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Creating the Light of Liberation with the Canadian Remembrance Torch & McMaster University

The Light of Liberation will visit key sites in the UK and Normandy as part of the Lighting Their Legacy events series.

To craft the light itself, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission partnered with the Canadian Remembrance Torch and students from McMaster University.

Commonwealth War Graves chatted with Canadian Remembrance Torch founder Karen Hunter to discuss her inspiration, how the Lighting Their Legacy torch was created, and the importance of remembrance.

The Light of Liberation

Hi Karen. Firstly, why a torch? Where did the inspiration come from?

In 2020, the charity’s “In Our Fathers’ Footsteps” (IOFF) event marked the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War and the Dutch Liberation

Descendants of Canadians who had helped liberate the Dutch were given the opportunity to walk in the researched footsteps of their fathers, uncles, and grandfathers in the Netherlands. 

As I rallied the troops (so to speak) for this unique event, I found myself repeating the phrase, “Together, as the next generation, we’ll carry the torch of remembrance!” 

That’s when I realized the charity needed a physical torch.

What is the significance of the torch?

Torches have a long history of association with remembrance, stemming largely from Col John McCrae’s iconic poem, In Flanders Fields, and specifically the line, “The torch; be yours to hold it high.”

The concept of ‘keeping the flame’ alive reflects the charity’s mission—to contemporize remembrance for the next generation. The Torch enables meaningful and relevant engagement.

Why is it important to engage the next generation in these events? 

Peace and freedom can be taken for granted when it’s all you’ve ever known. The next generation is disconnected from remembrance because the World Wars are, for them, “ancient history.”

In Canada, this generation is increasingly multi-cultural, with diverse backgrounds and experiences relating to conflict. In the next generation’s social-media-driven world, traditional “Lest we forget” remembrance just doesn’t resonate. 

The charity’s goal is to promote contemporary remembrance that is year-round (beyond November 11th), about today (not just yesterday), and focused on pride and celebration (not just sadness).

What has been your experience creating commemorative torches with McMaster University?

The charity partnered with McMaster University in 2021 to create the first Canadian Remembrance Torch for its IOFF event. 

From the beginning, McMaster embraced the charity’s mission and has continued to be incredibly supportive and generous. 

Design and development of The Canadian Remembrance Torch is now a Capstone project for a team of graduating engineers.

For me personally, it’s inspiring to work with these bright, talented students. They keep me on my toes and provide first-hand exposure to what matters to this generation.

What does the commemoration mean to Canada and Canadians? 

For Canadians, D-Day’s 80th anniversary is a milestone commemoration. The Second World War Veterans who are with us today won’t likely be here for the 85th so it’s more important than ever to show our love, respect, and gratitude for them.

It’s also a time to reflect on the Second World War’s “never again” message, given today’s global events. 

Commemorations such as D-Day’s 80th provide a needed opportunity to express gratitude for the sacrifices made for peace and freedom. 

What do Commonwealth War Graves Commission sites and projects mean to you?

CWGC’s efforts to enhance commemoration are impressive. Forever More: Stories of the Fallen, and Memory Anchor, create engagement and provide a meaningful commemorative experience. 

I enjoy reading about CWGC’s dedicated employees in cemeteries around the world and seeing the wildlife visitors who, in their own special way, provide joy and comfort.

And finally, perhaps a word about our partnership and the future?

Working with CWGC has been a gratifying experience. Being surrounded by a great group of people who share the charity’s mission is inspiring! 

I look forward to the many ways we can work together to engage the next generation.

About Lighting Their Legacy

Lighting Their Legacy is 18 set-piece events that will be held at different locations across the UK in May, supported by an educational programme for schools. 

During the events, flames of commemoration will be passed from veterans to young people to represent the handing over of responsibility for the memories of the World Wars to younger generations.  
The torches have been designed by three Canadian undergraduate Mechanical Engineering students from McMaster University in Ontario. 

They were tasked to overcome the challenges and technicalities needed to build a torch, including the weight and fuel, as part of a degree project which allowed them to reflect on why commemoration is important to them, and why it continues to be relevant for future generations. 
The journey of the living flame of commemoration will start in Canada, and in the UK will include Cardiff, Edinburgh, and Portsmouth, as well as key Commonwealth War Graves locations. The events will culminate in Normandy, with every CWGC grave being lit in tribute to the fallen.

See below for more information on Lighting Their Legacy as well as other Legacy of Liberation events.

Lighting their legacy

Lighting their Legacy

Across the UK, May & June

Discover our national programme of events and inspire the next generation.

The Great Vigil

The Great Vigil

Normandy, 5 June

Join the culmination of our D-Day events as we illuminate every CWGC grave in Normandy.


Bayeux Cathedral


We're holding a number of events across the UK and in Normandy in the build up to the 80th anniversary of D-Day. Find out more about what we're planning and discover how you can get involved.

Find out more
Tags Lighting Their Legacy Legacy of Liberation