Canadian Forces Structure

Canuck wrote to pose the following:


5 "Dear Patrick:

I’m trying to find my Grandfather’s Canadian military records.  When I searched for his records for the Boer War, there weren’t any records found.  But I know he served in that war.

He also was in WWI and I did find his Attestation paper when he enlisted for the Expeditionary Force that fought in WWI.

One of the question he was asked was if he had previously served, he wrote "12th Field Battery-India  1904."  That took place in London, Ontario.  His service in the Boer War could have been from England. 

He was born in England and emigrated to Canada.  He married my Grandmother, who also emigrated to Canada in December 1912.  Their marriage took place on Feb 21, 1914.   He was declared fit for the Expeditionary Force, September 13, 1915. 

I’m hoping you know something about the battery/regiment?  When I search for it, there is tons of stuff that pops up.  But I don’t have enough knowledge to even know if a Field Battery is an artillery or engineering group..  I do know my Grandfather ran wires and was called a sapper.  What kind of unit would include sappers? 

Or were all soldiers in WWI called sappers and could be attached to any regiment regardless of specialty.  In fact, were there many specialists for WWI?  Didn’t most of the fighting of WWI take place by inches, in their trenches?

Someone needs to find his records.  I just don’t know how to go about it?  Any help you could give me would be most appreciated. 

He came home from WWI, unlike my father who didn’t make it back from WWII.  I once wrote a poem about the soldiers who are buried in the Commonwealth graves, it’s very sad:

"The Unmourned:

Row upon row of crosses
On foreign soils
Husbands fathers, brothers, cousins and friends
Lie in graves
No flowers are laid and few have visitors
The grass is cut that won’t have sorrowing mourners kneel on it
No tears fall on the ground above the soldiers who lie there
The lettering on their cruciforms
Marks privates, corporals, sergeants, lieutenants, captains, and colonels
Written by workers whose mother tongue wasn’t         
English or French
Wives didn’t get to say goodbye or lay a flower or wreath
Small children will never know the faces of their Fathers
The bodies and the minds that have been silenced don’t hear the pain of their mourning families
That extends across the miles of oceans."


Medals are too small and cold to hug–he has been greatly missed. 

Thanks in advance for your assistance."


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19 Responses to Canadian Forces Structure

  1. arbogast says:

    The poem is very moving. Very, very moving.

  2. mike says:

    I am not sure what the term means in Canada, but typically Sappers were Combat Engineers. My father was a combat engineer in WW2. Duties included advancing in front of the infantry to clear minefields, cut thru barbed wire entanglements, blow up obstacles, etc. Conversely, during defensive operations they had the reverse duties: laying minefields, stringing barbed wire, building obstacles, and perhaps in the trench warfare of WW1 they dug or supervised the digging of the trenches.
    My great uncle Clarence (or Dinty as he was called) was gassed with the mustard in those trenches during WW1. He was born in Presque Isle, Maine not far from the Canadian border that his father, my mother’s grandfather came across without papers from New Brunswick. Great Grandpa was what our family affectionatly calls a Canuck Wetback as he did the same thing that the Pilgrims and the Jamestown settlers did – enter the country illegally.

  3. lightflyer says:

    In armies that have a British tradition Sappers are engineer soldiers. Artillery soldiers are gunners (artillery Corporals are Bombardiers) and cavalry/armour soldiers are troopers. Infantry and other soldiers not of the above are addressed as Private. Sounds like your grandfather was a gunner in the Boer War and a sapper in WW1.
    Sappers get their name from the task of mining and sapping or weakening of fortifications.
    Canada sent a total of 7,600 troops to the Boer War during the period 1899-1901. Your grandfather, however, sounds as though he was serving in a British unit during the Boer War. There would be records in London, UK.

  4. Steven says:

    Hi Canuck,
    My Grandfather was a sapper in world war 1. I’ve been able to retrieve his personnel records from the government. I’m not sure where you’ve been researching, but the archieves of Canada have an excellent searchable database of personnel records of WWI and other conflicts. Here’s the link: (
    Good luck!

  5. JustPlainDave says:

    It sounds to me that lightflyer is likely right and that your grandfather’s service may well have been with 12 Field Battery RA. The one decent orbat for the Boer War that I was able to find online (and I hasten to add that I know very little about this conflict) does seem to indicate that there was a formation involved in the conflict that could have been known as the 12th Field Battery. In any case, the national archives in the UK apparently maintain a list of discharge papers that looks to be available online – you may find your grandfather’s records there. The link is here and the salient section would seem to be “Soldiers discharged 1900-1913”.
    If this doesn’t yield the desired answers, you could also try phoning the RCMI (Royal Canadian Military Institute) here in Toronto and see if they have any members expert on the Boer War who might be willing to offer their guidance for your enquiries – I suspect they have some members that’d be pretty informed on this.
    Good luck, and please let us know how your enquiries go.

  6. ANDREW fARR says:


  7. Sylvia says:

    Thanks for all the links, I’ve copied them and will make contact with them.
    I always understood the second Boer War ended in 1902. I really do need to contact someone in the Canadian and the British forces to find out which war he would have been fighting in 1904.
    Thanks great bunch of links to follow up about.
    And thank you Pat…thought you hadn’t read the e-mail I sent you. Am having computer difficulties and am now using my laptop with its dinky keyboard. Haven’t gotten around yet to plugging the bigger one into it, but I will.
    That’s nice that some of you appreciated how hard it is for a child when they lose their father during wars. It’s doubly hard on families when they are repatriated back to their own country so the graves can be visited. Expect there are thousands of children that didn’t get to ever have a hug from their fathers because they were killed in action. Looking at old photographs does put a face on them, but it isn’t a replacement for human contact.

  8. Sylvia says:

    An update: The link for the Canadian military records produced results. I’ve written the letter that will produce his WWI Expeditionary Forces records. No luck at the UK site. He wasn’t listed among the discharge records, but that’s not usual, not everyone was included. I have sent an inquiry to the National Archives in Kew asking how to go about finding his military records and expect they will give me some guidance in finding them.
    I’m thrilled just to know that I’ll receive the ones from WWI. A first in the family after the end of WWI–more than 102 years. My grandmother told me he fought in the Boer War, but that does compute with 1904? How curious.
    I’ll keep plugging away. Thanks again for the help.

  9. Sylvia says:

    Oops, my previous post should have read, “It’s doubly hard on families when they aren’t repatriated back to their own country.

  10. David says:

    So your grandfather was a Sapper during WW1? He could have been a part of the Canadian Engineers, Canadian Signal Corps, or possibly a Pioneer. All three groups listed privates as Sapper. With him running wire he was probably in the Engineers or Signal companies. You could check with National Archives, or Soldiers of the First World War, Regimental Number List, or War Diaries. All can be found at ArchiviaNet, Library and Archives Canada. Good luck

  11. Wayne Wiklund says:

    Hi my name is Wayne Wiklund I am from La Riviere MB,Canada. I was hoping to get some info. about my grandfather Harold Lyons. I know he was a wireless operator and flew in a Lancaster bomer juring WWII.
    I am looking for the name for the name or the number of the plain he flew in and the different sorties he might have flown. please email me if you feel you can help in any way.
    thank you
    Wayne Wiklund

  12. William Agyemang Prempeh says:

    I want to join the canadian army. Thanks

  13. Nicole Duncan says:

    It’s been awhile since Andrew Farr posted his request for information on his dad, Bruce Broadfoot. Andrew I looked up through the Canadian Rememberence Books for your dad’s name and he could not be found. The books have been painstakingly documented by the government and seem to be extremely accurate. I looked for him from 1944-1947 to see if he died during the war and can find no reference for him. There are 3 Broadfoot documented a Clifford Broadfoot, James Broadfoot and James Graham Broadfoot all died in 1944. Unfortunately, due to privacy of information, unless you can prove you are a blood relative you are unable to request the government for his information. If you can prove on your birth certificate that he is named as the father you may be able to request his military records. Just go to the Canandian Military Archives online and it should walk you through it. Best of luck!!

  14. Sheila Jackson says:

    Hi. I’m looking for info’ on Stanley Varney who was a sergeant in the Canadian Engineers during WW1. He was a Scot who returned in 1918 to marry Jessie Cuthbertson in Dumfries. Can anyone help me please? Sheila Jackson

  15. Elaine Pearson says:

    Hello Sheila, Stanley Varney was my great great uncle. My great grandmother Mary Jane Varney was his sister.They had different mothers but the same father, Thomas Varney.Mary Jane Varney’s mother was Margaret McQueen however after her death Thomas married Mary Flynn, Stanley’s mother.
    I do have more of the family’s history if you are interested.

  16. Claire Topp says:

    Hi, i am the secretary of an organisation which has just purchased a small hall in the village of Timsbury, near Romsey, Hampshire,UK. The hall was used by Canadian forces in WW2 and the troops scratched graffiti in the brickwork before leaving. I am very interested in finding out more about who the men were, where they came from and where they went after leaving our area. All I have to go on is the mention of ‘B’ Company and Canada -very little I realise. We are planning a Remembrance Day concert on 11th November and would love to include something on ‘our’ Canadians. If anyone can give me any information to follow up on I would be thrilled.
    Claire Topp
    Secretary, Michelmersh Silver Band

  17. Try joining
    Canadian Forces Social Network there may be some individual who have more information or ideas on where to look. Hopefully you have already found this information since you originally posted this but I thought I would contribute anyway.

  18. Andrew Farr says:

    Nicole, Hello!
    I just stumbled back onto this website during the course of some further family research. I had forgotten posting that message so many years ago! Thanks for your efforts. I thought you might like to know that my (natural ) father had nothing to do with D day but was injured in Italy and convalesced in England. I wrote letters eventually to all the the Broadfoots I could find in Western Canada: numeraous namesakes rallied round,including the two wives of Bruce Broadfoot the writer! Farther’s brother-in-law was with him in England and persuaded him to return to his wife and daughters in B.C. I made contact with, and visted in 2008, my newly found half-sisters along with numerous nephews and neices. Dad had died in 1995 but I was able to visit Horseshoe Lake where his ashes were scattered. So, Job done!
    Kind Regards, Andrew Farr

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