Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Canada's "Original 40"

Unit Patch of the 3rd Battalion
When war was declared in August 1914, a battalion from Toronto started mobilizing within days. The 3rd Battalion drew primarily from Toronto’s Queen’s Own Rifles regiment, reinforced by other local militias — the 10th Royal Grenadiers and the Governor General’s Body Guard. They trained at Valcartier and became the first Canadian troops to set sail for the Western Front in September 1914.

Designated the 3rd Battalion of the Toronto Regiment, the unit organized and trained at Camp Valcartier before sailing for England from Quebec City on board the SS Tunisian on 25 September 1914. They arrived in England on 16 October with a strength of 42 officers and 1123 men of other ranks. 

Men of the Battalion with Their Mascot in 1916

The battalion became part of the 1st Canadian Division, 1st Canadian Infantry Brigade, where it saw action at Ypres and Vimy Ridge and was in every major action of the CEF along the Western Front. It was later reinforced by the 12th Canadian Reserve Battalion. During the war 286 soldiers of the 3rd Battalion were taken prisoner — all but 21 during the 2nd Battle of Ypres during April and May 1915.

The Battalion's Machine Gunners on the March 1918

The battalion returned to Canada from England on the SS Olympic, arriving in Halifax on 21 April 1919, then Toronto by train, demobilizing in the afternoon of 23 April 1919. Only 40 of the original contingent from 1914 arrived back at the end of the war. Although others had been demobilized or taken prisoners of war this group was honored as Canada's "Original 40".

Sources:  Toronto Star, 3rd Battalion History

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