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For the organisation that fought in Europe, see Canadian Corps.


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 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.

Composition

26th Battalion of the Second Canadian Expeditionary Force, 1915
The Canadian Expeditionary Force was comprised mostly of men who had volunteered, 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.

Canadamarker 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 Museummarker, 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 of the French for "22" - vingt deux)

To a lesser extent, other cultural groups were represented with Ukrainiansmarker, Russiansmarker, Scandinavians, Italians, Belgiansmarker, Dutchmarker, Frenchmarker, Americansmarker, Swissmarker, Chinese, and Japanesemarker 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 Seamarker, in northern Russia and eastern Siberia.

After distinguishing themselves in battle from the Second Battle of Ypresmarker, through the Somme and particularly in the Battle of Arrasmarker at Vimy Ridgemarker 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.

Equipment

Vehicles

Armoured carriers and armoured tractors


Tanks
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
Martini Henry 1870s-end of World War I
Winchester rifle 1870s-end of World War I


.303 rifles

Model/Type Period or Years in Use Manufacturer/Origins
Ross rifle
Ross Rifle Mark I and Ross Mark II (multiple * variants) 1905-1913
Ross Rifle Mark III 1913-1916
Lee Enfield (SMLE) Mark III 1916-1943


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)
Colt Model 1911 Pistol—1914-1945
Smith & Wesson 2nd Model "Hand Ejector" Revolver—1915-1951


Approved private purchase and secondary side-arms
Model/Type Period or Years in Use Manufacturer/Origins
Webley Mark VI Revolver
Enfield No. 2 MkI Revolver


Bayonets and combat knives
Model/Type Period or Years in Use Manufacturer/Origins
Pattern 1907 bayonet
Ross Bayonet (for 1905 and 1910 rifles)


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


Ammunition

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


Uniforms, load bearing and protective equipment

See also: Battledress, Uniforms of the Canadian Forces

Uniform
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
Tam o'shanter
Field Service Cap
Brodie helmet


See also



Notes

  1. Morton, Desmond. When Your Number's Up
  2. Stacey, C. & N. Hillmer Canadian Expeditionary Force. The Canadian Encyclopedia.
  3. Otter committee article


Further reading

  • Berton, Pierre (1986). Vimy. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart. ISBN 0-7710-1339-6
  • Christie, Norm. For King & Empire, The Canadians at Amiens, August 1918. CEF Books, 1999
  • Christie, Norm. For King & Empire, The Canadians at Arras, August–September 1918. CEF Books, 1997
  • Christie, Norm. For King & Empire, The Canadians at Cambrai, September–October 1918. CEF Books, 1997
  • Dancocks, Daniel G. Spearhead to Victory – Canada and the Great War, Hurtig Publishers, 1987
  • Cook, Tim. "At the Sharp End - Canadians Fighting the Great War 1914-1916 Vol. One", Viking Canada, 2007
  • Cook, Tim. "Shock Troops - Canadians Fighting the Great War 1917-1918 Vol. Two", Viking Canada, 2008
  • Morton, Desmond and Granatstein, J.L. Marching to Armageddon. Lester & Orpen Dennys Publishers, 1989
  • Morton, Desmond. When Your Numbers Up. Random House of Canada, 1993
  • Newman, Stephen K. With the Patricia's in Flanders: 1914–1918. Bellewaerde House Publishing, 2000
  • Nicholson, Col. G.W.L. Canadian Expeditionary Force 1914–1919, Official History of the Canadian Army in the First World War, Queen's Printer, 1964
  • Schreiber, Shane B. Shock Army of the British Empire – The Canadian Corps in the Last 100 Days of the Great War. Vanwell Publishing Limited, 2004


External links




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