War casualty mapping

We added three Poppy File – type maps to the series for Remembrance Day:

– A (mostly) household-scale national map of about 90% of Canada’s Korean War dead, with as far as I’m aware unpublished photos of the war we bought from the National Archives;

– First World War maps based on the Canadian Great War Association data for Winnipeg and Vancouver, with about 1,000 people in each;

– Also, I had the chance to renovate the Toronto casualty maps, fixing broken links and adding more, putting the First World War, Second World War and Korea maps on a dropdown menu and adding interactive calendars like the one below:

The Vancouver map made an appearance on the Global BC morning show:

OpenFile has disappeared, but the Poppy File map is still available

OpenFile’s unfortunate end has been written about elsewhere. I don’t have much to say about the situation as it stands (David Topping discusses it well at the link) other than to say that I know what it’s like to be a freelancer and be owed money you need to use to buy groceries. Perhaps unavoidably, the site itself, along with the complete Poppy File project from November 2010, has now gone black. (The project itself, for those just tuning in, is explained here.)

I can’t do anything about the disappearance of the other material (thinking particularly of Liam Maloney’s powerful videos) but I should point out that the actual map has been mirrored for years at this site, and is broken down into submaps here.

(The equivalent First World War map is on Global’s site. At some point I should put them together somehow.)

Mapping Toronto’s First World War dead (updated)

One of the Atlantic’s blogs recently linked to work by the Dutch artist Jo Hedwig Teeuwisse, who among other things overlays images from Second World War-era Europe (mostly the Netherlands, but also Belgium, France and Italy) on modern streetscapes. In the photo below, modern passerby in Amsterdam unknowingly walk past the recruiting centre for the Dutch SS, covertly photographed during the occupation (“There is some great film footage of someone climbing onto the lower roof there and smashing the SS windows with great pleasure and so much force,” Teeuwisse writes.)

Teeuwisse’s work (as the Atlantic noted) has a lot in common with Shimon Attie, who among other things has projected images of prewar Jewish life on the sides of buildings in modern Berlin at the sites where the photos were originally taken:

The common thread is the recovery of lost urban memory, one element in the map I published today on the Global Toronto site covering Toronto First World War deaths (linked image at left), which forms a bookend of sorts to the original Poppy File project.

At the moment we map about 2,800 people – it should be possible to add several hundred more with some further research. (About 2.8% of Toronto’s male population died in the war, a statistic I wasn’t aware of until I saw it in a spreadsheet just now.)

If we want to visualize it in Attie’s aesthetic, our version would involve a bay-and-gable house and a black-and-white overlay of a man in puttees, or maybe a boy in a flat cap with a Canadian Pacific telegram. The tool we have in this case is a map overlay, imposing a new and alien knowledge on an apparently familiar place.

Suffering on a vast scale easily becomes abstract, but was experienced at the time as personal and intimate, as households lost specific husbands and fathers to bullets, shells, gas or disease. Many lost more than one person: a couple living at 113 Langford Ave., north of Pape and Danforth, lost three sons, aged 28, 30 and 31. One died at Ypres in 1916, another was killed by a shell during a trench raid at Vimy Ridge in 1917, and the third, gassed in 1915, lingered on to die in Toronto a few weeks before the end of the war.

The Canadian Great War Project, a volunteer organization that assembles publicly available data about Canadians who served in the First World War, supplied Global News with details of 4,035 people who died in the First World War and appeared to have a Toronto connection. The data included people from villages that have since become part of the city, like Weston and Swansea.

After we screened all the names, 2,870 had next of kin at a Toronto address that could be geocoded: at the moment, these are the people on our map. A further 164 have addresses that no longer exist in modern Toronto (these can be placed in the modern city, with more research) and a further 299 have evidence of a Toronto next of kin address, but not precisely enough to be mapped without more research.

Mapping Dieppe casualties in Toronto

129 soldiers from Toronto died in the disastrous Dieppe raid, the 70th anniversary of which is on Sunday.

Most of the Toronto dead were infantrymen from the Royal Regiment of Canada, with a number of combat engineers. The burden fell disproportionately on Toronto and Hamilton because of the use of locally raised battalions.

In the city, there were clusters of homes of Dieppe casualties near Queen and Spadina (five) Annette and Runnymede (five) and Danforth and Coxwell (four). The houses in the Queen and Spadina cluster are painfully close together, as are the near-neighbours at 103 and 89 Hamilton St., south of Dundas.

Here is the map:

Time-based interactive of Toronto’s Second World War dead

We’ve renewed the Poppy File map concept this year with a time-based visualization, programmed by globalnews.ca developer Nathan Arnold, a developer here, of deaths by month.

Events like Dieppe and the Normandy campaign fill the map suddenly with points. The animation draws on a Fusion Tables map.

Pausing on a month brings out patterns that are hard to spot otherwise – for example, four men from the immediate area of Gerrard and Broadview were killed in a six-day period in Italy in December 1943.

Click on the image to see the interactive.