Sources Relating to Units of the Canadian Expeditionary Force

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About the guide

Library and Archives Canada holds multiple records and files for the First World War (1914–1918), mostly for the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF). It is necessary to consider all of these records together in order to fully understand the Canadian contribution to this war. The Guide to Sources Relating to Units of the Canadian Expeditionary Force is a unique finding aid that brings together references to records and files scattered throughout several fonds, which relate to almost every unit in the CEF.

The guide was originally developed over many years by Barbara Wilson, an archivist with the former National Archives of Canada, now Library and Archives Canada. The guide has subsequently been updated with more recent acquisitions from official records, private papers and diaries, and by many other contributors from Library and Archives Canada. The guide was reviewed and updated with references to the Ministry of Militia and Defence records and daily orders, which are described by Library and Archives Canada as Record Group 9 or RG9.

The guide is an indispensable starting point for researching the records that document Canada's participation in the First World War. Researchers can begin their search with the military personnel service files, but this is just the beginning. The guide can point to many other primary sources such as the daily orders, private papers and diaries.

For researchers interested in a specific unit, the guide is particularly helpful since it brings together information about the unit as well as access to the most relevant files that have been identified and listed. Please note that more information on particular units may be also found in records of higher formations (e.g. corps, divisions, or brigades) and general subject files, for example, HQ 683 – 1 – 12 in Record Group 24. Another source to consider is the publication The Canadian Military Experience 1867–1967: A Bibliography by O.A. Cooke (Ottawa, 1979, second edition, 1984).

Why are the records written only in English?

Although a number of Canadian Expeditionary Force units, most famously the 22nd Battalion, were composed of French-speaking officers and men, they operated within a Canadian and Imperial military hierarchy whose working language was English.

Organization of the guide

The guide has a section for each military branch (or corps), such as artillery, infantry, or medical. Each corps is further sub-divided by unit, for example, the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery Brigade can be found in the artillery section, along with all the other artillery units.

Each unit contains either background information or archival sources or both. It is important to note that if one or the other is absent, this does not necessarily mean that there are no existing records related to that unit, only that they have not been referenced.

Content list

Important notes

Some of the archival references in this guide contain transcription errors. If you find a reference of interest, be sure to verify it in Archives Search. Enter the first part of the reference and relevant keywords. Examples:

  • RG9 historical record 44th
  • RG9 promotions 3rd artillery
  • RG150 3rd cyclist daily orders

Also check Archives Search for any additional records that might not be included in this guide. Try relevant keywords such as the name of a unit.

Unit War Diaries

You do not need to consult this guide. The war diaries for the Canadian Expeditionary Force (RG9-D-III-3) have been digitized. See our War Diaries of the First World War page to find out how to access them.

Service files

The service files for members of the Canadian Expeditionary Force are indexed and digitized in our Personnel Records of the First World War database.

Other resources

See our First World War page.

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