World War I: Canadian Expeditionary Force

Canadian Expeditinary Force
Figure 1.--This is a portrait of a platoon in the the 78th Inf., Winnipeg Grenadiers, CEF. Thee is no indication of which platoon. The photograph shows the soldiers' uniforms and their Lewis Rifles. No mistaking their Cap Badges. Front center is a young lad with his drum and sticks, the unit drummer boy. We are not sure how old he is, but clearly a teenager younger than the other men. (A photograph of another platoon shows an older drummer.) [Donkin] Other soldiers carried rolled up flags, perhaps signaling flags. The Grenadiers mobilized in Winnipeg Manitoba and sailed on May 20th, 1916 with a strength of 37 Officers and 1,097 Other Ranks. They served in France and Belgium with the 12th Inf. Brigade, 4th Canadian Division.

Canada before the outbreak of war did not really have an army. The arms race in Europe had not affected either America or Canada. Canada in 1914 had a bare bones force of 3,110 men with a few old machine-guns and artillery pieces. The militia system in no way prepared men for modern combat. The German military assessment before the War was that the Dominions would not capable of playing an important role in a uropean war. Not only because they were unprepared, byt the because the war would be over before the British, let alone the Dominions could mobilize and deploy a significant force in France. The Canadian recruits were trained at Valcartier, Québec. Canada sent its first troops to Britain (October 3, 1914). The first contingent of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) totaled 32,000 men. Newfoundland which at the time was a separate British colony contributed 500 men. As the Canadian units continued to arrive arrived in France, they were formed into the different divisions of the Canadian Corps which was organized as part of the British Army. The Canadian Corps eventually fielded four front line divisions Many of the early volunteers were British-born immigrants. Most of the CEF was composed of English-speaking volunteers. Recruiting proved especilly difficult among French-Canadian Canadians, although some did volunteer. French Canadians largely saw the War as an English war and few exhibited much desire to fight to defend France. There was one French-speaking battalion, the 22nd or 'Van Doos'.


Donkin, Mrs. J. E-mail message (November 26, 2013).


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Created: 2:48 AM 5/29/2008
Last updated: 2:50 PM 11/26/2013