First World War

The digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) service files is underway and a substantial number of digitized files have been added to our website as part of the Government of Canada First World War commemoration activities. We will add new files every two weeks, as the CEF digitization initiative is a priority for us.

For statistics and information about this digitization project, please consult our monthly updates on the Discover blog.

Image of Recruitment poster. First World War - Enlist! New Names in Canadian History : recruitment campaign.

Enlist!
New Names in Canadian History.
Source

Important Note: Resources described on this page cover the years from 1914 to 1918. All the records described below are open; access restrictions do not apply.

Army

Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF)

The digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) personnel service files is in progress. The original paper documents can no longer be consulted. However, digital reprography is available for those files that have not yet been prepared for digitization. Newly digitized files are added to the  Soldiers of the First World War database, every two weeks until the project’s completion in 2016.

Please check the database regularly for new additions. If you still have questions after having checked the database, you may contact us at 1-866-578-7777 (option 8).

Making these records available in digital format will ensure:

  • Clients can easily and quickly download high-quality digital copies of these service files, free of charge.
  • The long-term preservation of these unique and fragile paper documents.

Project updates will also be shared via the Library and Archives Canada Blog on the 15th of every month.

For more information on this initiative, please consult the Fact Sheet: Digitization of Canadian Expeditionary Force Service Files.

When ordering a copy of a file, the following information pages will help you interpret the documents:

Aboriginal Soldiers

Other references to aboriginal soldiers can be identified using Archives Search and entering keywords such as the surname of a person and "soldier" and RG10.

Royal Newfoundland Regiment and Newfoundland Forestry Corps

Library and Archives Canada holds microfilm copies of the military personnel files of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment and Newfoundland Forestry Corps. References to those files can be identified using Archives Search and entering keywords such as the surname of the person and "Newfoundland" and RG38.

The Family History Library also has a copy of these microfilms. Microfilms are also available for consultation at The Rooms in St. John's, Newfoundland. That archives has also digitized some of the files on their website in the Newfoundland Regiment and the Great War database.

Imperial War Service Gratuity Files

Some Canadian residents who served with the British Imperial Forces during the First World War received a gratuity from the Canadian government. Those Imperial War Service Gratuity files are found in our Department of Militia and Defence fonds (RG9 II F10). References to those files can be identified using Archives Search and entering keywords such as a name and 9-56.

Air

The Royal Canadian Air Force did not exist at this time and those wishing to serve in the Air Forces would have joined the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and the Royal Air Force (RAF). Library and Archives Canada does not hold personnel records for those individuals.

Library and Archives Canada does hold some nominal rolls of Canadians who served with the RFC and RAF in the following series. Those lists are not available on microfilm; they must be consulted onsite.

  • RG24, vol. 23195: E to H and I to M
  • RG24, vol. 23196: A to D and N to W
  • RG24, acc. 1995-96/670, box 1: Acland to Luxton
  • RG24, acc. 1995-96/670, box 2: Macaskill to Zieman

Personnel files for the RAF and RFC are in the custody of the National Archives in England.

Navy

Library and Archives Canada holds the following records for the Royal Canadian Navy and the Naval Reserve.

Royal Canadian Navy Service Ledger Sheets (RG150, Accession 1992-93/170)

The service ledger sheets consist of single over-size pages that summarize each individual's service, including the names of ships and shore bases. They are arranged by service number in 27 volumes.

These ledger sheets have been indexed by name in a database. Consult the database for information about the records, how to obtain copies and other sources for naval personnel records.

Service Files (RG24, 1992-93/169)

These files are more administrative and financial in nature than the service ledger sheets. Most files contain a variety of documents, which may include enrollment applications, discharge or demobilization forms and separation allowances. They usually average from 25 to 50 pages. Some files relate to enrollment in the Royal Naval Air Service. First World War files are open to the public without access restrictions.

References to the service files are found in Finding Aid 24-167. The references can be identified using Archives Search. In the search box enter the Finding Aid number and the name such as “24-167 William Smith” or “24-167 Jean Simard”.

If the individual continued his service after the war, his First World World records may be in his post-1918 file.  The National Archives in England holds service records for those who served in the Royal Navy and can be searched online.

Published Sources

External Links to Other Institutions

Use AVITUS to find other Web sites about records for the First World War.