

This learning activity highlights only a fraction of the some 4,000 Canadians who lost their lives at Passchendaele. 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 First World War. Are they familiar with the Battle of Passchendaele? You may want to invite them to read Battle of Passchendaele 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 Battle of Passchendaele in 1917 (PDF). This document contains information on 150 individuals from across Canada who died during the battle.

  • 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.
  • Youth may also research the Personnel Records of the First World War online database on the Library and Archives website. Please note that enlistment papers and military records of men and women who served in the First World War are not all available yet, but work continues and many files are added to the database each month.

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 questions such as:

  • 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 a hundred years 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 may want to watch the movie Passchendaele with your class. Released in 2008, the movie was directed by Canadian Paul Gross and shot in Alberta and Belgium. Please be advised that this movie is rated 14A.

You might want to refer to The Battle of Passchendaele section of the Veterans Affairs Canada website for additional information, or visit the Memorials section.

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