Quebec Recruits: By the Numbers

Over the course of the war, some

620,000 men enlisted

 in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF).

We know that roughly 

88,000 enlistments occurred in Quebec

(concentrated heavily in Montreal)

and that roughly  

67,000 enlistees were born in Quebec

but these are not sufficient proxies for residence. Due to how information was collected at attestation, no such figures have been tabulated to date.

From our collection, we have identified

60 men who were residents of Quebec

While this is an imperfect sample, it nevertheless offers us insight into a number of dynamics at play among Quebec’s recruits.

On average, these recruits were

27 years old at the time of their enlistment,

a figure not far removed from the CEF average of 26 years old.

Generally speaking, the men of combat units were younger than this figure while those of auxiliary units were older, but there are exceptions to this trend in both directions.

For example, 41-year-old James Bowen fought with the 14th Battalion from May 1917 until Armistice. He suffered an abdomen wound during the Battle of Hill 70 in 1917 and would die in 1924 of complications related to it. By comparison, Henri-Julien Boucher, more than 20 years Bowen’s junior when he enlisted, served with the No. 6 Canadian General Hospital because he was deemed medically unfit for a combat unit.

Image: Memorial Cross, Pte. James Bowen, 14th Bn.

A Memorial Cross was issued to the widows and mothers of Canadian servicemen who died during the war or whose later death was attributable to their wartime service.

Over two-thirds of our recruits

71.7% (43 of 60)

were single at the time of their attestation.

At the outset of the war, married men seeking to join the CEF required the permission of their spouse. Although this requirement was waived in August 1915 in a bid to enlarge the pool of potential recruits, marriage remained a strong deterrent. In Quebec, with the highest rates of marriage in the country, this effect was all the more pronounced.

Image: “This Is Your Flag. It Stands For Liberty. Fight For It. Join the 207th Overseas Battalion.” Library Archives Canada, Item Number 3635561.

Imagery such as the Union Jack and John Bull, as well as appeals to defend Britain, featured regularly in wartime propaganda such as recruitment posters. Their prominence (and recurrence) speaks to the extent of Imperial ties among large segments of Canada’s population.

Two-fifths of our recruits

40% (24 of 60)

were born in the British Isles

a rate comparable with the overall enlistment rate of British-born men. Though the amount of time elapsed since their emigration varied, it is fair to suppose that these men maintained ties to Britain which motivated them to serve. Imperial ties could also influence those born in Canada, however this is harder to trace.

At no point in the war did attestation forms record a recruit’s mother tongue; consequently, attempts to identify spoken language are speculative. 

French names are typically used as a proxy for language spoken and when supplemented by other information such as religion, place of residence, and unit, can offer tentative figures.

Using this methodology, it appears likely that 12 recruits of our sample (20%) spoke French as their mother tongue. Evidently, such rough calculations cannot account for bilingual recruits, nor can they correct for the anglicization of French names in attestation forms among many other possibilities.

Image: Cap Badge, 22nd Battalion, CEF. Collections CCGW.

(hover to flip to the back)
The 22nd Battalion was the only officially francophone unit of the CEF. However, French Canadians could be (and were) found outside of its ranks. Many were assigned to other units which drew their reinforcements from Quebec (such as the 14th and 24th Battalions) while those who lived in French speaking exclaves across Canada would serve in units drawn from their respective provinces.

A Soldier's Experience

While a quantitative approach offers insights into general tendencies, an exploration of the wartime service of some of the men of our sample illustrates the diversity of their experiences. Highlighted here are 10 stories, drawn from the CCGW collections.

Scroll to the next slide and select a location on the map to reveal a soldier’s experience.

Maps: Chas. E. Goad, Co., Civil Engineers. Atlas of the City of Montreal and Vicinity in Four Volumes, from official plans – special surveys showing cadastral numbers, buildings & lots. Montreal: Chas. E. Goad, Co., Civil Engineers, 1912-1914. Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec,

Valerien Gagnon

Regimental No.: 121144
Rank: Private
Unit: 22nd Bn
Place of Birth: Ste-Anne-des-Plaines, QC
Date of Birth: 13 April 1892
Pre-war Occupation: Barber
Enlistment: 10 October 1915 in Montreal, QC

Address: Ste-Agathe-des-Monts, QC

Valerien Gagnon enlisted on October 10th, 1915. After arriving in England in April 1916, he was transferred to the 22nd Battalion on September 27th and joined the unit shortly thereafter. On April 11th, 1917, during the Battle of Vimy Ridge, Gagnon received a gunshot wound to his right arm and was evacuated from the front for treatment. Despite a successful surgery to clean the wound, complications persisted. His elbow was reportedly extremely limited in its range of motion and the arm as a whole was “weak.” Continued treatment, first in England, and subsequently in Canada, improved this somewhat, but Gagnon was never able to fully recover. With limited prospects of further recovery, he was demobilized as medically unfit on May 31st, 1918.

Louis Adelard Savoie

Regimental No.: 3170235
Rank: Private
Unit: Canadian War Graves Dep.
Place of Birth: Stanstead, Coaticook Co., QC
Date of Birth: 1 August 1893
Pre-war Occupation: Painter
Enlistment: 25 July 1918 in Montreal, QC

Address: 44 de Salaberry Street, St-Jean, QC

Louis Adelard Savoie was drafted under the Military Service Act on July 25th, 1918. Within two months, he had arrived in England for further training, though this was not completed before the Armistice. While many men in Savoie’s position were rapidly demobilized, he was instead retained and transfered to the Canadian War Graves Detachment (CWGD) in May 1919. The CWGD, which oversaw the administration of burial parties and related formations in France and Belgium, sought to employ conscripts in order to permit the demobilization of longer serving men in its ranks. Savoie would serve with the CWGD for two months before being returned to Canada where he was demobilized on August 22nd, 1919.

Joseph Antoine Elphège Marcotte

Regimental No.: 448556
Rank: Private
Unit: 22nd Bn
Place of Birth: Sherbrooke, QC
Date of Birth: 13 June 1892
Pre-war Occupation: Ticket Clerk
Enlistment: 25 June 1915 in Sherbrooke, QC

Address: Sherbrooke, QC

Joseph Antoine Elphège Marcotte enlisted with the 57th Battalion on June 25th, 1915. Arriving in England in June 1916, Marcotte was reassigned to the 69th Battalion and promoted to Acting Corporal within a week. At his own request, he reverted to the rank of Private on October 10th and was transferred to the 22nd Battalion only three days later. It seems probable that this reversion – not an uncommon occurrence – was done in order to facilitate his transfer to the front. His transfer to the 22nd was stalled, however, when he was assigned to the 2nd Canadian Entrenching Battalion, an auxiliary labour unit, as an Acting Sergeant in November.

Finally, in March 1917, this assignment ceased and he was once again reverted to the rank of Private, joining the 22nd Battalion in the field on the 3rd. On May 24th, he was dangerously wounded and evacuated to No. 6 Casualty Clearing Station (No. 6 CCS) where he would die four days later. His service file contains no indication as to the nature of the wound, however, a letter sent from A.M. Raines, the sister-in-charge of No. 6 CCS, to Marcotte’s family offers more details. From her account, we know that Marcotte was “very badly wounded in the stomach.” Raines further writers that Marcotte “was very delirious and did not understand how ill he was” suggesting that he was killed by an infection – a common consequence of abdomen wounds which made them among the most lethal in the First World War. Marcotte was buried in Barlin Communal Cemetery Extension in France.

James Ashworth

Regimental No.: 1054228
Rank: Private
Unit: 14th Bn
Place of Birth: Nelson, Lancashire, England
Date of Birth: 4 April 1885
Pre-war Occupation: Cotton Twister
Enlistment: 22 August 1916 in Trois-Rivières, QC

Address: 31A St Charles Street, Trois-Rivières, QC

James Ashworth enlisted on August 22nd, 1916 though he would only arrived in England in April 1917. After a brief stint with the 1st Canadian Entrenching Battalion, Ashworth was transferred to the 14th Battalion, and joined the unit on June 18th, 1917. On August 17th, 1917, during the Battle of Hill 70, Ashworth was shot in his left arm. Despite a rapid evacuation, he succumbed to his wounds the following day.

James E. Ball

Regimental No.: 2522489
Rank: Driver
Unit: 10th Bde, CFA
Place of Birth: Knowlton, QC
Date of Birth: 25 August 1895
Pre-war Occupation: Salesman
Enlistment: (MSA) 4 December 1917 in Montreal, QC

Address: Knowlton, QC

Drafted under the Military Service Act on December 12th, 1917, James E. Ball joined the 79th Depot Battery, CFA. Arriving in England on March 4th, 1918, Ball would train and serve in various reserve units until his transfer to the 38th Battery, CFA on November 10th, 1918. It is unclear whether he joined the unit the same day or the 11th, but, in either case, Ball’s timing was such that he avoided combat entirely as the Armistice went into effect. Conscripts such as Ball would have been essential to maintaining the strength of the CEF had the war continued into 1919 and 1920 as some projected; instead he would return to Canada and was demobilized on March 29th, 1919.

Jean-Louis Patry

Regimental No.: 3293594
Rank: Private
Unit: 259th Bn (CSEF)
Place of Birth: Weedon, Wolfe County, QC
Date of Birth: 27 March 1893
Pre-war Occupation: Farmer
Enlistment: (MSA) 24 October 1918 in Quebec City, QC

Address: Weedon, QC

Jean Louis Patry was drafted under the Military Service Act on October 24th, 1918. Patry was assigned to the 259th Battalion of the Canadian Siberian Expeditionary Force (CSEF) which sought to support anti-Bolshevik forces in the Russian Civil War. His unit embarked for Siberia in late December, 1918, and arrived in Vladivostok, on the Pacific Coast of Russia, on January 12th, 1919. His service in Siberia was uneventful as the units of the CSEF participated in little more than garrison duty and supply escorts. The CSEF was shortlived, in part because of widespread discontent among its soldiers, and Patry and the 259th were evacuated from Siberia in late May 1919. Patry was discharged on June 12th, 1919 and returned home to Weedon, QC.

Arsène Bélanger

Regimental No.: 417234
Rank: Private
Unit: 41st Btn, 22nd Btn
Place of Birth: St. Fabien, QC
Date of Birth: 15 June 1890
Pre-war Occupation: Labourer
Enlistment: 14 June 1915 in Rimouski, QC

Address: St. Fabien, QC

Arsène Bélanger MM enlisted at Valcartier on June 14th, 1915 with the 41st Battalion. He was transferred to the 22nd Battalion on April 15th, 1916 and sent to France to join the unit. He would fight at Courcelette in September 1916 and would be awarded a Military Medal for his conduct throughout the battle. On the night of September 28/29, he was wounded in his right foot by an accidental rifle discharge while falling in to marching order. After his evacuation, an investigation was held to determine if the wound was self-inflicted and required discipline. By chance, both of the witnesses to the incident were captured by the Germans on October 1st and the investigation was dismissed on the grounds of insufficient evidence and given Belanger’s prior good conduct. He would rejoin the 22nd Battalion, serving with the unit until he was wounded by shrapnel in October 1918 during the Battle of Cambrai. He would subsequently be demobilized as medically unfit in February 1919.

Charles Heggum

Regimental No.: 85199
Rank: Gunner
Unit: 6th Bde, CFA
Place of Birth: Born at sea, registered at Quebec City, QC
Date of Birth: 27 May 1877
Pre-war Occupation: Marine Engineer
Enlistment: 5 February 1915 in Montreal, QC

Address: 31 Sanford Avenue, St-Lambert QC

Charles Heggum enlisted in the CFA on February 5th, 1915, made his way to England with the 6th Brigade, CFA on March 6th, 1915 for training. On January 24th 1916 he reported sick and was subsequently diagnosed with turberculosis and a disordered action of the heart. He was returned to Montreal in late March 1916 where he was declared medically unfit and transported to Laurentide Inn Sanatorium in Ste. Agathe for further treatment.

On August 12th, 1916, he was discharged from the sanatorium (and from the army) on account of misconduct. No details are given as to the specific incident (or incidents) that lead to this decision. In May 1918 he reenlisted with the 5th Canadian Garrison Regiment but within two months he had gone missing and was declared a deserter. A court of inquiry was convened in August to examine his case, but there are no records offering any specifics. He died of tuberculosis on April 2nd, 1920 and is commemorated in the Book of Remembrance as the condition originated from his service.

Wilfred Lépine

Regimental No.: 3156157
Rank: Private
Unit: 24th Battalion
Place of Birth: Montreal, QC
Date of Birth: 8 September 1897
Pre-war Occupation: Labourer
Enlistment: 12 February 1918 in Montreal, QC

Address: 2629 Bordeaux Street

Lépine was drafted under the Military Service Act on February 12th, 1918. He arrived in England in April 1918 and trained at Bramshott with the 23rd Reserve Battalion before being transferred to the 24th Battalion in France in August. On August 30th, he was reported missing in action since August 27th as part of the ongoing Battle of the Scarpe. On September 17th, this was updated to killed in action.

Charles Thomas Hughes

Regimental No.: 1251805
Rank: Gunner
Unit: 4 CDAC
Place of Birth: Montreal, QC
Date of Birth: 21 September 1898
Pre-war Occupation: Clerk
Enlistment: 27 February 1917 in Montreal, QC

Address: 2614 Jeanne Mance Street

Charles Thomas Hughes enlisted in the 79th Battery, CFA on February 27th 1917 at the age of 18. He arrived in England in April 1917 where he underwent further training; it was during this time that he was taught horse handling and was made a Driver. In October 1917, he was shipped to France where he would, at the end of the month, join the 4th Canadian Divisional Ammunition Column (4 CDAC), with whom he would serve the remainder of the war. Hughes kept a diary of much of his service and the entries reveal the monotony of his wartime experience with most days spent transporting ammunition and other odd jobs and most evenings spent reading, playing cards, writing letters, and attending YMCA events. While this may have resembled (albeit crudely) his days as a prewar labourer, he was now subject to military discipline and he was reprimanded on several occasions. These were generally minor affairs resulting in several days pay being docked, but in one instance, in September 1918, he was sentenced to 14 days of Field Punishment No. 1 for insolence towards a Non-Commissioned Officer. After the signing of the Armistice, he was returned to Canada and demobilized on April 8th, 1919. He would re-enlist to serve in the Second World War, though unfortunately his service file remains sealed at present, preventing further research. He died December 11th, 1957.

Geoffrey Pike

Regimental No.: 63708
Rank: Private
Unit: 13th Battalion
Place of Birth: Buckingham, England
Date of Birth: 18 July 1894
Pre-war Occupation: Bank Clerk
Enlistment: 2 December 1914 in Montreal, QC

Address: 1046 Tupper Street

Pike trained at Valcartier before travelling to England with the 13th Battalion in 1915 and reached France on May 5th, 1915. He was wounded at Hill 63 in Belgium, during a German bombardment on October 29th, 1915, sustaining a compound fracture of the femur as well as multiple shrapnel wounds. He became “dangerously ill” due to an infection of his wounds and had his right leg amputated at the thigh on November 13th, 1915. Now medically unfit for further service, he returned to Canada where he was officially discharged October 3rd, 1916. In light of his amputation, he was issued with an artificial limb and he was reported walking well with it. It appears that after his discharge he returned to work as a clerk with Union Bank.

Howard Elliot Scott

Regimental No.: unknown
Rank: Lieutenant
Unit: 24th Battalion
Place of Birth: Montreal, Quebec
Date of Birth: 31 March 1893
Pre-war Occupation: Student
Enlistment: 4 August 1915 in Niagara, ON

Address: 286 St. Paul Street

Scott was a student at McGill University studying law, enlisted on August 4th, 1915 and was commissioned as an officer. He arrived in France with the 24th Battalion on January 12th, 1916. He was hospitalized on July 27th, 1916 after receiving gunshot wounds to his face and hands from which he would recover after a week of convalescence. After being discharged from the hospital, he rejoined his unit and was killed in action at Courcelette on September 16th, 1916. At the time of his death, he was Acting Brigade Bombing Officer.

Henry William Sharp

Regimental No.: 418344
Rank: Private
Unit: 42nd Battalion
Place of Birth: Glasgow, Scotland
Date of Birth: 19 November 1890
Pre-war Occupation: Painter
Enlistment: 8 March 1915 in Montreal

Address: 346 Grosvenor Ave.

He was first wounded at Ypres June 2nd, 1916, injuring his hips, back and legs after he was hit by shell debris and buried for roughly three hours. He received treatment in Boulogne before being transferred to England on June 6th for further treatment. While his records offer no comment on the matter, some of his symptoms (general nervousness and poor sleep) may indicate that he was also suffering from shell shock. He was pronounced fit and discharged from Granville Special Hospital (Ramsgate) on October 5th, 1916. After spending the remainder of 1916 in England training, he would rejoin the 42nd Battalion in April 1917. He was wounded again on October 1917 with a shrapnel wound to his right leg. Ultimately, this wound (and subsequent complications) would lead to his discharge as medically unfit (C3) on January 15th, 1919.

Mathias Summer

Regimental No.: 672791, 243599
Rank: Private
Unit: No. 31 Coy, CFC
Place of Birth: Montreal, QC
Date of Birth: 1 February 1896
Pre-war Occupation: Labourer/Woodman
Enlistment: 4 October 1916 and 6 April 1917 in Montreal, QC

Address: 230 Amherst Street

Mathias Summer enlisted first on October 4th, 1916 in the Canadian Forestry Corps (CFC), an auxiliary formation which provided Allied forces with lumber crucial for the war effort, but was discharged on Decemebr 23rd as medically unfit owing to his flat feet. Undeterred, he re-enlisted on April 6th, 1917 with the CFC, taking advantage of lowering medical standards for recruits to join. Additionally, while his intial enlistment papers list his trade as labourer, in his second enlistment he claimed to be a woodman. While it is possible that he found forestry work in the intervening months, this change may also be a fabrication meant to ensure his selection for the CFC – medical deficiencies could be overlooked in the case of experienced tradesmen. He would serve in France with the No. 31 Company, CFC for the duration of the war; by all indications, his service was uneventful save for 14 days of leave to Paris granted in 1918. He returned to Canada in March 1919 and was discharged on the 29th that same month.

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