Military Monday: CEF Service by Province

The CEF enlisted a total of 619,636 individuals. Out of these, 424,589 served outside Canada.

While I pause to recover from the OGS Conference, here’s a review of some First World War Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) statistics. You may find different stats quoted; these will be close.

Conscription became a crucial element as the war progressed and volunteer numbers dwindled.

Province/Territory Total Enlistments Enlistments as % of 1911 Population Conscripts
PEI & NS (combined) 39,419 6.48% 5,442
New Brunswick (NB) 27,061 7.69% 5,157
Quebec (Que) 88,052 4.40% 19,050
Ontario (ON) 242,655 9.62% 27,087
Manitoba (MB) 66,240 14.35% 6,787
Saskatchewan (SK) 41,689 8.47% 8,204
Alberta (AB) 48,885 13.05% 5,987
BC & Yukon (BC&Y) 55,570 14.06% 5,641
UK & BWI 3,079
USA 6,986
Total 619,636 83,335

For enlistments as a percent of population, the Western provinces, except Saskatchewan, stand out.

About 86% of Canadian residents who served were volunteers.

British Columbia and the Yukon had the highest volunteerism, with 89.85% of enlistments being volunteers.

Manitoba followed closely with 89.76%.

Ontario had 88.84% volunteer enlistments and by far the highest total enlistment.

Alberta also showed a strong volunteer rate at 87.75%. Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia combined had a volunteer rate of 86.20%. In contrast, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan had lower volunteer rates at 80.94% and 80.32% respectively.

Quebec had the lowest volunteer percentage at 78.37%, reflecting the province’s strong resistance to voluntary enlistment and the contentious implementation of conscription.

I was at first surprised that Saskatchewan had much lower volunteer rates than the two neighbouring provinces. Did it reflected the significant population of recent immigrants, particularly from Eastern Europe, less connected to the British Empire?  Being a primarily agricultural province, the economic necessity of maintaining agricultural output may have mitigated against volunteering.

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