When war broke out in 1914 between Germany and its allies versus Britain and France, Canada’s Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden immediately offered assistance in raising a contingent of troops to defend Europe. Calls for volunteers started in August 1914.
With a small army of approximately 3,000 soldiers, a small navy, and some militia units, Canada was able to enlist about 35,000 men in a matter of a few months. They were stationed at Valcartier Camp situated northwest of Québec City for initial training and formed into battalions of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, and into a division—the 1st Canadian Division.
Comprising 31,000 men, the Division was sent overseas by convoy for further training at Salisbury Plain in England where it continued training through the winter of 1914, and was finally sent to France in February 1915. The 1st Canadian Division saw combat at a variety of locations, such as the Ypres Salient (Second Battle of Ypres), Festubert, Givenchy-en-Gohelle, Somme, Vimy Ridge up to the end of the First World War, and serving into the present. The history of the 1st Canadian Division is rich, long-lived and backed by distinction as seen in its motto, “Agile, Versatile, Ready.”