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Remembered Today:

Canadian Expeditionary Force - What unit?


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Hopefully there are some Canadian experts out there ;)

I discovered a relative who fought for the Canadian Army in WW1, and found his attestation papers on Ancestry. His name is James Abbs, b. 1886 in Norwich, Norfolk and living in Lincoln, Ontario, Canada. His family moved to Canada in 1911.

There are two pages, but nothing to say exactly what unit he joined. The only hint I have is that the document is signed by an officer in illegible handwriting and stamped 81st Battalion CEF.

Question; Is it safe to assume that because it was approved by an 81st Battalion officer that he infact joined this unit (also the fact the 81st was based in Ontario). Or is it unlikely?

Many thanks,


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Have you tried searching for him on Archives Canada ? They have no problems with service records,no bombing,no burning. It looks to me like he enlisted in the 81st.


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The number block for the 81st Battalion was 157001-16000 recruited mainly from Toronto & District.

His number 158512 would place him in this block

81st Battalion sailed from Halifax, Canada on 28 April, 1916 with 36 Officers and 1067 Other Ranks

Sailed on the RMS 'Olympic' and disembarked at Liverpool 6 May 1916

The Olympic could carry 500 officers in First Class, 716 NCOs and 1033 men in births and 3,765 men in hammocks.

The 81st then proceeded by rail to the West Sandling Training Area, located in Kent and arrived there on 7 May 1915

Regards Mark

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If you go here http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/databas...42-100.01-e.php and type in his number to go to his attestation papers on the LAC site, you will find instructions on how to order your mans service file from LAC. You can order online using your credit card but you will not receive an actual cost until your file arrives with you. The cost depends on the number of pages in the file. If he was an early casualty his file may not be very large. However if he survived the war it may be quite large, especialy if he was wounded one or more times. I believe the average cost of a service file to be in the region of £12-£15 although having said that I sent for two soldiers files and the total cost was just over £13 for the pair of them.


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Although he was initially accepted into the 81st, this battalion was broken down to reinforce other earlier units and did not fight as the 81st at the front. You would be able to see which unit he was transferred to once you order the file. This will be on a document in the file that shows transfers and other major activities. I believe many of these men were later moved to the 75th Battalion, but they also were transferred to other battalions.

I have gone through the Toronto Star newspaper which has an online archives. This newspaper made an exceptional efort to document the war service of local men. 81st men come up rather frequently, and you may be able to find out more about the units. the paper published articles on fund raising efforts for the units, where they were training, how recruiting was going. I think they may have participated in the Mock Battle day which included hundreds of newly recruited men and was conducted on the streets and parks of Toronto in 1916.

Unfortunately, it is not free, but you can get short term subscription - through "Pages of the Past" which is not too costly. You can try to search for the surname.

I've saved a few of the brief articles on 81st men from this paper. Usually an article appeared when a man was wounded, died, missing. It often included a photo.

Toronto Star archives.


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Thanks again chaps, this forum never fails to impress me!

Ian + Bob, great link, I shall have a look and see. I shall probably order a full copy. I know he survived the war as I have a death record for him, so hopefully it'll be a huge document...one can hope.

Canadawwi, yes I did read that the 81st was broken down after arrival in England, but I read it was absorbed into the 35th battalion...though I have to say I only searched briefly this afternoon, so your information is certainly very helpful and something I can get my teeth into.



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