Canadian Expeditionary Force
The Canadian Expeditionary
Force was the overseas force created by the Canadian government in 1914
and sent to Europe as Canada's contribution to the defence of the Empire
in the First World War. The First Contingent was assembled at Valcartier
shortly after the outbreak of war in August, sent to England to train, and
went into the trenches in 1915. The Contingent fought at Second Ypres in
Apr 1915, known as the Canadian Division, and when a second division
arrived in France were redesignated 1st Canadian Division. Eventually,
four divisions were employed in France, and grouped under a corps
headquarters. Collectively, they became known as the Canadian Corps. A 5th
Division served in the UK and was eventually broken up for reinforcements.
The Canadian Corps and the
Canadian Expeditionary Force are not synonymous terms. The CEF included
soldiers in the UK and even a small number in Canada. The Canadian Corps
was a combatant formation of the British Expeditionary Force.
The mobilization of the CEF
was a haphazard and highly politicized affair. Defence Minister Sir Sam
Hughes oversaw the mobilization personally, which was notable for the lack
of attention it paid to prewar plans. The dozens of named infantry
regiments of the Canadian Militia were ignored in favour of creating
numbered battalions, often from more than one regiment.
While new battalions of the
CEF continued to be created, the pre-war infantry Regiments retained their
part-time status, and continued their existence in Canada under their
The CEF eventually came to
number 260 separate numbered infantry battalions, 13 regiments of mounted
rifles, and many units of the supporting arms including 13 railway troop
battalions, 5 pioneer battalions, field and heavy artillery, field
ambulance, medical, dental, forestry, labour, tunnelling, cyclist, and
service units. By war's end, a Canadian Machine Gun Corps had been formed,
and many soldiers had experience flying with the British Royal Flying
Corps before it became a separate service known as the Royal Air Force.
The Canadian Expeditionary Force suffered 60,661 dead during
the war, or 9.28% of the 619,636 who enlisted.
The CEF was
disbanded in 1919. When the entire Canadian Militia was
reorganized in 1920, a system of perpetuations was created
whereby the new regiments of the Militia were permitted to
carry on the traditions, and eventually inherit the Battle
Honours, of the wartime battalions.