38th Battalion, CEF

38th Battalion, CEF

The 38th Battalion, CEF was a unit of the First World War Canadian Expeditionary Force.

The battalion was mobilized in Ottawa and recruited in Ottawa and district (Brockville, Perth, Prescott and Alexandria).

An initial draft of 5 officers and 251 other ranks was sent to England on 24 June 1915. The battalion itself embarked at Montreal on 1 August 1915 aboard CALEDONIAN, disembarking in Bermuda on 12 August 1915. Its strength was 35 officers and 959 other ranks. The battalion embarked at Bermuda on 30 May 1916 aboard GRAMPIAN, disembarking in England on 9 June 1916. Its strength was 35 officers and 1001 other ranks. The battalion arrived in France on 13 August 1916, becoming part of the 4th Canadian Division, 12th Canadian Infantry Brigade. It was later reinforced by the 7th Canadian Reserve Battalion. The battalion returned to England on 6 May 1919, arrived in Canada on 13 June 1919, was demobilized in Ottawa on 15 June 1919, and was disbanded by General Order 149 of 15 September 1920.

The battalion supported a brass band. Its battalion air was the medley `Will ye no come back again', and `Ye'll tak the high road'. The battalion colours, donated by the Ottawa Home Guard, were presented by Sir Joseph Pope on 1 August 1915. The colours were deposited in Westminster Abbey on 12 July 1916. They were returned to Ottawa and deposited temporarily in Chalmers Church in 1919. Later they were transferred to the Ottawa Regiment.

The 38th Canadian Infantry Battalion was perpetuated by The Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa.

Theatre of Operations:

France and Flanders

Major Battles / Battle Honours:

"Somme, 1916", "Ancre Heights", "Ancre, 1916", "Arras, 1917, '18", "Vimy, 1917", "Ypres, 1917", "Passchendaele", "Amiens", "Scarpe, 1918", "Drocourt-Quéant", "Hindenburg Line", "Canal du Nord", "Valenciennes", "Sambre", and "France and Flanders, 1916-18".

The 38th Ottawa Overseas Battalion

The 38th Battalion was authorized December 28th, 1914, commanded by Lieut. Col. R. Gordon Stewart, the Officer commanding the 43rd Duke of Cornwall's Own Regiment, Ottawa, although recruiting had been carried on since November. It was the first complete infantry unit to be raised in Ottawa and its crest bears the City's motto "Advance". A few days later, in January, 1915, Col. Stewart was appointed Brigade Major of the 4th Canadian Infantry Brigade, 2nd division, and Lieut. Col. C. M. Edwards, who was also an Officer of the D. C. O. R, was given command.


In January, 1915, arrangements were made to utilize the building formerly used as the Ottawa Ladies' College for the headquarters of the Battalion. On February 5th the 38th took charge of the building and on February 8th the first "Daily Orders" were posted up.

The first Company to be organized was "A" Company under the command of Capt. R. F. Parkinson of the 43rd Regiment and the personnel of the Company was largely made up of member of the old 43rd.

"B" Company was also well recruited before the end of January, under the command of Capt. A. C. Ross of the Governor-General's Foot Guards.

"C" Company was mobilized in the outlying districts of Eastern Ontario, with Headquarters at Smith's Falls in command of Capt. A. W. Gray.

"D" Company was supplied entirely from the Officers' Training Corps of McGill University, with Capt. Gregor Barclay in command.


Initial training was carried out in Ottawa and in April 1915 the Battalion was inspected at Lansdowne Park by H. R. H. the Duke of Connaught, who expressed himself in enthusiastic terms regarding the efficiency the Battalion had attained.

The 38th left Ottawa for Barriefield Camp on May 25th. Soon after it arrived at the camp it was called upon to provide one complete company for a reinforcing draft to proceed overseas immediately. "D" Company was designated and sailed from Montreal on the Northland on May 29th 1915. At once a new "D" Company was organized in Eastern Ontario under the command of Capt. W. S. Wood.

A second reinforcing draft was ordered from the 38th and 5 officers and 250 other ranks were selected from "A", "B", and "C" Companies to complete this draft. It was in command of Capt. A. C. Ross and included the following other Officers: - Lieut. A. C. Fraser of "A" Company, Lieut. B. R. Bechel of "B" Company, Lieut F. Smyth of "C" Company, and Lieut. A. B. Parker of "D" Company, and sailed from Montreal on the Missanable on June 24th, 1915.

The 38th was ordered in July to complete its training and relieve the British Battalion that was doing garrison duty in Bermuda. H. R. H. the Duke of Connaught again inspected the Battalion and pointed out that the 38th would be the first Regiment, other than regular troops, to occupy the Bermuda Station, one of the most important military and naval bases of the Empire.

Just before the Battalion left Ottawa on July 31st, 1915, the Regimental Colours were consecrated by the Battalion Chaplain, Capt. H. I. Horsey, and then presented by H. R. H. the Duke of Connaught. The original Colour Party was composed of Lieuts. Stronach and R. F. Greene and Company Sgt. Majores Carroll, Wilkinson and Vance.

On the night of July 31st they embarked on the Caladonian at Montreal. The transport proceeded down the Gulf of St. Lawrence but was ordered back to Quebec owing to the supposed presence of submarines off the Atlantic coast. The Battalion disembarked at Levis and two days later proceeded to Halifax by train. The ship sailed to Halifax without the troops and picked the 38th up there on August 7th. They sailed on August 8th and landed in Bermuda on August 13th, 1915.


When the Battalion left Canada the Officers were:

In Command, Lieut. Col. C. M. Edwards Second-in-Command Major C. Ferguson Adjutant Capt. E. R. McNeill

"A" Company Capt. R. F. Parkinson Capt. T. B. Byrne Lieut. R. B. Greene Lieut. W. B. McGloughlin Lieut. R. S. Stronach Lieut. E. C. H. Moore Lieut. T. H. Warren

"B" Company Capt. J. A. C. Macpherson Capt. T. W. MacDowell Lieut. A. Rieffenstein Lieut. J. G. Wallace Lieut. L. L. Richard Lieut. K. A. Greene

"C" Company Capt. R. W. Stewart Capt. W. A. Morrison Lieut. H. C. Graves Lieut. T. H. Hill Lieut. J. R. Morris Lieut. J. E. Muckle "D" Company Capt. W. S. Wood Capt. A. A. Sears Lieut. P. H. Gardner Lieut. G. S. MacFarlane W. J. Wilby R. F. Zeigler

Quartermaster Capt. B. A. Oliver Paymaster Capt. H. A. Folkins Chaplain Capt. H. I. Horsey Medical Officer Capt. J. H. Munro Machine Gun Officer Lieut. G. G. Bell Signal Officer Lieut. J. Glass

Garrison Duty in Bermuda

The Unit was welcomed by the Governor General of Bermuda, Lieut. General Sir George Bullock. Headquarters with "D" Company and half of "C" Company were located at Prospect Barracks, Hamilton; "A" Company at the Naval Station, Ireland Island and half of "C" Company at St. Davids.

Active training and garrison duties were at once commenced and with the assistance of Imperial Army Instructors, the Battalion reached an exceedingly high state of efficiency. On February 8th, 1916, the 38th was inspected by His Excellency, the Governor-General of Bermuda, who forwarded official reports to the British War Office, as well as to Militia headquarters at Ottawa, declaring the Unit fit in every respect to take its place in the field alongside the finest Regiments in the British Army.

The 163rd Regiment reached Bermuda on May 29th, 1916, to relieve the 38th and the latter Battalion sailed for Davenport, England on May 31st. They arrived in England on June 13th 1916 and proceeded to Camp Borden. On the following day the 38th was inspected by the G. O. C. of the newly-formed 4th Canadian Division, Major-General D. Watson, who was so favourably impressed with the general standard of efficiency of the Unit that he accepted it immediately for his Division, and the 38th became a Unit of the 12th Canadian Infantry Brigade at Bramshott Camp, commanded by Brig. General Lord Brooke.

On July 1, 1916, the 38th, with the rest of the 4th Canadian Division, was inspected by His Majesty the King. Early in August embarkation orders for the 4th Division were received, the 38th sailing from Southampton to Le Havre on August 13th. Two days later they entrained for Poperinghe, Belgium, reaching there on August 17th. On the evening of the same day, one-half of the Battalion, "A" and "C" Companies, in command of Major Parkinson, was sent forward to support trenches east of Ypres and before morning had received their baptism of shell fire.

Into the Line

The Battalion took over the front line immediately east of Kemmel Hill, the southern end of the famous Ypres salient, where they remained until September 23rd, 1916, when with other units of the 4th Canadian Division, the 38th commenced its march south to join the remainder of the Canadian Corps in the Somme operations. A stop of one week was made near the Village of Epileque for refitting and training. The Battalion entrained at St. Omer and reached Canaas on October 9th, and went into bivouacs on the west slopes of Tara Hill. From this date until November 17th the 38th's time was occupied with working parties and periods in the front line.

Desire Trench

On November 17th the 38th took over a section of front line from the 11th Battalion of the Dublin Fusiliers as part of the attack on Desire Trench and Grandcourt. The 38th went "over the top" for the first time on November 18th and all objectives were gained. The Battalion had about 500 casualties, including 5 officers killed and 11 wounded. The Regiment was relieved on November 20th and what was left of it returned to Albert and after a few days reorganization, the march to the Vimy Ridge front was commenced. The first three weeks of December were spent in billets in Bruay, where reinforcements were received, bringing the unit up to strength. The Commander of the Canadian Corps, General Sit Julian Byng, inspected the 38th on December 14th.

On Christmas evening 1916, the 38th went into the line on Vimy Ridge at Souchez, relieving the 13th Royal Highlanders of Montreal. From then until the attack on April 9th, the Battalion stayed on this front. Many patrol encounters took place in No Man's Land on February 22nd, the 38th raided the enemy's front line with a party of 125 and inflicted serious losses.

To Vimy

They were relieved on March 28th and went into Brigade Support, returning to the line on the evening of April 4th ready for the "big show". When the attack was made on April 9th the task assigned the 38th was an objective well over the crest of the ridge and before evening all objectives had been gained. Casualties were about 400, including the wounding of Lieut. Col. Edwards. Major R. F. Parkinson took over command of the battalion and remained in that position during Col. Edwards' absence, a period of about three months.

The Battalion was relieved on April 13th and was withdrawn to Hersin for reorganization. They returned to the line on April 19th and took up a position east of Vimy Ridge in front of Lens. During the three days of June 26th, 27th and 28th, the 38th captured the towns of La Coulotte and Avion, meeting with some stubborn resistance, particularly in Avion and the Battalion's casualties during this three day period were about 250.

They were relieved on the night of July 1st and withdrawn for three weeks reorganization and training. His Majesty the King inspected the Regiment on July 11th. August and September were spent in the line at Avion and on October 4th it was learned that instead of using the Canadian Corps to attack the Mericout-Sallauminee Ridge, they were to be sent back to the Ypres front to take part in the Passchendaele operations.

By the middle of October the 38th was en route to Belgium. On the way a week was spent around Staple and on the last day of their stay at this town, the Battalion was inspected by H. R. H. the Duke of Connaught, who had last seen the unit on Parliament Hill, Ottawa, in the summer of 1915. From Staple the 38th moved to Ypres by motor lorries and went into the front line on October 28th, attaching with the 12th Brigade on the morning of October 30th. The objective of the 38th was the outlying defences of the town of Passchendcaele and this had been gained by the end of the day. They were relieved on the night of November 3rd after having suffered approximately 400 casualties.

From Ypres on November 5th, 1917, the 38th moved to Lozinghem for a month's rest and in December again went into the line at Avion. Quite a busy winter was spent in this area, the Battalion holding various sectors of the front from Oppy on the south to Loos on the north. The tour commencing March 17th, 1918, was especially exciting, five separate raids being made by the Germans on the 38th Battalion front in one week. However, not one enemy was able to get into the front line. The raiding parties numbered 50 to 200 men on each occasion. When the German offensive was started on March 21st, 1918, the 38th were holding the line at Hill 70 and remained there for one week. On March 28th, the Battalion, along with the rest of the 4th Division, was rushed four miles south to relieve a British Division which had been pushed back nearly two miles that day. They remained in this vicinity until the middle of May, when the Canadian Corps was withdrawn into G. H. Q Reserve, where the time was spent in learning the new kind of warfare which the German offensive had made necessary. The 38th went back into the line just north of Arras on July 19th, remaining there until August 2nd.

The 38th assembled for the attack east of Amiens on the night of August 7th, 1918, in Gentelles Wood. The first objective was Cayus Wood. This was held until the evening of the 9th when a further advance was made to Rosières. Finally, on the morning of August 11th, a strong line had been consolidated in the vicinity of Chilli. The enemy launched a terrific counter attack, but this was successfully repulsed. The fighting continued until the night of the 13th, when the 38th was relieved after having played a prominent part in the advance of 22,000 yards made by the Canadian Corps, resulting in the capture of 167 guns, 1,000 machine guns and 10,000 prisoners. The casualties were very heavy.

On August 30th, the Battalion got into action east of Feuchy and on September 1st relieved the 8th Canadian Battalion at Ostrich Trench. The Germans counter-attached, but his was repulsed and that night the Regiment assembled for the attack on the following day on the Canal du Nord. By late afternoon on September 2nd the Battalion had reached the summit of Drury Hill. In the evening the Germans made a determined counter attack, but the 38th held on a by the middle of the afternoon of September 3rd the position was consolidated. In this action the 38th broke the famous Drocourt-Queant Line, captured 325 prisoners, 4 trench mortars and 40 machine guns. The Battalion's casualties were 3 officers and 57 other ranks killed, 7 officers and 176 other ranks wounded and 57 missing, for a total of 300.

The 38th entrained at Arras on September 25th and reached their assembly position for the attack on Cambrai the following day. The Battalion was assigned the task of capturing the railway in the vicinity of Bourlon. The attack started on the morning of September 27th. The 38th crossed the Canal at Inchy and at the very outset the Battalion captured 25 machine guns and 150 prisoners, but by noon there was very stiff opposition. Before the day was over the 38th had captured a whole battery of 5.9 guns, a battery of 77 M. M. guns, 28 machine guns, 2 anti-tank guns and 200 prisoners. The Battalion went on again on Sept 28th and captured positions in Marcoing Trench. At this stage, Lieut. Col. Gardner, who was in command of the Battalion, was killed. The task of the 38th now was to cross the Douai-Cambrai Road on on September 29th the Battalion moved forward and that day practically all the Officers and N. C. O.'s of the Battalion became casualties. The losses may be estimated when it is pointed out that on September 26th the 38th went into the line 570 strong and came out on September 30th with 96. The Battalion was relieved on the morning of September 30th after having gained its objective on the Douai-Cambrai Road.

After the Battalion had been reinforced and reorganized, it again went into the line on October 22nd. Plans for the attack on Valenciennes were completed by October 31st and on the morning of November 1st the 38th went into action for the last time. Of course other units took part in the operation, but platoons of the 38th were the first to enter the city. By November 3rd Valenciennes was cleared of the enemy and on November 5th the Battalion was relieved and went into billets in Anzin, and it was here that the Regiment received notice of the Armistice on November 11th.

About 4,500 men passed through the Battalion and casualties were approximately 700 killed and 2,000 wounded.

Close to 300 decorations were awarded to members of the 38th Battalion, including 2 Victoria Crosses. It is interesting to note that Red Nunney was the only man in the Canadian Army to with the V.C., D.C.M., M.M. and Croix de Guerre. A singular fact is that a brother of Nunney, in the Imperial Army also won the V.C.

Commanding Officers of the 38th were:

Lieut. Col. R. Gorden Stewart Lieut. Col. C. M. Edwards Major R. F. Parkinson Lieut. Col. S. J. Gardner Lieut. Col. A. D. Cameron

The Battalion arrived back in Halifax on June 13th, 1919 and in Ottawa on the 15th.

Thirteen (13) played an important part in the history of the 38th. Some of the 13's were:

Landed in Bermuda on August 13th, 1915 Landed in England on June 13th, 1916 Landed in France August 13th 1916 Relieved from Vimy April 13th, 1917 Relieved from Amiens August 13th, 1918 Landed at Halifax June 13th, 1919 The train to Ottawa was composed of 13 cars.

Victoria Crosses

*Major Thain Wendell MacDowell at Vimy Ridge
*Private Claude Joseph Patrick Nunney at Drocourt-Quéant


*cite news
first = Ken
last = Reynolds
authorlink =
author =
coauthors =
url = http://www.army.forces.gc.ca/caj/documents/vol_09/iss_2/CAJ_vol9.2_14_e.pdf
format = PDF
work = The Canadian Army Journal
publisher = Department of National Defence
pages =
page =
date = Summer 2006
accessdate = 2006-10-16
language =
En icon

The Les G. Dewsbury History of the Battalion

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