1916: The Western University Battalion
The Great War exacted a heavy toll on the U of S. Of the 342 students,
faculty and staff who enlisted, 67 "passed out of the sight of man by the
path of duty and self-sacrifice."
More than 100 were wounded, and 33 were awarded medals of valour. The
School of Engineering closed its doors for the1916-1917 session when the
faculty and students enlisted en masse.1
In early 1916 the idea of a Western University Battalion took
root. Initially the Canadian military
was reluctant, but the combination of a strong lobbying campaign and the need
for fresh troops to replace the mounting casualties in Europe tipped the
scales. Reginald Bateman, the
university’s first Professor of English and war hero, was sent back to Canada to
raise a company of the 196th (Western Universities) Battalion. The 196th was to consist of a
company from each of the four western provinces. Once formed, it trained at Camp Hughes in Manitoba and was then
sent to England.2
The 196th’s history was brief. Once in England it was broken up to reinforce existing
units. A high portion of the recruits
eventually found themselves in the officers’ ranks. Many found themselves assigned to Saskatchewan dominated 46th
Battalion. Also known as the
"Suicide Battalion," it fought in some of the bloodiest encounters of
the war. Reinforcements were constantly needed as battle after battle decimated
its ranks. Of the 5,374 men in the 46th Battalion, 4,917 were either killed or
wounded. With the end of the war came demobilization
and the end of the 46th Battalion. The soldiers became veterans and returned to
civilian life. Many re-enrolled or
entered the university for the first time.3
Reginald Bateman did not return. He was killed in France on 3 September
R.J.G. Bateman fonds, MG 5.
Canadian Officers Training Corps fonds, MG 118.
1916a: R.J.G. Bateman, 1916. Photograph Collection, A-2675.
1916b: 196th University Battalion, Camp Hughes, 1916. Photograph Collection, A-1127.
1916c: Beaufort War Hospital, England, [ca.1917]. Photograph Collection, A-2133.
1916d: 196th Western Universities Battalion No. 5 Platoon. Photograph Collection, A-1130.
1916e: 46th Battalion CEF – Memorial. Photograph Collection, A-8791.
1916f : WUB. COTC fonds, MG 118, file 14.
1. On Campus News, 29 Oct
1999, p. 4
2. McWilliams, p. 72.
3. On Campus News, 29 October 1999, p. 4