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World War One memorial to display names of millions of soldiers who died

The dining room of a Canadian Military Hospital in UK in 1917, showing men and nurses (used on The World Remembers website)

provided by RH Thomson

A memorial designed by two Canadians will mark the centennial anniversary of the First World War by displaying names of the millions of soldiers who died on both sides of the conflict.

From 2014 to 2018, the soldiers' names will be projected on public buildings and in schools. Each name will be shown for 25 seconds in participating countries, online and on mobile devices.

The project, The World Remembers, is produced by director R.H. Thomson and lighting designer Martin Conboy, who have worked together on similar memorials. Later this month, the team will launch a website that families can search for relatives who died in battle and find out when their names will appear. "It's very personal for people, because they'll know exactly when to watch," Mr. Thomson said.

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Six years ago, Mr. Thomson and Mr. Conboy produced a similar installation that took place across Canada and in Trafalgar Square in London, featuring 68,000 names of fallen Canadian soldiers who fought under British command. Before that, the pair worked together on the set of Mr. Thomson's play, The Lost Boys, based on more than 700 letters written by his great-uncles, who died in the Great War.

The latest endeavour, even more far-reaching, seeks to add a personal dimension to the collective memory of the First World War's immense casualties. "The aim is to respect everyone – because it was a world war, and therefore we must have a world response," Mr. Thomson said.

Christopher Aide, a Toronto lawyer whose relatives fought on both sides of the First and Second World Wars, donated money to the project. He calls the memorial "an essentially Canadian ceremony." Mr. Aide's paternal grandfather fought in the Calgary Tank Regiment, while his maternal grandfather, who was Austrian, served in a Luftwaffe anti-aircraft unit in the Netherlands, later immigrating to Canada, where Mr. Aide's parents eventually met and married.

"When my Canadian grandfather died, my father stood up at the funeral and said, Canada is a country where children of enemies can meet and love one another – and that really stuck with me," Mr. Aide said.

In Canada, the names of fallen soldiers will be displayed starting on Oct. 20 at participating schools and institutions across the country, with a special exhibit to take place at Confederation Square in Ottawa. With an estimated cost of $1.8-million, the project has received funding from the Canadian government and governments abroad in addition to many private donations. Currently, eight other countries plan to participate: Britain, France, Belgium, Germany, Turkey, Ireland, Australia and the Czech Republic.

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