© 2002 - 2005 AFHS
50th Battalion 1914-1915
These Canadian Expeditionary Force data were compiled by AFHS member Lt Col W. van der Schee and were published by the AFHS in two volumes in 1994. These and other publications are available for purchase from the AFHS. For details, see our Publications webpage. AFHS does not have further information on the individuals listed in the Nominal Rolls, unless a name appears in one of our on-line resources such as the cemetery indexes. For additional information, you may view the online resources of the National Archives of Canada
At the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, the Minister of Militia, Sam Hughes, organized an overseas army, the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) completely separated from Canada's existing military structure. The infantry Militia of the day was organized into 110 regiments, each with roots in its community, and with a structure suited for expansion upon mobilisation. Instead of making use of this structure, Hughes called for drafts of volunteers to report to Valcartier Camp, near Québec City. These drafts were ultimately organized into numbered battalions with only minimal connection to their Militia and regional origins.
Thus Calgary's first battalion, the 10th, was formed at Valcartier in September 1914 from the 846 men furnished by the 103rd Regiment (Calgary Rifles), the city's Militia infantry regiment; they were joined by another 665 from the 106th Regiment (Winnipeg Light Infantry). A second battalion, the 31st, began recruiting in Calgary in November 1914, and then extended its efforts throughout the province of Alberta.
The 50th Infantry Battalion (Calgary Regiment) CEF, was organized hard on the heels of the 31st. It was authorized on 15 December 1914, and began recruiting in earnest in January 1915. Its organization would have been complete much earlier had it not been required to send two drafts of 255 men each to England in June and September 1915 as reinforcements for the 10th Battalion. That Battalion had been in action since February 1915, and had suffered losses of nearly 600 killed and wounded in only one battle, Second Ypres in mid-April 1915. The reinforcements would see no further service with the 50th.
The 50th Battalion sailed from Halifax on 27 October 1915, arriving in England on 4 November. It was allocated to the 10th Brigade, 4th Canadian Division, and served in the trenches of France and Flanders from 11 August 1916 until the Armistice on 11 November 1918.
What follows is the nominal roll or "sailing list" of the 50th Battalion, including the rolls of the two reinforcement drafts. A sailing list was published for each unit proceeding overseas, and included information about every member, including regimental number, rank, and name as well as details about his next of kin, country of birth and date and place of enlistment. They contain a wealth of information for the genealogist. However, a certain measure of caution is advised, for the information was supplied by the individual, usually from memory, and recorded by a clerk who was writing what he heard, sometimes in chaotic conditions, and who may not have been familiar with the spelling of the name of every locality in Great Britain and Canada.
The errors that were obvious to me were corrected, but there are doubtless many others that remain undetected, and I leave it to the researcher to find them. One error I found but was unable to correct was a duplication of regimental numbers; either a clerk's or a printer's errors have resulted in five pairs of duplicates. The rolls were copied from the originals by means of a computerized optical character reader programme, which did not read the documents with complete accuracy. Errors had to be detected by the time-honoured method of proof reading, and it is hoped that most of them were found and corrected. The cover pages of the documents have been reproduced, rather than copied, with some minor alterations.
This is by no means a complete roll of all those who served in the 50th Battalion from the time it left Calgary until it returned in 1919. During its more than two years in battle, the Battalion incurred casualties continuously, and received replacements for them. I would estimate that another 3,000 men served in the Battalion in addition to the 1076 and two reinforcing drafts listed here. The replacements were supplied by the infantry battalions subsequently raised in Calgary, and the rest of Alberta. There were 17 of them, and all were broken up in England to provide reinforcements for the four Alberta battalions in France and Flanders, the 10th, 31st, 49th (from Edmonton) and 50th. A complete roll of the 50th Battalion is planned, but it awaits the availability of Part II Orders, or personnel transactions, from the National Archives.
In October 1914, when the 1st Canadian Division had barely left Canada for service in the First World War, the Canadian offer to raise a second contingent of 20,000 men was accepted by the British War Office. Included in the second mobilization, whose numbers ultimately far exceeded the original offer, were 13 regiments of mounted rifles, the first four of which were accepted by the War Office for service in Egypt. But the Australian Light Horse were more readily available, and neither these four regiments, nor the other nine, ever served in the Middle East. The first six were converted and amalgamated to form four infantry battalions, while the others were broken up as reinforcements. It was an infantryman's war, and there was little use for horsemen in the mud, craters and barbed wire of the Western Front.
3rd Regiment, Canadian Mounted Rifles (3 CMR) was authorized on 5 November 1914 to mobilize at Medicine Hat and to draw its recruits from Calgary, Edmonton and Medicine Hat. The Regiment actually began recruiting in mid-December 1914 and had obtained the majority of its men by the end of January 1915, although the last two recruits were attested on 7 and 8 June respectively at Sewell Camp, Manitoba en route to the embarkation port of Montreal. The Regiment sailed for England on 12 June 1915 and arrived in England seven days later as part of 1st Canadian Mounted Rifles Brigade, along with 1 CMR recruited in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and 2 CMR from Vernon and Victoria, British Columbia. The Brigade went to France as infantry on 22 September 1915 but mounted rifles regiments had an establishment that amounted to about 60% of the strength of infantry battalions, and were therefore a poor fit in the tactical situation. Consequently, on 1 January 1916, 3 CMR was disbanded and its men apportioned to 1 and 2 CMR to increase the strengths of those regiments to that of infantry battalions.
12th Regiment, Canadian Mounted Rifles (12 CMR) was authorized on 1 December 1914 to mobilize at Calgary and to recruit in that city and in Red Deer and district. By the end of January 1915 the Regiment had recruited 337 men, and it continued enlistments almost until sailing for England on 12 October 1915. The Regiment had already dispatched a reinforcing draft that sailed from Montréal on 23 August 1915 to replace casualties incurred by 1st Canadian Division since it first went into battle in April. All of 12 CMR's soldiers were dispersed as reinforcements for other units by early February 1916.
13th Regiment, Canadian Mounted Rifles (13 CMR) was authorized on 1 December 1914 to mobilize at Pincher Creek and to recruit in the southwestern part of Alberta. Recruiting was slow among the farmers, ranchers and miners of the district, and dispatch of two 50-man reinforcement drafts in June and August 1915 further delayed completion of the establishment. The recruiting base was expanded to include Calgary and Medicine Hat, even though these two centres had just raised a regiment of mounted rifles each, and were mobilizing infantry battalions as well. By January 1916, the strength of about 600 needed for a regiment of mounted rifles had still not been achieved, but by that time the CMR regiments serving at the front had been converted to infantry battalions. It appears a decision was taken to continue recruiting to something approaching infantry battalion strength, and 13 CMR sailed on 29 June 1916 with a roster of 970 all ranks. The Regiment was disbanded and used to reinforce other Alberta units when it arrived in England.
One of the notable features of 13 CMR was the 42 men born in Japan in its ranks. By the early part of 1916, there was a shortage of volunteers for the Canadian Expeditionary Force, and the solutions included conscription and removal of impediments to enlisting what had earlier been considered undesirable nationalities. The appearance of not only Japanese, but also eastern Europeans born in countries on the Allied side, in the nominal rolls marked a decided change in recruiting policy. Many of the Japanese names found in the roster of 13 CMR can be found in to-day's telephone directories of Calgary and southern Alberta.