First World War Battlefield Mapping

GWCA Presents: Dr. Geoff Hayes – February 23 @ 7.30 p.m.

Professor Geoff Hayes’ current research interests lie in ‘deep mapping’ Canada’s world war experience.  By drawing upon undergraduate and graduate students and partnering with the University of Waterloo Geospatial Centre, his team seeks to look at the Canadian First World War experience in new and exciting ways. By using a number of different ‘deep mapping’ layers, they are able to tell a variety of unique and well-known stories, from the individual soldier's experience, all the way up to the army commanders.

According to Hayes and his team, the goal is to make this into a community project and a teaching aid for all levels of education, easily accessible, and easy to navigate. This project will be used as both a teaching tool and a way for students to contribute to the overall project.

Currently, Hayes’ team is interested in three specific layers at the moment -

How did the battle progress?

Here we are looking at the battle's progression, as dictated by officers and soldiers alike. How was the battle won or lost? Where was each division, both allied and enemy?

How can we represent the casualties that resulted?

The First World War held a heavy price for Canadians. Through the course of the war, almost 65,000 Canadians died. Not included in this are the number of Canadians who went home, broken in body or mind, or the over 170,000 wounded. We need a way to represent these individuals who gave so much of themselves for their country and their fellow soldiers. What are the best ways to represent these individuals?

How is the battle remembered?

Memory is one of the most important aspects of a war. As a society, we decide how to remember past events. Well into the 1930s, the Cult of Victory directed official war memories and, in defiance of all reality, portrayed Canada's soldiering efforts as a triumph of romantic individualism and heroism. Looking back on the war now, we see it as a needless slaughter, but that is not how it was seen at the time, as Jonathan Vance will surely tell you in Death so Noble. This triumph lead Canada right into the 1930s, leading the direction of war memorials and remembrance. Since then, our memory of the war has changed. How do we come to terms with this? How can we properly display this on a deep map?

Geoff Hayes is a professor at the University of Waterloo, and his work has taken him to many places, including Europe, Jordan and Afghanistan, studying facets of Canadian foreign and defence policy. His interest in military leadership has led him to write papers for the Canadian Forces Leadership Institute. Hayes has also co-edited two collections of works, one historical and one contemporary.