145: Canadian Expeditionary Forces ww1 Infantry battalions 238-260

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Canadian Expeditionary Forces ww1 Infantry battalions 238-260

The Canadian Expeditionary Force was the designation of the field force created by Canada for service overseas in the First World War. Units of the C.E.F. were further divided into field formation in France, where they were largely organized into divisions and eventually a Canadian Corps within the British Army. Four divisions ultimately served on the front line. The Germans nicknamed them “storm troopers”[1] for their great combat efficiency.

The C.E.F. eventually numbered 260 numbered infantry battalions, two named infantry battalions (The Royal Canadian Regiment and Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry), 13 mounted rifle regiments, 13 railway troop battalions, 5 pioneer battalions, as well as numerous ancillary units including field and heavy artillery batteries, ambulance, medical, dental, forestry, labour, tunnelling, cyclist, and service units.

A distinct entity within the Canadian Expeditionary Force was the Canadian Machine Gun Corps. It consisted of several motor machine gun battalions, the Eatons, Yukon, and Borden Motor Machine Gun Batteries, and nineteen machine gun companies. During the summer of 1918, these units were consolidated into four machine gun battalions, one being attached to each of the four divisions in the Canadian Corps.


The Canadian Expeditionary Force was mostly volunteers, as conscription was not enforced until the end of the war when call-ups began in January 1918 (see Conscription Crisis of 1917). Ultimately, only 24,132 conscripts arrived in France before the end of the war.

Canada was the senior Dominion in the British Empire and automatically at war with Germany upon the British declaration. According to Canadian historian Dr. Serge Durflinger at the Canadian War Museum, popular support for the war was found mainly in English Canada. Of the first contingent formed at Valcartier, Quebec in 1914, ‘fully two-thirds were men born in the United Kingdom’. By the end of the war in 1918, at least ‘fifty per cent of the CEF consisted of British-born men’. Recruiting was difficult among the French-Canadian population, although one battalion, the 22nd, who came to be known as the ‘Van Doos’, was French-speaking (“Van Doo” is an approximate pronunciation of the French for “22” – vingt deux)

To a lesser extent, other cultural groups were represented with Ukrainians, Russians, Scandinavians, Italians, Belgians, Dutch, French, Americans, Swiss, Chinese, and Japanese men who enlisted. Despite systemic racism directed towards non-whites, a significant contribution was made by individuals of certain ethnic groups, notably the First Nations Afro-Canadians and Japanese-Canadians.

The Canadian Corps with its four infantry divisions comprised the main fighting force of the CEF. The Canadian Cavalry Brigade also served in France. Support units of the CEF included the Canadian Railway Troops, which served on the Western Front and provided a bridging unit for the Middle East; the Canadian Forestry Corps, which felled timber in Britain and France, and special units which operated around the Caspian Sea, in northern Russia and eastern Siberia.

After distinguishing themselves in battle from the Second Battle of Ypres, through the Somme and particularly in the Battle of Arras at Vimy Ridge in April 1917, the Canadian Corps came to be regarded as an exceptional force by both Allied and German military commanders. Since they were mostly unmolested by the German army’s offensive manoeuvres in the spring of 1918, the Canadians were ordered to spearhead the last campaigns of the War from the Battle of Amiens on August 8, 1918, which ended in a tacit victory for the Allies when the armistice was signed on November 11, 1918.

The Canadian Expeditionary Force lost 60,661 men during the war, representing 9.28% of the 619,636 who enlisted.

The C.E.F. was legally distinct from the Canadian Militia which did not mobilize in 1914. The Militia remained active in Canada during the war. After 1918, it was decided (after lengthy dissertation by the Otter Committee) that units of the C.E.F. would be disbanded, and that the Militia would be reorganized. Individual units of the Canadian Militia, notably infantry and cavalry regiments, were permitted to perpetuate the battle honours and histories of the C.E.F. units that had actually fought the war.

After the war, the Canadian Military Hospitals Commission reported on provision of employment for members of the Canadian Expeditionary Force on their return to Canada, and the re-education of those who were unable to follow their previous occupations because of disability.



Armoured carriers and armoured tractors


Mark I tank training tank, UK

  • Mark IV tanks in battle were operated by CEF crews, but they belong to the British Army

Small arms

Model/Type Period or Years in Use Manufacturer/Origins
18 Martini Henry 70s-end of World War I United Kingdom
Winchester rifle 1870s-end of World War I United States

.303 rifles

Model/Type Period or Years in Use Manufacturer/Origins
Ross Rifle Mark I and Ross Mark II (multiple * variants) 1905–1913 Canada
Ross Rifle Mark III 1913–1916 Canada
Lee Enfield (SMLE) Mark III 1916–1943 United Kingdom
Service pistols
Model/Type Period or Years in Use Manufacturer/Origins
Colt “New Service” Revolver—1900-1928 (also used by the NWMP and RCMP from 1905–1954) United States
Colt Model 1911 Pistol—1914-1945 United States
Smith & Wesson 2nd Model “Hand Ejector” Revolver—1915-1951 United States
Approved private purchase and secondary side-arms
Model/Type Period or Years in Use Manufacturer/Origins
Webley Mark VI Revolver United Kingdom
Enfield No. 2 MkI Revolver United Kingdom
Bayonets and combat knives
Model/Type Period or Years in Use Manufacturer/Origins
Pattern 1907 bayonet
Ross Bayonet (for 1905 and 1910 rifles) Canada

Machine guns, light machine guns and other weapons

Model/Type Period or Years in Use Manufacturer/Origins
Colt Machine Gun 1914-1916 USA
Vickers Machine Gun 1914-1950s UK
Lewis Machine Gun—1916-c.1945 USA

[edit] Ammunition

Model/Type Period or Years in Use Manufacturer/Origins
.303 British United Kingdom
.455 Webley United Kingdom

[edit] Uniforms, load bearing and protective equipment

See also: Battledress, Uniforms of the Canadian Forces

Model/Type Period or Years in Use Manufacturer/Origins
Service dress 1903-1939
Canadian pattern and British pattern

Load bearing equipment

Model/Type Period or Years in Use Manufacturer/Origins
Oliver Pattern Equipment 1898-19??
1908 pattern web equipment

Head dress

Model/Type Period or Years in Use Manufacturer/Origins
Glengarry United Kingdom
Tam o’shanter United Kingdom
Field Service Cap United Kingdom
Brodie helmet United Kingdom

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