The 22nd Battalion

The 22nd Battalion

Canada entered the war on August 4, 1914. In the year preceding the onset of the Great War, the political situation in Europe was extremely volatile. The alliances and treaties concluded between the different European powers would draw virtually the entire continent into a major conflict. The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian empire, in summer 1914, provided the spark that brought all of Europe to war. The participation of the colonies, like Canada, and that of countries like Japan and the United States meant that all continents were involved. For the first time, war was worldwide.

In Canada, the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) was raised to serve abroad in this war. The 22nd Battalion, under the command of Colonel Frédéric Mondelet Gaudet, belonged to the 5th Brigade of the 2nd Division of the CEF. Having trained in England since May 1915, it arrived in Flanders in September. The front was a site of veritable carnage. In three months, the CEF lost more than 24 000 men (killed or wounded). The 22nd alone lost 600. Although enrolment had been voluntary when war first broke out, these heavy losses forced the government to impose conscription in 1917 to replenish the ranks...a measure that was not popular in Québec.

After having played a less flamboyant role in the battles of Saint-Éloi and Mont Sorrel, the 22nd Battalion was a key element in the Allied victory at Courcelette in the Battle of the Somme in September 1916. However, it lost more than 200 men. The 22nd helped the Allied troops win other critical victories, notably at Vimy where the Canadian army's four divisions fought together for the first time. In 1918, two members of the Battalion stood out for their particularly heroic acts. Joseph Keable and Jean Brillant received the Victoria Cross (the British Empire's highest military distinction) posthumously.

The 22nd Battalion came home in May 1919, getting a hero's welcome wherever it went. The order to break ranks was finally given on the platform of the Bonaventure railway station in Montréal on May 19, 1919. The 22nd Battalion was no more. The Treaty of Versailles, which officially ended the war, was signed on June 28.