Great War 100 Reads

Commemorating the centenary of the First World War in books

Monday Monuments and Memorials – No 2 Construction Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force

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Last week, we had postcards. This week, we need stamps.

Earlier this year, Canada Post issued a postage stamp to commemorate the No 2 Construction Battalion of Canadian Expeditionary Force – the only segregated all-Black battalion in Canadian military history. How did it come about?

From the first day cover:

When Sir Robert Borden called on Canadians to volunteer for war in 1914, citizens responded eagerly. In the eyes of many local recruiters, however, not all volunteers were welcome. Although they were willing to fight for their country, many Black Canadians were turned away. In response to protests – and the need for more manpower in Europe – military officials created the No 2 Construction Battalion on July 5, 1916. The following spring, more than 600 soldiers in the Battalion left Halifax for France, where they worked with the Canadian Forestry Corps to harvest, mill, and ship timber to the front. A few men found ways to join other units and wound up fighting at Vimy Ridge and other battles on the Western Front, but most served with the Forestry Corps, where they faced challenging conditions, segregated accommodations, and arduous work. Some did not return home. The No 2 Construction Battalion served Canada with pride and determination, paving the way for Black Canadians to enlist freely in the Canadian Forces during the Second World War and thereafter.

Calvin W. Ruck’s book, Canada’s Black Battalion: No. 2 Construction, 1916-1920, is a detailed history of the battalion. (Link is to a digitized copy of the book.) A monument to the battalion was dedicated in 1993, in Pictou, Nova Scotia, where the battalion trained.


A change to the navigation on Great War 100 Reads! The Monuments and Memorials tab at the top of the page leads to a running list of all the Monday features. 

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Author: greatwar100reads

Canadian crusader for equality and justice. Connoisseur and creator of the written word. Commemorating the centenary of the First World War in books and monuments. Read more at greatwar100reads.wordpress.com.

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