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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Guest Genealogist Brian Massey Answers Question about WW1 records

Jim asked:
I received my great-grandfathers Canadian service records but was disappointed that the records did not tell me anything about what battles he was in. It says he was in the 102nd battalion in 1917 and 1918 but that’s all. I want to know more about his time in the army. Are their more records for me to get.

Guest Genealogist Brian Massey Answers

Hi Jim - The quick answer to your question is - No. There are no more personnel records for you to get. But all is not lost. You may be able to get some idea of what your Great Grandfather would have experienced if you are willing to do a little research.

For the most part the Canadian Expeditionary Force fought closely together or all as one Corps. This is especially true in the last 2 years of World War 1. So what this means is that if the Canadian Army was in a battle and it was after the time your Great Grandfather was taken on strength in the 102nd (meaning when he joined that unit in the field – such as France or Belgium) then you can make the assumption that he was at least close enough to the battle to have seen some interesting sights. However you can’t assume he was in the actual fighting as in battle some units are held in reserve, and units can miss out on the fighting for other reasons.

The next thing to do is find as much as you can about the the 102nd Canadian Battalion for the time period that your ancestor was in it, in this case 1917~1918. The 102nd formed part of the 11th Brigade of the 4th Canadian Division. The 4th Canadian Division was the last Canadian Division formed during the war. There was going to be a Fifth Division but the casualties were so high in the first four Divisions that Canada had to use the men to replace the losses. You can view a list of Battalions at CANADIAN INFANTRY BATTALIONS

What this means to you is that when you consult a book or look on a website you don’t have to just look for the 102nd Battalion. You can look for the 4th Canadian Division or the 11th Brigade and you know that your ancestor was there. For example the 4th Canadian Division fought at the battle of Vimy Ridge in April 1917.

The next thing to do is take a look at the War Diaries online. It is unlikely that your ancestor is mentioned by name but it is possible. These diaries will give you a much more detailed look at the day to day activities of the 102nd.

There is also a published history of the 102nd battalion, From B.C. to Baisieux Being the Narrative History of the 102nd Canadian Infantry Battalion It is available on and you might be able to find it elsewhere. I have not seen it but I am sure it would give you some great insight into what you ancestor would have experienced.

It is also important to look at the service records that you received carefully as they often contain interesting info or clues that people overlook. See if you ancestor was granted any leave. Sometimes soldiers on leave missed exciting events. Also look for hospital visits. This was another reason a soldier might miss a battle.

Hope this helps in your search.


  1. Hi,

    Please check out The Battalion History is reproduced on our site, as well as a lot more data. We may be able to answer your questions.

    Kind Regards,


  2. The book From B.C. to Baisieux Being the Narrative History of the 102nd Canadian Infantry Battalion is online at the Internet Archive at