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BEXHILL ON SEA, UK. In WW1 the Army needed thousands of platoon commanders, a look back from the records of the National Archives report "Canadian Officers Training School, Bexhill on Sea. GAQ 10-39, RG 24 Vol 1841. Down load your own copy of the images and this interesting account of what they did.



The following was published in Stand To! #72. Its focus was on the British readers; however, it is a useful step-by-step resource for any researcher.

The National Archives of Canada (NAC) and National Library of Canada have been gradually adding the Attestation Papers to its Nominal Roll of soldiers of the Canadian Expeditionary Force and these are now almost complete. Military records of veterans of the Great War who have been dead for more than twenty years are treated as historical documents and are available to the general public. The complete CEF War Diaries have been scanned in to the Internet. The Canadian Department of Veterans Affairs uses material from the CWGC site for the Canadian and Newfoundland war dead for its Virtual War Memorial but unlike the CWGC allows the scanning in of photos and other material. These are very valuable resources for those tracing names on war memorials listed under ‘Served with the Canadians’.

Battalion designations in the CEF are complicated and confusing. There were four divisions of front line infantry of twelve battalions each. A fifth division was contemplated but not put into the field. Two battalions, the 60th and 73rd were disbanded because of the high casualties and were replaced by the 85th and 116th. There were therefore fifty battalions which served as front line infantry of which forty-four were numbered. The other six had names: the Royal Canadian Regiment (RCR), Canada’s pre-war Permanent Force; Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI), raised quickly in 1914 by recruiting British veterans in Canada and Canadians with military experience; and four battalions (numbered 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th) of Canadian Mounted Rifles (CMR) whose name originated in the South African War but who fought as infantry in the Great War. Of the 260 numbered battalions recruited in Canada, 238 were broken up in England to replace casualties and man the other branches of the CEF. There were also cavalry and artillery formations in the CEF and the records of these are accessible in the same way as the infantry. A complete discussion of the CEF is available at the War Diaries site. Click on War Diaries Exhibition and then on Evolution of the Canadian Corps.

Fortunately for researchers Canadian troops retained their original regimental numbers (except in a few rare cases) despite many unit changes. These numbers were allocated in blocks to each battalion as it was raised and thus it is possible to know the unit the man originally joined. The number blocks are now online. Click on Online Help when you access the Soldiers of the First World War site and then click on Regimental Number List. Officers followed the British army convention and had no numbers; however, many Canadians were commissioned from the ranks and their original numbers are to be found on their Attestation Papers. To complicate research the CMR and all the numbered battalions were disbanded soon after the war with the exception of the 22nd which became the Royal 22e Régiment, the famous Van Doos. The history and memory of the numbered battalions was to be perpetuated by militia units, Canada’s equivalent of the British Territorials or the American National Guard. The degree of commitment to this perpetuation varies. Some militias include the CEF battalion in their own regimental history but many still have no written history. Consult the National Library’s bibliography at for a list. The bibliography seems not to include the latest and still available battalion history. It is Second to None: the Fighting 58th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. The author is Kevin Shackleton, a member of the Central Ontario Branch.

How to find on-line records.
The Central Ontario Branch, Western Front Association maintains a website at which has links to the sites mentioned here and to others of interest to the CEF.

Library and Archives Canada Personnel Records

Click on SEARCH (left hand side)

Insert surname – MacKinnon

Insert Given name- Ronald

Click on Submit Query

The name will appear (this is my uncle) with the regimental number and the location in the NAC RG [Record Group] 150 Box 7008-27

Click on the square with two ‘A’’s

Click on image below Front of Form

The Attestation Paper (or Officer’s Declaration) will come on screen. Ronald MacKinnon joined the 81st Bn in Toronto, and was transferred to the RCR in England. After recovering from wounds sustained in Sanctuary Wood on 26 June 1916 he was transferred to the PPCLI and was serving in this unit when he was KiA at Vimy Ridge. His number never changed.

Go back and click on Back of Form

You can access the information if you know the soldier’s number by inserting it in the place provided. Go back to home page and insert 80045. This is my great-uncle William. His British birth made him typical of about two-thirds of the original CEF. A Scot, he had immigrated to Canada in 1913 leaving his wife and daughter in Scotland while he found work and earned enough to bring the family to Canada. He was KiA in November 1915 and is buried as a Canadian.

Go back to the home page and insert William Roland Wansbrough 3033559. He was conscripted under the Canadian Military Service Act passed in August 1917 and his entry gives an example of the system of Territorial Regiments that replaced the recruitment by numbered battalions in 1917. The typed '#2 M.D. on the right top stands for Number 2 Military District [i.e. Toronto]. The 1st C.O. on the left top stands for 1st Central Ontario Regiment.

Before leaving, click on How to Consult a Copy on Site or Order a Copy. You can order the entire military file. The most important of the many pages in the file is the Casualty Form. There is a charge for each page photocopied and you can pay online.

(b) War Diaries

Return to Archivianet home page and click on War Diaries of the First World War.

Click on Search the Database.

Click on the square with double ‘A’s for Images Associated With this Entry

Insert the name of the unit. Do not insert the date- you will be able to scroll to the dates you wish to consult. If you get a reply that No Records Match Your Request, modify your entry and try again. 20th Battalion works but 20th Bn. does not. 3rd Division works but 3 rd Division does not, Princess Patricia’s works but PPCLI does not. This site also has War Diaries of some British units that served with the Canadians.

Veterans Affairs Canada: Virtual War Memorial The Canadian Department of Veterans Affairs maintains a large site relating to Canada’s veterans. Medals and decorations issued to Canadians of the Great War were identical to the British ones and are shown on the site. Canada’s new awards including the Canadian version of the VC are also here. The Virtual War Memorial duplicates the CWGC listing of the dead of Canadian and Newfoundland forces (Newfoundland joined Canada in 1949). Unlike the CWGC site the Virtual War Memorial allows the public to add photos and information. Go to:

Enter surname- MacKinnon

Enter Given name- Ronald


Click-MacKinnon R

Note that there is a Digital Photo Collection.

Click on Click Here to View Photos.

Repeat this for William MacKinnon. He is commemorated on the Fauldhouse, West Lothian, Scotland, War Memorial under the heading ‘Served with the Canadians’. The Memorial Card was sent to his brother, my grandfather, and I placed it on the VAC site. William Roland Wansbrough is also on the site, KIA only ten months after being conscripted.

Directorate of Heritage and History [DHH]

The Directorate of Heritage and History has recently scanned the official history of the CEF into the Internet where it is available for a free download. The PDF Reader ADOBE is required for reading the history and it, too is available for a free download. It has a search engine that allows you to follow the battles in which the battalion that you are researching was involved in. The Official History of the Canadian Army in the First World War: Canadian Expeditionary Force, 1914-1919 by Col.GWL Nicholson is available at

London Gazette

The London Gazette is the official journal of record of the British government. Along with much else, it records promotions of military officers and the award of military decorations. Citations are given for many of these decorations. The MM usually does not have a citation but the recommendation for the award is often in the unit War Diary.

1.      Click on London Gazette.

2.      Under Historians, Click on Search Builder.

3.      Click on Search by Date.

4.      Select World War I from Choose a Historical event

5.      Click Go to Step 3.

6.      Do not enter anything in Gazette Page Number.  Click Go to Step 4.

7.      Type the person’s name in the “With all the words” box.

8.      Click Go to Step 5.

9.      Click Search.

10. Scroll through the list of results until you find the document you are searching for.

11. If no results are found go back to Step 4 and modify the name e.g. use initials instead of full given names.

 The London Gazette can also be searched by Issue Number. If the person has been awarded a decoration, you will find this in the man’s personnel file (Casualty Form-Active Service) marked as LG and a five digit number.


Aid in Finding Descendants:


There is an online telephone directory for Canada which gives telephone numbers and mailing addresses for over 12,000,000 listings. If the person has an unusual name and you know the province or city that the soldier came from you have a chance of locating a descendant. The site is

Further help:

We cannot do individual research but are willing to help with any questions about finding material. Contact

Gordon MacKinnon, Central Ontario Branch WFA

Updated 26 Nov 2007

University Theses - Research papers at The National Archives

zzzzzzzzzzzzz! Whoops! You may have thought your intrepid web master was snoring away. Dreaming of his recently completed MA in War Studies at Royal Military College. Far from it my doubting friends ! That was the sound of him using a buzz saw on the National Archives to come up with some summer reading for  you on Canada and WW1.

Try these

bullet Radley, Kenneth, 1943-. First Canadian Division, C.E.F., 1914-1918 [microform] : Ducimus (We lead) /
bullet McCulloch, Ian M., 1954-. The Fighting Seventh [microform] : the evolution & devolution of tactical command and control in a Canadian infantry brigade of the Great War
bullet Jenkins, Danny R., 1960-. Winning trench warfare [microform] : battlefield intelligence in the Canadian Corps, 1914-1918
bullet Rivard, Jeffrey R. (Jeffrey Ronald), 1973-. Bringing the boys home [microform]: a study of the Canadian demobilization policy after the First and Second World Wars
bullet Miller, Ian Hugh Maclean. 'Our glory and our grief' [microform] : Toronto and the Great War.
bullet Iarocci, Andrew, 1976-. The Mad Fourth [microform] : the 4th Canadian Infantry Battalion at war, 1914-1916
bullet Ellard, James, 1975-. From moribund to mobilized [microform] : the Lake Superior Regiment, 1920-1940
bullet Foyn, Sean Flynn, 1963-. The underside of glory [microform] : AfriCanadian enlistment in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, 1914-1917
bullet Moss, Mark Howard, 1962-. Manliness and militarism [microform] : educating young men for war in the province of Ontario, 1867-1914.
bullet Prince, Robert S. (Robert Stanley), 1965-. The mythology of war [microform] : how the Canadian daily newspaper depicted the great war / by Robert S. Prince.

More here use "militia" as one of your search words - I think I got most of what was there regarding WW1

20/04/2010 08:29:02 PM Ottawa Time


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