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Saturday, October 10, 1998 Published at 09:35 GMT 10:35 UK

Their names liveth - on the Internet

The Debt of Honour database goes online in November

An organisation dedicated to preserving the memories of those who lost their lives in the two world wars is placing its massive database on the Internet.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission holds information on 1.7m soldiers who came from member countries and were killed during the 1914-18 and 1939-45 wars.

Their memories have been preserved on the Internet in time for Remembrance Day.

Looking for a hero

The Debt of Honour Register reveals details of exactly where in the world all the commonwealth war-dead are buried or commemorated.

The commission, which was founded during World War I (1914-18) and looks after memorials in more than 150 countries, has always helped friends and next-of-kin locate the remains of their loved ones.

The organisation fields about 50,000 requests a year - but in the past this has often proved problematic.

[ image: Internet users will see this memorial when they use the database]
Internet users will see this memorial when they use the database
Before recent computerisation, the 1.7m records were stored in more than 3,000 drawers and cross referenced to 1,500 cemetery registers - which made tracking people down very time consuming.

Commission spokesman Peter Francis said: "In the past searching for a casualty without exact knowledge of a surname... or a specific regiment was well-nigh impossible.

"But now anyone can search using key words and narrow down the hits with more information. This is definitely the way forward for us."

The Debt of Honour Register project has taken roughly a year to complete. It went online on November 9, when it was unveiled by the Defence Secretary George Robertson MP.

Keeping the memories alive

Eighty years have elapsed since the end of World War I and more than 50 years since World War II came to an end - soon both wars will pass out of living memory.

Mr Francis said that this was another reason for putting the records on the Internet.

"It's another way to keep their names alive - to make them accessible, especially to young people who are more familiar with the technology," he said.

Anyone who locates a casualty's details using the website can also print out a specially designed commemoration certificate.

There are also plans in the future for the site to be developed further - with more information and facilities that will fit in with the national school curriculum.

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