Canadian Expeditionary Force (27) Canadian Officer's Training Corps (COTC)

CEF, Canadian Officer's Training Corps (COTC)

(York Sunbury Historical Society, Fredericton Region Museum Collection, Author Photo)

Canadian Officer’s Training Corps

Beginning in 1901 and pre dating the formation of the C.O.T.C. a number of engineer cadet companies were established at some of Canada’s larger universities. These including the University of Toronto (1901) this designated as No. 2 Field Company C.E. in 1904. At Dalhousie University at Halifax in 1907, at Queen’s University at Kingston this designated as the 5th Field Company in 1910. In 1912 the first Canadian Officers Training Corps (COTC) was established at McGill University with contingents being formed at most colleges and universities shortly after the outbreak of the First World War. Many of Canada’s universities were established by religious organizations with which they remained affiliated until the unification of the Canadian Armed Forces in 1968. During both World Wars all male students of Canada’s Universities were enrolled in the COTC.

Canadian Officers Training Corps Contingent Cap Badge

(York Sunbury Historical Society, Fredericton Region Museum Collection, Author Photo)

Royal Military College Gentlemen Cadets

Khaki University

(York Sunbury Histgorical Society, Fredericton Region Museum Collection, Author Photo)


Alberta University Contingent

In Military District 13 the Alberta University Contingent, Canadian Officers’ Training Corps was authorized under General Order 202, of December 1914 reading in part “Military District No. 13. - The formation of a contingent consisting of 1 Company of the Canadian Officers’ Training Corps, to be designated the “Alberta University Contingent, Canadian Officers’ Training Corps” is authorized at Alberta University, Edmonton, Altberta.” In 1916 the University of Alberta C.O.T.C. provided a company of 250 volunteers to the 196th (Western Universities) Battalion.

Dalhousie University Contingent

Dalhousie University. Organized on 2 November 1914. 4 Companies. No. 7 (Dalhousie University) Stationary Hospital was organized on 21 October 1915 being authorized under General Order 151 of 22 December 1915.

Laval University Contingent

Laval University. Organized on 15 April 1913. Reorganized 1 July 1916. 2 Companies. During the war Laval University raised the No. 6 (Laval) Canadian Stationary Hospital.

McGill University Contingent

The McGill University Contingent Canadian Officers Training Corps was organized under General Order 18 211 of November 1912 with two companies. This was the first C.O.T.C. contingent raised. By 1917 the McGill Contingent had been expanded to eight companies. A satellite contingent with two companies having been formed at MacDonald College on 15 December 1914 . Another satellite company at McGill (British Columbia) was disbanded in September 1915 when the University of British Columbia became an independent university. Its COTC contingent was organized with three companies. McGill University provided a large number of volunteers to the Canadian Expeditionary Force in the war. In addition to the majority of reinforcements for the P.P.C.L.I., the faculty, students and alumni raised the No. 3 Stationary Hospital, The McGill Siege Battery and the 148th Infantry Battalion; and companies for the 1st and 2nd Canadian Tank Battalions C.M.G.C. and the Canadian Engineers.

The McGill contingent of the Canadian Officers' Training Corps was established in 1912 to train students as militia officers. Its first commander was V.I. Smart, a McGill professor of railway mechanical engineering. The McGill COTC was formally connected with the 148th (McGill) Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, and associated with a number of other units. Initially only infantry training was given, but beginning with the Second World War, training was given in all arms of service.

New recruits were trained in map reading, military law, organization, and administration. Upon completion of training, recruits were sent to a branch of service for which they were best suited, such as the cavalry, artillery, infantry, flying corps, engineers, signals, medical corps, or army training corps. Training took place in various locations in Quebec and Ontario, such as Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Farnham, Saint-Bruno and Petawawa.

(York Sunbury Historical Society, Fredericton Region Museum Collection, Bella Doherty Photo)


The badge has the coat of arms for McGill university The circle around the shield is inscribed UNIVERSTTAS COLLEGIE McGILL A.D.1821. There is a second scroll around the circle inscribed Grandescunt Aucta Labore (By work, all things increase and grow).

On the eve of the Second World War, the McGill COTC issued the statement, which appeared in the Autumn 1939 issue of The McGill News: “the establishment [of the COTC] will be increased and for the present enrolment will be restricted to British subjects and undergraduates of McGill and past students of all universities.” The McGill University Senate resolved on September 16, 1941, that “British male students who are pursuing a regular full-time course proceeding to a degree or diploma will be required to take military training, in accordance with the program laid down by the Department of National Defence, provided that they are physically fit.” The training was organized by the COTC. Overall the McGill COTC provided military training for more than 12,000 men. (McGill University Archives, 0000-0481.04.1)

Queen’s University Contingent

Queen’s University Contingent was organized on 1 February 1915 with 4 Companies. Faculty, students and alumni of Queen’s University raised numerous units for service with the CEF. The No. 5 (Queen’s University) Canadian Stationary Hospital, (later redesignated as No. 7 (Queen’s University) Canadian General Hospital, and the No. 9 (Queens University) Canadian Field Ambulance, serving with the C.A.M.C. The 253rd (Queen’s University) Infantry Battalion, and a number of artillery batteries served with the Canadian Artillery.

Saskatchewan University Contingent

The Saskatchewan University Contingent was organized on 15 December 1915 with three Companies. Being authorized under General Order 149 of 1915. During the war 342 students, faculty, and staff enlisted in the C.E.F. of which 67 were killed, 100 were wounded, and 33 received decorations. In the war, the No. 8 (University of Saskatchewan) Stationary Hospital was organized at the University of Saskatchewan.

(York Sunbury Historical Society, Fredericton Region Museum Collection, Author Photo)

University of Toronto Contingent

General Order 177 of November 1914. 2nd Division. The formation of a contingent consisting of 9 companies of Canadian Officers’ Training Corps, to be designated the “University of Toronto Contingent” is authorized at the University of Toronto, on 15 October  1914. As Canada’s largest university the U of T supplied many volunteers for the C.E.F. and also provided its grounds and buildings for training and organizing forces for the C.E.F. Both the 123rd and 228th Battalions assembled on the campus and in January 1916 the headquarters of the Canadian branch of the Royal Flying Corps was also established there. Some 4,113 Officers and 1,538 other ranks from the faculty, students and alumni served in the C.E.F. Of these, 613 were killed in action or died while in service in the war. The university supplied the staff for the No. 4 Canadian General Hospital and raised the 67th Depot Battery, CFA. Also the majority of Officers of the 2nd Pioneer Battalion, established in October 1915, were graduates of the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering. Under General Order 69 of July 1916 the No. 6 Toronto University Company was called out on active service.

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