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The Second Construction Battalion – The Only Black Battalion in Canadian History

At the beginning of World War One, Black men were repeatedly turned away from recruiting stations. After lobbying the government, they formed a segregated unit on July 5, 1916, based in Pictou, Nova Scotia, and were sent overseas to build bridges and lay rail lines.

Three hundred and fifty men from Ontario, sixty men from Toronto alone, five hundred men from Nova Scotia, and fifty from Western Canada enlisted in the 2nd Construction Battalion. Some members of this historic Battalion earned medals for bravery on the front lines, and some lost their lives.

Like St. Catharines Ontario’s James Grant, who received the Military Cross in 1918, and Truro, Nova Scotia’s Jeremiah Jones who took an “enemy machine-gun nest” at Vimy Ridge. And another Nova Scotia native, Roy Fells of Yarmouth, who served with the famed 25th Battalion and was awarded the Military Medal, and the Honorable Captain William Andrew White – the only Black Commissioned Officer in the British Army in WWI.

Some of the men’s attestation papers on Ancestry.ca (there are also census records, marriage records and more):

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