Digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force personnel service files–update of August 2016: We’ve passed the half-way mark!

As of today, 320,638 of 640,000 files are available online in our Soldiers of the First World War: 1914–1918 database. Please visit Digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Service Files more details on the digitization project.

Library and Archives Canada is digitizing the service files systematically, from box 1 to box 10,686, which roughly corresponds to alphabetical order. Please note that over the years, the contents of some boxes have been moved. You might find that the file you want (with a surname that should have been digitized) is now located in another box that has not yet been digitized. So far, we have digitized the following files:

  • Latest box digitized: Box 5410 and Larocque.

Please check the database regularly for new additions and if you still have questions after checking the database, you may contact us directly at 1-866-578-7777 for more assistance.

Digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Personnel Service Files – Update of July 2016

As of today, 307,588 of 640,000 files are available online via our Soldiers of the First World War: 1914–1918 database. Please visit the Digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Service Files page for more details on the digitization project.

Library and Archives Canada is digitizing the service files systematically, from box 1 to box 10686, which roughly corresponds to alphabetical order. Please note that over the years, the content of some boxes has had to be moved and, you might find that the file you want, with a surname that is supposed to have been digitized, is now located in another box that has not yet been digitized. So far, we have digitized the following files:

  • Latest box digitized: Box 5218 and Knaggs.

Please check the database regularly for new additions and if you still have questions after checking the database, you may contact us directly at 1-866-578-7777 for more assistance.

Lieutenant Thomas Orde Lawder Wilkinson, V.C.

Today our series First World War Centenary: Honouring Canada’s Victoria Cross recipients remembers Lieutenant Thomas Lawder Wilkinson of the 7th Battalion, Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, British Expeditionary Force, who was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on the Somme battlefields one hundred years ago today on July 5, 1916.

Lieutenant Wilkinson was born in Shropshire, England, and immigrated with his family to Canada prior to the First World War. On September 23, 1914, he enlisted with the 16th Battalion, Canadian Scottish, Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF), later transferring to the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, to serve as a Gunnery Officer. It was with this unit that Wilkinson found himself fighting in the Battle of the Somme.

A black-and-white photograph of a young man wearing a cap and uniform and gazing beyond the photographer.

Lieutenant Thomas Orde Lawder Wilkinson, VC, undated (AMICUS 2715209)

Four days after the most devastating single day in the history of the British forces, Wilkinson and two other men were fighting their way to a forward machine gun, recently abandoned by a retreating party of British soldiers. On their own they succeeded in holding up advancing German soldiers until another unit was able to reach and reinforce them. Later that day, Lieutenant Wilkinson reached several men of different units trapped at a wall of earth over which German troops were throwing bombs. His citation in the London Gazette recounts how:

With great pluck and promptness [Wilkinson] mounted a machine gun on the top of the parapet and dispersed the enemy bombers. Subsequently he made two most gallant attempts to bring in a wounded man, but at the second attempt he was shot through the heart just before reaching the man. Throughout the day he set a magnificent example of courage and self-sacrifice (London Gazette, 26 September 1916).

A black-and-white photograph of four soldiers carrying a stretcher with a shrouded body on it through a devastated landscape.

Bringing in the Dead on the Somme Battlefields, July 1916, Canadian War Records Office (MIKAN 3520928)

The body of Lieutenant Thomas Orde Lawder Wilkinson was never recovered. He is commemorated on the British Memorial to the Missing at Thiepval, France.

Library and Archives Canada holds the CEF service file for Lieutenant Thomas Orde Lawder Wilkinson.

Newfoundland and the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of the Somme

Among the most infamous battles of the First World War and the most emblematic of its horrific slaughter, the Battle of the Somme began on July 1, 1916.

A black-and-white photograph of a pastoral landscape.

General view of the battlefield looking towards Contalmaison (Battle of the Somme). July, 1916 (MIKAN 3520937)

The attack was launched along a 30-kilometre front in northern France. Initially planned by the Allies as a French-British assault, it was intended to divert German forces from their ongoing siege at Verdun. The expectation was that an eight-day preliminary artillery bombardment would destroy the German wire and the forward German lines, allowing advancing forces to simply walk in and take possession of the territory. The artillery, however, failed to destroy either of these targets and at 7:30 a.m. on July 1, 1916, when the bombardment lifted, German infantry emerged from their bunkers to aim their machine guns at the gaps in the otherwise intact wire. An estimated 60,000 British and Allied troops, including close to 800 Newfoundlanders, were killed or wounded on that one day alone. The Battle of the Somme lasted until November 18, 1916. Only 12 kilometres of ground were gained, with 420,000 British, 200,000 French, and 500,000 German casualties.

A black-and-white photograph of a devastated forest, only a few tree trunks are left standing

Scene in Maple Copse (Battle of the Somme). July, 1916 (MIKAN 3520908)

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Digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Personnel Service Files – Update of June 2016

As of today, 297,013 of 640,000 files are available online via our Soldiers of the First World War: 1914–1918 database. Please visit the Digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Service Files page for more details on the digitization project.

Library and Archives Canada is digitizing the service files systematically, from box 1 to box 10686, which roughly corresponds to alphabetical order. Please note that over the years, the content of some boxes has had to be moved and, you might find that the file you want, with a surname that is supposed to have been digitized, is now located in another box that has not yet been digitized. So far, we have digitized the following files:

  • Latest box digitized: Box 5003 and Karpuk.

Please check the database regularly for new additions and if you still have questions after checking the database, you may contact us directly at 1-866-578-7777 for more assistance.

Canadians at the Naval Battle of Jutland, May 31–June 1, 1916

By Alex Comber

A century ago, the largest naval battle of the First World War took place off the coast of Denmark’s Jutland peninsula. More than 250 warships of the Royal Navy and the Imperial German Navy manoeuvred to get ready for action.  The first salvoes of long-range cannon fire were discharged at 14:30 on May 31, 1916, and the ensuing clash lasted into the morning of June 1. With three British battle cruisers and 11 other ships destroyed, and more than twice as many sailors killed and injured, British naval power seemed to have suffered a setback. However, in a strategic sense, the smaller German fleet could not afford its more modest losses, and Kaiser Wilhelm II’s military commanders avoided a similar fleet battle for the duration of the War, focusing instead on submarine attacks.

A black-and-white photograph showing three large warships.

HMAS AUSTRALIA, HMS NEW ZEALAND, HMS INDOMITABLE, Second Battle cruiser Squadron ca. 1917–1919. This unit was at Jutland, where one of its ships, HMS INDEFATIGABLE, was destroyed (MIKAN 3400004)

In many regions of Canada, there were very strong pro-imperial sentiments and cultural ties to Britain. Many had recently emigrated, and still had family back in the “old country.” Though there was a small Canadian Navy (created in 1910), many residents of Canada and of the Dominion of Newfoundland volunteered to serve with the Royal Navy in a variety of roles. With ports across the British Empire and the prospect of an alternative to a soldier’s life in the trenches of the Western Front, there was much to appeal to recruits.

A black-and-white recruitment poster showing the silhouette of a sailor with ship’s guns and the following words: Royal Naval Canadian Volunteer Reserve – Overseas Division wants men ages 18 to 38, seamen & stokers. Join today. No previous experience necessary. Apply at nearest recruiting office.

Recruitment poster for the Royal Naval Canadian Volunteer Reserve Overseas Division, appealing to Canadians to serve in British ships overseas (MIKAN 3635562)

Careful searching of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s online casualty database reveals that at least a dozen of the approximately six thousand sailors killed serving in the British Fleet at Jutland came from Canada or Newfoundland. Stanley de Quetteville, a member of the Royal Canadian Navy, was attached to the Royal Navy and served in the massive battle cruiser HMS INDEFATIGABLE. He was originally from the English Channel island of Jersey and had emigrated to Canada in the years before the First World War in search of opportunities. A qualified engineer, he enlisted in 1910 and had served on the cruiser HMCS NIOBE, one of Canada’s first ships. He married Phyllis Fisher of Halifax, Nova Scotia, in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1915.

A black-and-white photograph showing a group of men sitting or standing on the deck of a ship. The photo is mounted on a black background with the words “Gun Room” written at the top and a list of names at the bottom.

Members of the Gunroom, HMCS NIOBE, Halifax, N.S. Taken 1910–1911. Several of these young men went on to become important figures in the Royal Canadian Navy. Stanley Nelson De Quetteville is shown standing, the third officer from the right (MIKAN 3398852)

De Quetteville died at 16:03 on May 31, when HMS INDEFATIGABLE exploded after being hit by accurate shellfire from the German Dreadnought VON DER TANN. Of the crew of 1,019 men, there were only two survivors. The Minister of the Naval Service, J. D. Hazen, sent his widow a letter of condolence, which reads: “I wish to express to you not only my personal sympathy, but that of the whole Canadian Naval Service, which, in his death, has lost an Officer of undoubted ability and great promise. That he died a sailor’s death, in action against the King’s enemies, and in defence of the Empire, must be to you some consolation in your great sorrow.” Today, Mount Indefatigable in the Canadian Rockies stands as a tribute to de Quetteville and his fellow crew members.


Alex Comber is a Military Archivist in the Government Archives Division.

Digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Personnel Service Files – Update of May 2016

As of today 286,285 of 640,000 files are available online via our Soldiers of the First World War: 1914–1918 database. Please visit the Digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Service Files page for more details on the digitization project.

Library and Archives Canada is digitizing the service files systematically, from box 1 to box 10686, which roughly corresponds to alphabetical order. Please note that over the years, the content of some boxes has had to be moved and, you might find that the file you want, with a surname that is supposed to have been digitized, is now located in another box that has not yet been digitized. So far, we have digitized the following files:

  • Latest box digitized: Box 4810 and Jellyman.

Please check the database regularly for new additions and if you still have questions after checking the database, you may contact us directly at 1-866-578-7777 for more assistance.

Digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Personnel Service Files – Update of April 2016

As of today, 275,299 of 640,000 files are available online via our Soldiers of the First World War: 1914–1918 database. Please visit the Digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Service Files page for more details on the digitization project.

Library and Archives Canada is digitizing the service files systematically, from box 1 to box 10686, which roughly corresponds to alphabetical order. Please note that over the years, the content of some boxes has had to be moved and, you might find that the file you want, with a surname that is supposed to have been digitized, is now located in another box that has not yet been digitized. So far, we have digitized the following files:

  • Latest box digitized: Box 4617 and Hunt.

Please check the database regularly for new additions and if you still have questions after checking the database, you may contact us directly at 1-866-578-7777 for more assistance.

John Boyd

As Canadians we appreciate discovering stories about our country through the works of our painters and photographers, past and present. Canadian archives hold many collections, and sometimes the collection of a particular artist or photographer may contain literally thousands of images for us to explore. This is the case with photographer John Boyd whose collection at Library and Archives Canada (LAC) boasts 28,959 black-and-white photographs.

John Boyd (1865–1941) was born in Emyvale, Ireland. His family immigrated to Toronto in the late 1860s. He was a railway official as well as a photographer. His work with the railroad gave him ample opportunities to take photographs as he travelled across Ontario.

These photographs represent Boyd’s amateur work from 1898 to 1926. A large collection in itself, it is nonetheless dwarfed by the collections held at the City of Toronto Archives. One collection in particular is that of The Globe and Mail, which contains 140,000 of Boyd’s photographic negatives taken from 1922 to before his death in 1941.

The collections at LAC and the City of Toronto Archives complement each other in their dates of creation and subject matter.

The John Boyd fonds consists of photographs portraying all manner of Canadian life, all worth exploring. There are images of towns and cities, royal visits, military life, modes of transportation, industry and agriculture, social conditions, pastimes, and nature.

During the First World War, Boyd focused mainly on the home front, photographing recruiting campaigns, training exercises, and the manufacture of munitions, airplanes and ships. He also photographed everyday Canadians who contributed to the war effort at home as soldiers fought overseas. The following selection of images provides a glimpse of the activities during that time.

A black-and-white photograph of well-dressed men, women and children looking at and exploring an outdoor exhibit of a reconstructed Canadian military trench.

Visitors to a reconstructed 35th Battalion trench, Canadian National Exhibition, Toronto, Ontario, 1915 (MIKAN 3395547)

A black-and-white photograph of women, soldiers and children gathered outside a train. Other soldiers on the train are leaning out of the windows, presumably saying goodbye to their families.

Personnel of the Cycle Corps leaving Exhibition Camp for overseas service, Toronto, Ontario, May 15, 1915 (MIKAN 3194471)

A black-and-white photograph of two soldiers descending the steps of a train car. They are both looking down at the photographer and one is holding a kitten.

Volunteers for war and cat mascot with the 28th Regiment, Toronto, Ontario, August 22, 1914 (MIKAN 3403478)

A black-and-white photograph of soldiers re-enacting how they move out from their trenches for a crowd of spectators at an exhibition.

Soldiers moving out from their trenches, Exhibition Grounds, Toronto, Ontario, September 11, 1915 (MIKAN 3403554)

A black-and-white photograph of two soldiers stopped on a dirt road. One is taking a compass reading as the other takes notes.

Soldiers taking a compass traverse on the intelligence course at Camp Borden, Ontario, September 26, 1916 (MIKAN 3403628)

A black-and-white photograph of a soldier standing in a field holding a large wrench.

Private Vasili Salivarsky, D Company, 123rd Battalion, Toronto, Ontario, March 30, 1916 (MIKAN 3220871)

You can view a selection of Boyd’s images in this Flickr album. To explore the entire collection, start your exploration in the John Boyd fonds, and select “Lower-level descriptions.”

Happy searching!

Digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Personnel Service Files – Update of March 2016

As of today, 266,634 of 640,000 files are available online via our Soldiers of the First World War: 1914–1918 database. Please visit the Digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Service Files page for more details on the digitization project.

Library and Archives Canada is digitizing the service files systematically, from box 1 to box 10686, which roughly corresponds to alphabetical order. Please note that over the years, the content of some boxes has had to be moved and, you might find that the file you want, with a surname that is supposed to have been digitized, is now located in another box that has not yet been digitized. So far, we have digitized the following files:

  • Latest box digitized: Box 4442 and Holland.

Please check the database regularly for new additions and if you still have questions after checking the database, you may contact us directly at 1-866-578-7777 for more assistance.