20th Battalion (Central Ontario), CEF

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The distinguishing patch of the 20th Battalion (Central Ontario), CEF.

The 20th Battalion (Central Ontario), CEF was a unit of the First World War Canadian Expeditionary Force. It was composed of volunteers from militia units in central Ontario. Much of the unit was drawn from the 12th York Regiment, the Rangers, with men coming from ten other Militia Regiments -- of which four still exist.[1] The unit fought in France and Flanders as part of the 4th Infantry brigade, 2nd Canadian Division.[2] Notable actions include the Somme, Vimy Ridge, Hill 70, Passchendaele, Amiens, the advance along the Scarpe, Canal du Nord, Canal de le Escault and the advance to Mons in the Last Hundred Days. The battalion was disbanded in 1920.

Altogether, 4,310 officers and men served in the 20th Battalion during the war. Of them, 843 were killed in action or died of wounds (19.6%) – often having been wounded earlier. Another 1,855 (43%) were wounded, often repeatedly. 91 died of disease or accidentally. Ottawa stopped counting the deaths to old injuries, mental trauma and exposure to gas as war deaths in 1922 while the nominal roll of the 20th (privately held after the battalion disbanded) attributed these to the war until 1928. Only 22 Rangers were ever taken prisoner – nine of them in one incident when a stretcher party went astray at Passchendaele.[3] There was also one deserter who crossed to the German lines in 1916, his name and fate is not recorded.

Altogether 398 decorations and awards joined the thousands of wound stripes on the tunic of the Rangers of the 20th Battalion. Besides the two VCs, 10 officers earned the Distinguished Service Order (one did so twice). 45 officers received the Military Cross, four got a second award of the MC. For the men, there were the Distinguished Conduct Medal and the Military Medal. 24 men received the DCM and 231 men got the Military Medal (the equivalent to the MC) and 14 received a second award of it. Other awards recognizing good service trickled in, but the VC, DSO (for regimental officers), the MC, the DCM and the MM recognize unusual courage and achievement in battle.

Sgt Frederick Hobson of the 20th Battalion was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on 18 August 1917, near Lens, France at the Battle of Hill 70.

Lt Wallace Lloyd Algie of the 20th Battalion was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on 11 October 1918, around Iwuy, near Cambrai, France.

The 20th Battalion (Central Ontario), CEF, is perpetuated by The Queen's York Rangers (1st American Regiment) (RCAC).[4]

External links[edit]

  1. ^ History of the 20th Battalion CEF by Major D.J. Corrigall, DSO, MC; Stone and Cox Ltd, Toronto, 1936
  2. ^ Canadian Expeditionary Force 1914-1919 by Col G.W.L. Nicholson, CD, Queens's Printer, Ottawa, Ontario, 1962
  3. ^ Corrigall, annexed nominal roll of the 20th
  4. ^ Canadian Forces Publication A-DH-267-003 Insignia and Lineages of the Canadian Forces. Volume 3: Combat Arms Regiments.