Canadian Expeditionary Force
Canadian Expeditionary Force, the army raised by Canada for service abroad during the First World War. In August 1914 Canada offered and Britain accepted an expeditionary force whose strength was fixed at first at 25 000.
Canadian Expeditionary Force, the army raised by Canada for service abroad during the First World War. In August 1914 Canada offered and Britain accepted an expeditionary force whose strength was fixed at first at 25 000. The strength of the first contingent which sailed for England October 1914 was in fact over 31 000, many of this number British-born. The size of the mobilized force steadily increased. The 1st Canadian Division went to France early in 1915. A Canadian corps of 2 divisions was formed there later that year, and in 1916 it reached its full strength of 4 divisions. A 5th Division was formed in England, but because of anticipated difficulties in providing reinforcements, it was not sent to the theatre of operations except for its divisional artillery and certain special units.
Apart from the Canadian Corps, the CEF included the Canadian Cavalry Brigade, also serving in France, the Canadian Railway Troops, which in addition to working on the Western Front provided a bridging unit for the Middle East, the Canadian Forestry Corps, which cut timber in Britain and France, and special units which operated in the Caspian area and in northern Russia and eastern Siberia.
The Canadian Expeditionary Force was maintained by voluntary enlistment until the Military Service Act of August 1917 introduced conscription. In total 619 636 officers and men served in the CEF, of whom 142 588 were enlisted under the Military Service Act; 424 589 served overseas. The peak strength of the CEF at any one point was 388 038 all ranks in July 1918. Total fatal casualties from all causes 1914-20 were 59 544 all ranks. (This figure does not include Canadians who died with the RFC, RNAS, RAF or in other Allied forces.)
During the war Canadian authority over the Canadian Expeditionary Force was steadily strengthened. In the beginning the relationship to the British military authorities was vague. After the Canadian Ministry of Overseas Military Forces was set up in London in 1916, the force's national nature was fully established. Canadian training in England became entirely a Canadian responsibility.
In 1917, for the first time, a Canadian officer, Sir Arthur Currie, took command of the Canadian Corps. In 1918 it was formally recognized that while the direction of operations in the field remained the province of the British commander-in-chief, the internal organization and administration of the Canadian force were matters for Canadian authorities. By the end of the war the CEF, which in 1914 had been thought of as a colonial contingent serving under the British Army Act, had become in effect a Canadian national army.
Desmond Morton, When Your Number's Up: The Canadian Soldier in the First World War (1993); G.W.L. Nicholson, Canadian Expeditionary Force 1914-1919 (1964); Bill Rawling, Surviving Trench Warfare: Technology and the Canadian Corps 1914-1918 (1992).