46th Canadian Infantry Battalion (South Saskatchewan) -- "The Suicide Battalion"
R-A1059 to R-A1101, R-A1188, R-1189
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Summaries of interviews
Interviews conducted in 1975 and 1976 under the "Towards a New Past Programme" of the Cultural Activities Branch of the Department of Culture and Youth. For their book The Suicide Battalion, James L. McWilliams and R. James Steel interviewed twenty-eight survivors of the First World War who fought in the 46th Canadian Infantry Battalion. The story that emerges is both tragic and deeply moving, telling of the sacrifice made by thousands of Canadians in the First World War. Originating in Moose Jaw in 1914, the 46th called upon 5734 young men from Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta to fight in northern France. That there were 4917 men either killed or wounded from 1914 until 1919 when the battalion was disbanded, gives an indication why the men called themselves "The Suicide Battalion". The informants talk about their training, the journey to the front lines and the many bloody battles in which they fought i.e. Passchendaele, Vimy, the Somme, Amiens, Canal du Nord, Dury and others when the battalion's companies were almost entirely wiped out, only to be replenished with fresh drafts. They relate their experiences as they watched their companions being killed around them. Most were wounded at some point, often more than once and many men were simply listed as "missing in action" which invariably meant they had been killed. The horrors of trench life are related, the lice, the rations and sleeping standing up and in the mud without the strength to rise and trudge on. Most of the informants speak of their lives after the war, coming home, finding work and trying to pick up where they had left off.
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