Collar badge Canadian Engineers WW1

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One of the first tasks completed by the engineers after the declaration of war upon Germany in 1914 was for the rapid development of the Valcartier training site in Quebec. At its peak size 30,000 men were stationed here before the 1st Canadian Division was deployed to England.

When the 1st Division arrived on the front in Belgium they were accompanied by field companies of the Canadian Engineers (men recruited into the service after the start of the war were part of the Militia branch and not the regulars). These troops were responsible for construction of defences, sanitation systems, water supplies, bridging, and assisting with trench raids. Canadian Engineers also served in the Middle East fighting the Turks.

One of the most important functions of the Sappers in the war was to dig tunnels for mines underneath enemy trenches, with which to plant explosives to destroy them. At the Battle of Vimy Ridge, and particularly at the Battle of Messines, several such mines were used to win the battle. The Canadian Military Engineers contributed three tunnelling companies to the British Expeditionary Force: 1st Canadian Tunnelling Company, 2nd Canadian Tunnelling Company and 3rd Canadian Tunnelling Company. One was formed from men on the battlefield, while two other companies first trained in Canada and were then shipped to France.

In the war the only Victoria Cross the Canadian Engineers ever received was earned by Captain C. N. Mitchell for actions on 8 October 1918 at Canal de I'Escaut, north-east of Cambrai.

In total, more than 40,000 Canadians served as Engineers in the war, with 14,000 on the front on the last day of the war.

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