Our citizen sailors volunteered to fight for Canada. Now we need volunteers to bring sailors’ stories back to their home divisions.

Citizen Sailors Virtual Cenotaph

Our citizen sailors volunteered to fight for Canada. Now we need volunteers to bring sailors’ stories back to their home divisions.

Year-end thanks to volunteers.

Project Overview

What is a “citizen sailor”? It’s a nickname given to those who serve in Canada’s Naval Reserve. During the Second World War, Citizen Sailors were ordinary Canadians who joined the war effort as members of the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve (RCNVR), Royal Navy Reserve (RMRC), the Fishermen’s Reserve (FR) and the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service (WRENS). Approximately 85,000 Canadians from all walks of life began their war service in one of the Naval Reserve Divisions (NRD) scattered across Canada.

During the Second World War, a total of 2,170 members of the Canadian Navy died. Four hundred of these casualties were from the regular Navy. The remaining 1,769 were Navy reservists or citizen sailors. These war dead have graves all over the world or, for those whose bodies were lost at sea, they are commemorated on a monument in Halifax that is magnificent and breathtaking. However, they are largely unknown in their hometowns.

The 100th anniversary of the Naval Reserve is an opportune time to bring some of that history back to where these Sailors grew up and began their naval service. The Citizen Sailors Virtual Cenotaph project will create a lasting memorial so that the sacrifice of these 1,769 Canadians will be documented and can be commemorated in the NRDs of enlistment and in the hometowns where these sailors lived.

Project Overview

What is a “citizen sailor”? It’s a nickname given to those who serve in Canada’s Naval Reserve. During the Second World War, Citizen Sailors were ordinary Canadians who joined the war effort as members of the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve (RCNVR), Royal Navy Reserve (RMRC), the Fishermen’s Reserve (FR) and the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service (WRENS). Approximately 85,000 Canadians from all walks of life began their war service in one of the Naval Reserve Divisions (NRD) scattered across Canada.

During the Second World War, a total of 2,170 members of the Canadian Navy died. Four hundred of these casualties were from the regular Navy. The remaining 1,769 were Navy reservists or citizen sailors. These war dead have graves all over the world or, for those whose bodies were lost at sea, they are commemorated on a monument in Halifax that is magnificent and breathtaking. However, they are largely unknown in their hometowns.

The 100th anniversary of the Naval Reserve is an opportune time to bring some of that history back to where these Sailors grew up and began their naval service. The Citizen Sailors Virtual Cenotaph project will create a lasting memorial so that the sacrifice of these 1,769 Canadians will be documented and can be commemorated in the NRDs of enlistment and in the hometowns where these sailors lived.

What is a virtual cenotaph?

You can find cenotaphs dedicated to the war dead across the country, in big towns and small ones. These are large monuments engraved with the names of this city’s war dead. The Virtual Citizen Sailors Cenotaph builds on this concept. It is
a national database that contains more than names. It contains important dates, honors, family information, place of birth, burial information, battle information, occupation before joining the war and photos. It is searchable, sortable
and features a short story written by a fellow Canadian.

Do you have 2-3 hours to spare to tell the story of a citizen sailor who sacrificed everything for his country?

Or maybe your interests lie more in photography than writing…

To further honor the sacrifice of our citizen sailors, CVMC has partnered with the No Stone Left Behind Foundation to map the graves of WWII Naval Reservists. The project – Guardian of Citizen Sailors 2023 – is looking for volunteers wherever they are located to visit the 631 graves of Naval Reservists listed on the map here . Visiting just one headstone will help accomplish this mission! Please share these links with your friends, family and colleagues.

What is a virtual cenotaph?

You can find cenotaphs dedicated to the war dead across the country, in big towns and small ones. These are large monuments engraved with the names of this city’s war dead. The Virtual Citizen Sailors Cenotaph builds on this concept. It is
a national database that contains more than names. It contains important dates, honors, family information, place of birth, burial information, battle information, occupation before joining the war and photos. It is searchable, sortable
and features a short story written by a fellow Canadian.

Do you have 2-3 hours to spare to tell the story of a citizen sailor who sacrificed everything for his country?

Or maybe your interests lie more in photography than writing…

To further honor the sacrifice of our citizen sailors, CVMC has partnered with the No Stone Left Behind Foundation to map the graves of WWII Naval Reservists. The project – Guardian of Citizen Sailors 2023 – is looking for volunteers wherever they are located to visit the 631 graves of Naval Reservists listed on the map here . Visiting just one headstone will help accomplish this mission! Please share these links with your friends, family and colleagues.

Volunteers wanted

The project has permission from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to use the headstone data of 1,769 Canadian citizen sailors who died in the war. This baseline data already contains fascinating information about these Navy reservists, but it will be expanded by volunteer researchers using the sailors’ service records (made available online by Library and Archives Canada), archives of online newspapers and ancestry websites. Our goal is to introduce the Virtual Citizen Sailors Cenotaph to the Naval Reserve in 2023 for its 100th anniversary. We need a huge team of researchers from across Canada to tackle this project.

To be clear, no military or historical research experience is necessary to become a volunteer researcher; just a commitment to writing a life story based on information found in files and through other online or library sources. To support this effort, materials are being developed that will guide researchers (young and old), step by step, to create the story of a sailor’s life.

Volunteers wanted

The project has permission from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to use the headstone data of 1,769 Canadian citizen sailors who died in the war. This baseline data already contains fascinating information about these Navy reservists, but it will be expanded by volunteer researchers using the sailors’ service records (made available online by Library and Archives Canada), archives of online newspapers and ancestry websites. Our goal is to introduce the Virtual Citizen Sailors Cenotaph to the Naval Reserve in 2023 for its 100th anniversary. We need a huge team of researchers from across Canada to tackle this project.

To be clear, no military or historical research experience is necessary to become a volunteer researcher; just a commitment to writing a life story based on information found in files and through other online or library sources. To support this effort, materials are being developed that will guide researchers (young and old), step by step, to create the story of a sailor’s life.

Apply today

In the words of Georgie Carter Krell, an American Gold Star mother, “Dying for freedom is not the worst that can happen. Being forgotten is. The Virtual Citizen Sailors Cenotaph will be a lasting gift to the Naval Reserve, so that those who made the ultimate sacrifice can be properly celebrated by future generations. Help us complete this legacy project. Volunteer today!

For more information on how you can help, please email:

CSVC.CVMC@gmail.com

Apply today

In the words of Georgie Carter Krell, an American Gold Star mother, “Dying for freedom is not the worst that can happen. Being forgotten is. The Virtual Citizen Sailors Cenotaph will be a lasting gift to the Naval Reserve, so that those who made the ultimate sacrifice can be properly celebrated by future generations. Help us complete this legacy project. Volunteer today!

For more information on how you can help, please email:

CSVC.CVMC@gmail.com

Photo edits:


Able Seaman Daniel Ralph
– Department of National Defense / Library and Archives Canada

Marian Wingate and Margaret Little – Department of National Defense / Library and Archives Canada

Able Seaman Joe Nantais – BP Donovan J. Thorndick / Canada. Department of National Defense / Library and Archives Canada

Ens1 R.A.F. Raney – Ltv Gerald M. Moses / Canada. Department of National Defense / Library and Archives Canada – (V4 Mar. 2022)

Naval ensigns
The blue and white ensigns displayed at the top of this page were those displayed by RCN ships during the Second World War. For more information on this, see this article.

The restoration of a Canadian naval ensign

Citizen Sailors
The book “The Sailor-Citizen” by Richard Gimblett and Michael Hadley is available for download on this site here.

Citizen Sailors

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