Remembrance Dog Tags
Lest We Forget Her: Canadian women who have died in service

Aim

To increase youth awareness of the many Canadian women who have died in military service since the First World War.

Objectives

Through this activity, young people will:

  • have a better understanding of the contributions made by Canadian women who served in the military over the years, and remember that many of them died in service;
  • learn more about military “dog tags”; and
  • become more aware of the importance of remembering the sacrifices and achievements of the Canadian men and women who have died over the years while serving in the military.

Target audience

This activity is geared toward youth between the ages of 12 and 18.

Activity sequence and expected duration [approximately 75 minutes]

(The activity can be modified to fit the amount of time available.)

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

Materials

Introductory discussion [15 minutes]

When we think of war, we often do not automatically associate it with women. And yet, women have long been called on to play important roles alongside men in times of conflict; at first, they most commonly served as military nurses, but over time women have come to occupy roles that were traditionally reserved for men.

Ask the students what they know about women and their participation in the military. Do they know that military nurses took care of the wounded even before the First World War? Do they know how much the role of women in the military evolved during the Second World War?

It has taken some time but, with only a few exceptions, women can now occupy the same roles as men in the Canadian Armed Forces. To help youth better understand how women’s role in Canada’s military has evolved, ask them to read the Timeline section, which provides an overview of women’s contributions to Canada’s military history. They can also read the Canada Remembers Women in the Canadian Military and the Canada Remembers Women on The Home Front historical sheets as an introduction to this activity.

This remembrance dog tag activity is designed to help youth “put a face on remembrance.” Canada’s efforts during international peace missions over the years have cost the lives of so many Canadian men and women: since Confederation in 1867, more than 118,000 people have died while serving in uniform.

Some of the tragic events of the First World War that claimed the lives of women in uniform are well known, particularly the bombing of the hospital in Étaples, France, in May 1918, as well as the torpedoing of HMHS Llandovery Castle hospital ship on June 17, 1918. Other tragedies have also received media coverage, like the attack on SS Caribou in Newfoundland waters on October 14, 1942, or, more recently, the attacks on the front lines in Afghanistan. 

It has been estimated that nearly 200 women have died while serving in the Canadian military, since Confederation. This remembrance dog tag learning activity presents 105 of the women who died in service to our country. These individuals were chosen because their commemorative page includes a personal photo. Click on the link that follows for a more exhaustive list of Canadian women who have died in service, including those who do not have a personal photo on their commemorative page. It is important to take the time to think about these brave individuals and to remember all women who have served our country in times of war, military conflict and peace.

What is a military dog tag?

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

A dog tag is a piece of formal identification designed for military personnel. Soldiers must wear them when they are on duty. The term “dog tag” comes from its similarity to the tags used to identify dogs. Officially, it is called an “identity disc” or “ID tag.” The tag bears important information about the person wearing it, such as the person’s name, rank, service number, blood type and religion (so the appropriate clergy person can be called in case of injury or death).

Canadian troops have been wearing identification tags since the First World War. Canadian tags are now designed to be broken into two pieces in the event of the person’s death; one piece stays with the deceased and the other piece is sent to the Department of National Defence. 

Remembrance dog tags were developed to help youth to “put a face on remembrance” and, more specifically, in the context of this learning activity, to remember the many women who have died while serving in the military.

Research and preparation [15 minutes]

Using card-stock paper for added strength, print the dog tags of Canadian women who have died in service over the years (PDF). This document includes information on 105 women from all across the country who died while serving in the military, from the First World War to the war in Afghanistan.

  • Cut out each dog tag. Laminate them if you would like to reuse them.
  • Punch two holes in each of the dog tags and insert a piece of string or a metal chain through the holes.
  • Hand out the dog tags.
  • Have students research the individuals using the Canadian Virtual War Memorial. Ask them to add the service number and age of the woman directly on the dog tag.
  • The students can search the Internet to find more personal information about the woman, such as her hometown, where she enlisted, the places she served, her cause of death and where she is buried, which they can include in their presentation.

What is the Canadian Virtual War Memorial?

The Canadian Virtual War Memorial is 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. The site includes the memorials for the over 1,800 men and women who have died in service to Canada since the Korean War, notably in the context of peacekeeping missions and other operations. It also has digital images of photographs and the personal memorabilia of Canadians. The purpose of this registry is to remember the men and women who served Canada in the defence of freedom and who, in so doing, contributed to the development of Canada as a nation.

For further research

If the student is researching an individual who died during the First World War, you can suggest that he or she use Library and Archives Canada’s Personnel Records of the First World War online database. Please note that the enlistment papers and military service records of the men and women who served in the First World War are not all available. The digitization of First World War service records is currently underway and new files will be added every two weeks.

If the student is researching an individual who died during the Second World War, you can suggest that he or she use Library and Archives Canada’s Service Files of the Second World War - War Dead, 1939-1947 online database. It should be noted, however, that not all of the military service records of the men and women who died during the Second World War are available. The digitization of service records from the Second World War is ongoing and new files will be added every two weeks. You can also encourage students to click on “How to obtain copies or consult a file” from the left-hand side menu and follow the instructions noted for Option #1, which will redirect them to the Ancestry.ca website. You and your students can create free accounts on Ancestry.ca. Although there are a few important steps to follow before accessing a military file, with some patience you will be able to access a wealth of information on the individual, which will allow you to do more extensive research and give better presentations.

If the student is researching an individual who died after the Second World War, official sources like Library and Archives Canada are generally not very accessible due to privacy legislation. A minimum number of years must have passed before those documents are made public on government websites. However, students can still use search engines to find relevant information and search the websites of local newspapers, which may have digitized articles about the individual’s death.

Presentations [30 minutes]

Ask each student to present his or her individual who died in service.

Wrap-up discussion [15 minutes]

Lead a discussion on the dog tag activity by asking questions:

  • Do the students have a better appreciation of the contributions made by Canadian women who died in service?
  • Are there other ways of using the dog tags to honour those who have served? (For example, wearing the dog tag during remembrance ceremonies.)
  • Is it still relevant to take the time to remember Canadian men and women who died at war, whether it was one hundred years ago or more recently?

Possible extension activity [variable]

Students can modify this activity by researching a relative or someone from their community or region who served with the Canadian Armed Forces. If that person is a Veteran, and if the Veteran is available and interested, he or she could even be invited to come to the class and share his or her military experiences, especially the role that women played/play in the military.

You may want to consult Veterans Affairs Canada’s Women and War page for more information and ideas on how to pay tribute to women’s experiences and lives in times of war, military conflict and peace.
Date modified: