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Brit in CEF


ajsmith
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Can anyone explain this?

My man Sydney Milton Oliver, born in Finchley, school in Wiltshire, serving with the 23rd Middlesex (militia) at the outbreak of war joins the Canadian Expeditionary Force in September 1914. Was this perhaps a short cut to the Front (if so it didn't work) ? Did many 'foreigners' join the CEF? As it happens by October 1915 he was a lieutenant with the 8th Royal Fusiliers and by the end of the war a captain in the RE.

thanks

Tony Smith

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Did he just happen to find himself in Canada at outbreak of war and enlisting in the CEF was the quickest way to get himself involved? As an example I understand the first contingent of Princess Patricias that arrived in UK around Dec 1914 were all ex-British servicemen (not sure if this applied to all officers).

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Good point Signals.

I can't make out the place of enlistment on his attestation papers. I've attached the first page maybe someone more familiar with the geography of Canada can read it better than me, so I've attached it.

thanks

AttOliver.doc

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Hello. He enlisted at Valcartier Quebec, a purpose built camp for the Canadian Expeditionary Force, which survives as Canadian Forces Base Valcartier today. According to his service number, 16927, hand written at the top of the attestation form, he was in "F" Company, 7th Bn (1st British Columbia Regiment) Canadian Expeditionary Force.

On reading the form, I think it indicates he had 1 year service in the 23rd Middlesex, and 2nd Wilts, but was not currently serving in those units. This was previous service.

There has been considerable work done on the compostion of the CEF and one must be aware that Canada was a country of immigrants before WW1. Considerable numbers of these migrants enlisted to serve in the CEF as it was seen as essentially helping the mother country, Great Britain.

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Bill

thanks very much for that. I don't think I'd ever have deciphered Valcartier on my own. The information about regiment etc. is really helpful.

all the best

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Tony, at the top of the second page of his attestation is the notation: "88 VF." This tells us he was serving in a Canadian militia regiment, the 88th Victoria Fusiliers, who supplied a component to the 7th Overseas Battalion in September.

This means that in 1914 (and maybe earlier) he was likely living in or near Victoria, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, on the west coast of Canada; a long way from Finchley!

Bill, how do you work out he was with "F" Coy?

Peter in Vancouver

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I think over 60% of original CEF was UK born.

Paul, I think you are correct if you are referring to the first contingent. In total, just over 50% of all soldiers in the CEF were born in Canada. As Bill points out, Canada was a nation of immigrants.

marc

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how do you work out he was with "F" Coy?

Peter, I got this link from Chris Wright, and it shows soldiers in companies A through H, so I suspect it is a carryover from the militia system.

marc

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Thanks for that Marc, I think the 8 companies were phased into 4 in late 1914.

But what I meant for Bill is this: is he deducing the company from the regimental number? or does he have a nominal roll showing company? or ??

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Actually Canada is still a nation of immigrants. We all came from somewhere else. Toronto's population of three million is well over half foreign born. Even in my small village of 900 people we have families from Cuba, Columbia, India,etc., all recent arrivals who are blending with the earlier generation of British, Dutch, and German arrivals.

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Norm Christie in his books on the CEF calculates that 64% of the first contingent were British-born. One in five of the Canadian population in 1914 was a recent immigrant. As an example ( which I apologise for repeating from elsewhere) 17 former pupils of Bury Grammar School, Lancashire served with the CEF in the Great War. Five of them died, including, coincidentally, one Sydney Olive, rather than Oliver. His service record shows that Sydney Olive had 8 years service with the Lancashire Fusiliers Militia prior to emigration.

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As a kid growing up, I thought it only natural that all the mums in my neighbourhood (including my own) spoke with English or Scottish accents and all the dads with Canadian ones. I was born in 1946, and on my street nearly every man was a veteran and every woman a war bride.

While most of the men have died, there are still lots of those tough old girls still going strong. My mum, aged 86, still volunteers at a local hospital. She served in the London fire brigade in 1940.

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Here's our man at school in 1901. He's at Malorborough College in Marlborough St Peter and St Paul and Preshute.

SN

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