No. 2 Construction Battalion Awarded ‘France and Flanders, 1917-18’ Battle Honour / Black Battalion to be perpetuated by 4 Engineer Support Regiment
June 27, 2022 – Halifax – National Defence / Canadian Armed Forces
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.
“The awarding of the ‘France and Flanders, 1917-18’ Battle Honour to No. 2 Construction Battalion and its perpetuation by The Branch of Canadian Military Engineers are significant honours. They commemorate the distinguished legacy of service of the Battalion’s members, while demonstrating our recognition of the injustices they suffered and our commitment to eliminating systemic racism in today’s armed forces. This is long overdue, and by righting this wrong we are ensuring that the Battalion takes its rightful place in Canada’s proud military history.”
General Wayne Eyre, Chief of the Defence Staff
“The vital role played by No. 2 Construction Battalion in the First World War has been underestimated for over a century. Its perpetuation and the awarding of this new Battle Honour will ensure that its name, and all that its members achieved, are remembered properly and permanently.”
Lieutenant-General Jocelyn Paul, Commander Canadian Army
“4 Engineer Support Regiment is honoured to be part of perpetuating No. 2 Construction Battalion. We are proud to display their well-deserved Battle Honour within our unit lines and to have a role in telling the story of their service to Canada to new generations.”
Lieutenant-Colonel William Dixon, Commanding Officer, 4 Engineer Support Regiment
After initial service removing rails from railway sidings in New Brunswick to be shipped to France to support the First World War effort, No. 2 Construction Battalion deployed to Europe on March 28, 1917.
During the First World War, No. 2 Construction battalion served mostly in eastern France with the Canadian Forestry Corps in lumber operations.
The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) announced the allocation of the ‘France and Flanders, 1917-18’ Battle Honour to No. 2 Construction Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) in Ottawa, on June 1, 2022, to provide public recognition and to record a unit’s active participation in a battle, campaign or theatre against a formed and armed enemy.
The Theatre of War Honour ‘France and Flanders’ is awarded to units that served in France and Belgium between 1914 and 1918. The honour is awarded with year dates according to the year in which the unit served in France and Belgium. It is also awarded to battalions broken up to provide reinforcements for other units already in the field.
Perpetuation is a unique Canadian system, which provides a means of preserving military operational honours for succeeding generations. The system was developed by the post-First World War Battle Honours Committee and the Army Historical Section to safeguard the record of service of units of the Canadian Expeditionary Force that served in Europe during the Great War.
Perpetuation is a means of institutionalizing the memory of the deeds and sacrifices made by those military personnel who contributed to unique periods in Canada's military history. The perpetuating unit becomes the official “safe-keeper” of this heritage for them all. While the perpetuating unit assumes the honours it does not inherit the lineage of the perpetuated unit.
The ‘France and Flanders, 1917-18’ Battle Honour will be displayed at 4 Engineer Support Regiment (4 ESR), the unit honoured with the task of perpetuating the history and legacy of No. 2 Construction Battalion. 4 ESR is a regiment of The Branch of Canadian Military Engineers located at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown, New Brunswick. 4 ESR is tasked to provide general engineer support to the Canadian Armed Forces.
Department of National Defence
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