The Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) was the force raised by Canada for service overseas during WWI. Some 620,000 Canadians who enlisted between 1914-1918 served in the CEF. Of those enlistees, about 424,000 went overseas. Most were volunteers, but when recruitment slowed, a conscription law went into effect in 1918. Our new Canadian Expeditionary Force, 1915-1919 collection contains nominal rolls, rosters, war diaries, yearbooks, and unit histories for the CEF. Before the war came to an end in November 1918, the CEF gained the respect of both friend and foe as an elite fighting force. There were more than 233,000 Canadian casualties during WWI, resulting in nearly 61,000 deaths.
As part of the British Empire, Canada automatically entered WWI in August 1914 when Britain declared war on Germany. Canada, however, had limited military forces and began accepting volunteer recruits to serve. The first Canadian division arrived in Europe in 1915 under the command of the British military. Additional battalions arrived as the war progressed. Soon Canada’s fighting forces evolved into a National Army.
Some examples of what you might find in this collection are unit histories like this one for the 13th Battalion that fought in the Battle of Vimy Ridge. If you have an ancestor that served as a nurse with the CEF, the nominal rolls for the Nursing Sisters are a great resource that provides the name and address for next of kin of the nurse enlistees. These women left their homes and families to care for soldiers with injuries and their dedicated work saved many lives.
The Canadian Grenadier Guards from the 87th Infantry Battalion were primarily recruited from Montreal but had members from every province of Canada. Their yearbook includes photographs of individual soldiers. The 160th Bruce Battalion was formed from residents of Bruce County, Ontario. In this collection, you can find a roster from the 160th Bruce Battalion from December 1916. The group celebrated the Christmas holiday at Bramshott Camp in England. Canadians in Khaki was a WWI pictorial newspaper that included stories of valor and heroism like this one for Sergeant-Major F. W. Hall who died during the Second Battle of Ypres. He served in the 8th Canadian Infantry Battalion in the front line trenches. To get to the trench, soldiers had to cross an exposed bank where enemy machine-gun fire resulted in many casualties. Sergeant-Major Hall left the safety of the trench twice to rescue wounded men who lie suffering on the exposed bank. While attempting to carry a third injured soldier back to the trench he was killed.