Frequently Asked Questions
In May 1997, Benjamin was at a business conference in Toronto, met some very interesting people from France, started to cruise the Web sites in France and stumbled on the Western Front sites about Passchendaele. In 1917, Benjamin's Grandfather, Lieutenant Albert Thomas SKILL, 58th (Central Ontario) Battalion fought and lost his life during the Passchendaele battle.
Benjamin also found some books at the Toronto public library that sparked his interest to develop this Web site.
Then he travelled to Passchendaele and eventually discovered the Central Ontario Branch of the Western Front Association (COBWFA).
Like other research projects, finding information about particular Canadian battalions, soldiers, or battles is a combination of researching the literature and networking with members of various groups. Here is a list, updated on Nov 21, 2012, of some of the most effective information sources:
Join the local
Central Ontario Branch of the Western Front Association (COBWFA) with meetings in Newcastle, Ontario, Canada.
Join the main
Western Front Association (WFA) based in the UK.
The WFA has a very useful list of sources for researching a soldiers service records.
Consult the official Canadian history book on the Great War, "Canadian Expeditionary Force 1914-1919", by Colonel G.W.L. Nicholson, Ottawa, Queen's Printer and Controller of Stationary, 1964. The text of the Nicholson book used to be available free on the DND web site. However, you can still buy a printed copy for about $200 USD or a digital copy on a CD for about $5 from bookstores.
Conduct a literature and book search at your local library. For a particular CEF Battalion, ask your local reference librarian to determine if a Battallion History has been written. For example, for the 58th Battalion get the book "Second to None", by Kevin Shackleton. This book is available in most libraries or you can order it from a bookstore or eBay, about $20 CAD.
Library and Archives Canada site in Ottawa.
You can search a database of the
Soldiers of the First World War
and you can order more detailed service records.
To search the database for a particular soldier, click the Search button in the middle of the page and a Search Dialog Box is displayed. In the Search Dialog Box, type the Surname, Given names, or Regimental number of the soldier and the Results are displayed. The CEF Attestation Papers (enlistment forms) are cross-referenced in the Soldiers of the First World War database.
Although most of the CEF War Diaries were scanned in 2003 and are displayed online in the
War Diaries of the First World War
Library and Archives Canada (LAC) site in Ottawa. For example, you can view the digital
War Diary of the 58th Canadian Infantry Battalion. Note that in 2013 these ArchiviaNet research tools will be phased-out in favour of new and more powerful search applications. During this transition phase, certain research tools will be available in both the old and new formats.
Veteran Affairs Canada (VAC) site.
There is a lot of military information on this site including a database of all Canadian and Newfoundlanders killed in action in all the wars. This VAC site partly duplicates the information in the
Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) site in the UK. However, in the VAC site you can add personal digital data, such as letters, post cards, newspaper clippings, and photos in the
Canadian Virtual War Memorial (CVWM) database.
For an example of the additional digital data that you can upload to the CVWM database, type the name Ronald MacKinnon or Albert Skill in the Search dialog box and then click on the Surname and then the digital collection button.
Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) site in the UK.
Canadian Expeditionary Force Study Group - an online group based in Canada and dedicated to the study of the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the Great War of 1914 to 1918. The CEFSG Forum is a useful online discussion group.
Air Force Association of Canada site
- has citations for all decorations won by Canadian air force personnel in WWI and WWII.
Canadian Archival Informational Network
- lists the holdings in many of the archives in Canada including the National Archives of Canada.
Cyndi's List of Military Sources
Museum of the Regiments in Calgary, Alberta.
Military History Society of Manitoba. The Society has sketch histories of CEF Battalions and Canadian Militia units. Also, they have lists of nearly 400 units of the CEF compiled prior to their sailing overseas. The lists include the name, number, rank, former service and next-of-kin for each man.
Canadian Military Histories at the University of Calgary Library in Alberta, Canada. The library has a good collection of regimental history books particularly for Canadian regiments. These collections provide researchers with information that will assist them in their studies. Please note that the Library is adding to its collection continuously.
Search the Research and Links pages on the
Canadians at Passchendaele site.
Summarizes the CEF 58th Battalion and other Great War research tools.
Contact the Church that stores the Battalion Colours or Church where many of the men attended. For example, the 58th Battalion Colours are kept at the Church of the Transfiguration in Toronto and there are about 10 members of the Church who still have some old war papers and diaries at home. Also, the 58th Boy Scout Troup took its number from the 58th Battalion so you can also look for the appropriate Boy Scout Troup and contact their Church.
Place an advertisement in a local newspaper asking for information on a particular battalion.
Attend a meeting of the
Orders Medals and Research Society (OMRS) or a sale of Great War medals -- the folks that collect medals usually know historical events that are not available elsewhere.
London Gazette - the Official Journal of the United Kingdom that includes Despatches written by the British Army's various Commanders-in-Chief (such as those written by Sir John French and Sir Douglas Haig) and Armed Forces Promotions and Re-gradings.
Canadian troops participated in the following operations on the Western Front from 1914 to 1918:
- The Battles of Ypres, April-May 1915
- The Actions at Festubert and Givenchy, May-June 1915
- The St. Éloi Craters, March-April 1916
- The Battle of Mount Sorrel, 2-3 June 1916
- The Battles of the Somme, July-November 1916
- The Battle of
9-12 April 1917
- The Battles of the Scarpe, April-May 1917
- The Capture of Hill 70, 15-25 August 1917
- The Battle of Passchendaele (Third Ypres), Canadian battles from 26 October to 10 November 1917.
- The Battle of Amiens, 8-11 August 1918
- The Battle of Arras, 26 August-3 September 1918
- The Canal du Nord and Cambrai, 27 September-11 October 1918
- The Capture of Valenciennes, 1-2 November 1918.
According to Kevin Shackleton, the 58th arrived in France in Feb 1916. They missed the earlier battles altogether. The 58th was in the attack that re-captured most of the Canadian line at Mt. Sorrel June 13. They participated in several
atacks on the Somme, particularly the attack on Regine Trench Oct. 8.
Then they moved to the Vimy sector. they were in support on April 9, but in the front line as the attack continued. They were not involved
at Hill 70, but were in the area.
The 58th were in the attack at Passchendaele on Oct 26, 1917 and then they held
Vindictive Crossroads north west of the village in early November. They
were back in the Lens area after that.
At Amiens they led the attack on the first day and then were in reserve for a couple of days before moving to the front before the attack wound down. At Arras they were in the attack on the second day and stayed on the attack to the end of
August. They followed through after the Canal du Nord was crossed and were fighting in the outskirts of Cambrai till Oct 1. That was their
last action before the end of the fighting.
If you served overseas in 1915, you received the star.
If you served overseas at anytime, you received the round bronze Victory medal.
If you served in the armed forces at all, you received the silver medal.