No. 2 Construction Battalion
1916 - 1920
Nova Scotia

Sir Willoughby Garnons Gwatkin, KCMG, CB
Chief of the General Staff
13 April 1916

Memorandum on the
enlistment of Negroes in
Canadian Expeditionary Force

1. Nothing is to be gained by blinking facts. The civilized negro is vain and imitative; in Canada he is not being impelled to enlist by a high sense of duty; in the trenches he is not likely to make a good fighter; and the average white man will not associate with him on terms of equality. Not a single commanding officer in Military District No. 2 is willing to accept a coloured platoon as part of his battalion (H.Q. 297-1-29); and it would be humiliating to the coloured men themselves to serve in a battalion where they were not wanted.

2. In France, in the firing line, there is no place for a black battalion, C.E.F. It would be eyed askance; it would crowd out a white battalion; and it would be difficult to re-inforce.

3. Nor could it be left in England and used as a draft-giving depot; for there would be trouble if negroes were sent to the front for the purpose of reinforcing white battalions; and, if they are any good at all, they would resent being kept in Canada for the purpose of finding guards, etc.

4. It seems, therefore, that three courses are practicable:

      (a) As at present, to allow Negroes to enlist, individually, into white battalions at the discretion of commanding officers.

      (b) To allow them to form one or more labour battalions. Negroes from Nova Scotia, for example, would not be unsuitable for the purpose.

      (c) To ask the British Government if it can make use of a black battalion, C.E.F., on special duty overseas (e.g. in Egypt): but the battalion will not be ready before the fall, and, if only on account of its relatively extravagant rates of pay, it will not mix well with other troops.

5. I recommend courses (a) and (b).

W. GWatkin
Chief of the General Staff

— Original in Public Archives of Canada, Ottawa.

Sir Willoughby Garnons Gwatkin (1859-1925)
Dictionary of Canadian Biography

Willoughby Gwatkin (1859-1925)

Note:   Lt-Gen. Sir Willoughby Garnons Gwatkin, KCMG, CB, was Chief of the General Staff 1913-1920.  The Chief of the General Staff was the senior officer in the Canadian Army at that time.  (In 1920, the government decided to create a Canadian Air Force.  The first step in this process was the appointment of an Inspector-General.  Major-General Sir Willoughby Gwatkin, who had served as Chief of the General Staff in Ottawa during World War One, was appointed to the position in 1920 with the rank of Air Vice Marshal.)

Treatment of Blacks in World War One... Forums,44.msg434.html

No. 2 Construction Battalion

Documents (letters)

to and by Sir Sam Hughes
Minister of Militia and Defence, Ottawa

Memorandum on the enlistment of Negroes...
by Sir Willoughby Garnons Gwatkin
Chief of the General Staff, Ottawa
13 April 1916

Interdepartmental Committee
Military Secretary: Memo to The Naval Secretary
21 February 1917

Interdepartmental Committee
Naval Secretary: Memo to The Military Secretary
23 February 1917

Submission to The Historic Sites and Monuments Board
Dr. Calvin Ruck, Chair
Black Battalion Committee
18 October 1991

Black Battalion to be Commemorated
Environment Canada News Release
Pictou, 11 December 1992

Canada's First and Only Black Battalion to be Honoured
For Service to King & Country (1916-1920)

The No. 2 Construction Battalion
Pictou, 10 July 1993

Names In Ascending Order, by Regimental Number
The No. 2 Construction Battalion
CEF – Canadian Expeditionary Force

Guide to Contents
No. 2 Construction Battalion

The  electronic  version  of  this  document  is  presented
here for  your  information  only.   Care  has  been  taken
to  transcribe  the  data  accurately, but it is not  intended
to be relied on as an  authoritative  reference.  In case of
differences, the official version is the authoritative source.

Go To:  Construction Batallion Index Page
Go To:  Home Page
Valid HTML 4.01 webpage

W3C HTML Validation Service

Valid CSS webpage

W3C CSS Validation Service

W3C Unicorn Validation Service

First uploaded to the WWW:   2005 March 07
Moved to new hosting service:   2011 May 15
Latest update:   2012 September 23