Map of the Week: Riverdale's First World War dead
Updated Nov. 10 - see note below.
This week's map is an exercise in recovering lost urban memory.
I have identified almost 200 individual homes in Riverdale and the neighbourhood immediately north of the Danforth where the worst fears of the householder - wife, parent or sibling of a Canadian soldier overseas during the First World War - were realized a boy came to their front step with a dreaded telegram, instead of the man whose return they hoped for. For some, the news was final; for others, a long hospital vigil ended when a young man lost a painful struggle with the damage from shrapnel or gas.
The map gives an idea of the extent of cultural trauma which led to the Remembrance Day rituals, by looking at how the war scarred one neighbourhood. A large-scale disaster can sometimes seem incomprehensible; it is often only by looking at particular cases that we start to grasp a sense of what happened.
The war harrowed Riverdale on a mercilessly intimate scale:
For every actual death, there were many more families which lived with their dread, silently or otherwise. What it was like to live in the neighbourhood by the fall of 1918 is hard to imagine at this point; our only really good tool would be fiction.
The map was prepared from the excellent database at the Canadian Great War Project site. The search process was very cumbersome, and it wasn't possible to search for soldiers from First Ave., south of Gerrard between Logan and Broadview, or Strathcona Ave., off Pape south of the Danforth.
I have added several streets north of Riverdale’s traditional boundary at the Danforth.
Every marker links to up to three documents: the Commonwealth War Graves Commission page for the soldier, the Department of Veterans Affairs page, which often links to other resources such as press clippings, and images of the soldier's attestation papers, prepared when he enlisted. Not all markers have all three links. The address on attestation papers is not always the address of next of kin at death, which is what the map is based on.
If you live in Riverdale and the area a few blocks north of the Danforth (pictured at left), you may want to consider the following:
It’s rooted in personal things: our attitude to home, history and culture play a part.
A home pinpointed on the map may be where you now live. Whether you want to know this is for you to decide.
Update, November 10:
Thanks to commenter John McLean for pointing out two soldiers from Eastmount Ave., north of the Danforth, who belonged on the map – when I looked into it more closely, I ended up adding four from Eastmount and three from Muriel Ave., near Pape and Danforth.
I’d place Private Russell Devall (http://ow.ly/B7Ni) on the on the map if I had a street address – we know his parents lived on Muriel, but not exactly where. His attestation papers aren’t on line.