The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) awarded of the ‘France and Flanders, 1917-18’ Battle Honour to No. 2 Construction Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) in Ottawa, on June 1, 2022.
Also announced was the perpetuation of the Battalion by The Branch of Canadian Military Engineers and publicly recognized by 4 Engineer Support Regiment (4 ESR) located at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown, New Brunswick.
Ahead of a national apology to the descendants and families of No. 2 Construction Battalion, on July 9, 2022, in Truro, Nova Scotia, the Battle Honour and perpetuation were informed by a review of historical records that determined the Battalion’s eligibility.
No. 2 Construction Battalion (also known as The Black Battalion), was created on July 5, 1916, in Pictou, Nova Scotia, during the First World War. It was a segregated non-combatant unit, the first and only all-Black battalion-sized formation in Canadian military history.
While some Black men were able to enlist in CEF battalions prior to mid-1916, the majority were rejected due to racial prejudice. Black communities across Canada put pressure on the government and military officials, culminating in the authorization of No. 2 Construction Battalion, allowing a larger number of Black men to serve.
Throughout the war, members of No. 2 Construction Battalion faced overt and unspoken systemic racism, and showed resilience, determination and strength in the face of adversity. Following the end of the First World War, the unit was officially disbanded on September 15, 1920, without ceremony or recognition for their service or sacrifices on behalf of Canada.
The awarding of this long overdue Battle Honour celebrates and highlights the significant and distinguished efforts of all members of No. 2 Construction Battalion during the Great War. This honour also highlights the Department of National Defence (DND) and CAF commitment towards culture change by correcting this long standing historical injustice and addressing systemic racism. The perpetuation of No. 2 Construction Battalion will ensure that identity and honours gained by this unit will endure in the CAF, DND and Canadian history.