Faces to Names initiative tells stories of 28 Guelph soldiers who died in WWII

Their names will forever be etched on the local cenotaph but the stories of 28 soldiers from Guelph, Ont., who died in the Second World War are now being told to visitors of the monument.

The Faces to Names initiative will see photos of the soldiers placed at the cenotaph at Wyndham and Woolwich streets and each photo will have its own QR code that can be scanned with a smartphone.

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Each code will link to a biography of the soldier and share details about their life in Guelph before being sent off to Europe where all 28 died during the Dutch liberation 75 years ago.

“Faces to Names is an effort to personalize those names,” organizer Karen Hunter said. “It’s easier for people to remember them, at least to relate to them and learn about what their life in Guelph was like.”

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And their lives were not too different from an average Guelph citizen today.

They grew up on well-known streets in the present day such as Gordon, Surrey and Cork and went to schools such as Guelph Collegiate Vocational Institute (GCVI) and Central Public School.

The jobs they had were quite common: a salesman, a mill worker, bank teller, florist, and even one who worked as a baker at a shop owned by the great-grandfather of Mayor Cam Guthrie.

The churches they attended still stand such as Knox Presbyterian, Dublin United and St. George’s Anglican.

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Hunter said the research, which was done with the help of historians and local students, became a bit of a history lesson about Guelph.

“Not only was I connecting with the soldiers, but I was also learning so much about Guelph at the same time,” she said.

The display will be set up on Sunday and the photos will remain there until Nov. 15. Hunter hopes to bring the display to other parts of Guelph later in the month.

Hunter hopes Faces to Names will reach other communities across Canada with the idea of getting schools involved as she has done with students at GCVI.

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“The idea is that students would create videos themselves that would connect to each of these soldiers,” she explained. “So they would research the soldier, look for a connection of interest and do a video.”

How Second World War helped shape Canada and the world

This year marks 75 years since the end of the Second World War and few veterans remain. According to Veterans Affairs Canada, 33,200 Second World War veterans are still alive in Canada.

Read more: Second World War veteran celebrates 100th birthday in Kingston

Hunter explained that the connection with them has never been more important.

“Every day is a Remembrance Day and every day, we need to be thankful for the legacy of our veterans for the peace and freedom that we enjoy,” she said.

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