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46th Canadian Infantry Battalion, CEF

46th Battalion
Gerry Carline

At the outbreak of World War I the Minister of Defence, Sir Sam Hughes, ordered the raising of units for overseas service. Scrapping the existing mobilization plan, he ordered the formation of numbered battalions: as a result the 46th Battalion, headquartered in Moose Jaw and commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Herbert Snell, came into being on February 1, 1915. The 46th traveled to Camp Sewell, Manitoba on May 28, 1915, for basic training before entraining for Halifax and overseas service. The battalion arrived in England on November 1, 1915, with a strength of 36 officers and 1,115 other ranks. Many of the original soldiers of the battalion were then transferred to other units, and new men took their place; the winter of 1915–16 was spent re-establishing the cohesion of the unit as the new men were moulded into the battalion.

The 46th embarked for France on August 10, 1916, becoming an integral part of the 10th Infantry Brigade, 4th Canadian Division, from August 11, 1916 until the Armistice. During its active service the battalion fought in every major victory attributed to the Canadian Corp, suffering 1,433 killed and 3,484 wounded (a 91.5% casualty rate) and earning the title of “Suicide Battalion.” Sergeant Hugh Cairns was awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously for his actions at Valenciennes on November 1, 1918; he was the last Canadian to win this distinction in World War I. Two former members of the 46th Battalion were also awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously: Private William Johnstone Milne while serving with the 16th Canadian Scottish; and Sergeant Arthur Knight, of Regina, while serving with the 10th Battalion. On March 24, 1919, in preparation for its return to Canada, the battalion was presented with Colours bearing the sixteen Battle Honours that it had earned in the twenty-seven months of combat. On April 26, 1919, the battalion began its homeward journey. It arrived in Moose Jaw on June 9, 1919, and after a brief reception paraded to the Armoury to be demobilized. The 46th Canadian Infantry Battalion is perpetuated by the Saskatchewan Dragoons of Moose Jaw.

Gerry Carline

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Further Reading

McWilliams, J. and R.J. Steel. 1978. The Suicide Battalion. Edmonton: Hurtig.
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