QUOTE (Trevelyan @ Tue, 4 May 2004 13:59:45 +0000)
I was wondering if anyone could shed a bit of light on the 6th Canadian Railway Troops.
I don't really have any resources on the CEF, but my great grand uncle served in the unit from March 1918 on, so I was wondering if they were involved in any significant fighting at any point.
I've briefly looked at the war diary, and it seems that they were building trenches the whole time, but any other 'broader' info would be great (ie what sector of the front etc...)
This is from "A Call to Arm" The Organization and Administration of Canada's Military in World War One
by David W. Love, page 251:
"Being attached to all the British Armies, Canadian Railway Troops came under separate establishment and authority than that of the Canadian Corps. They were also separate, until 1918, from the Canadian Overseas Railway Construction Corps. To handle the influx of units and subsequent reinforcements, a 'Canadian Railway Troop Depot' was established at Purfleet, England.
By April 1917 there were six Canadian railway battalions equipped and operating in the field. As well, four companies of skilled railway employees had been sent overseas, and subsequently redesignated according to their specific functions (the 58th Broad Gauge Operating Company, the 13th Light Railway Operating Company, the 69th Wagon Erecting Company, and the 85th Engine Crew Company). Each company had an establishment of three officers and two hundred and sixty-six other ranks.
The Corps of Canadian Railway Troops was created in the early summer of 1918, when the Canadian Overseas Railway Construction Corps, the 58th Broad Gauge Operating Company, the 13th Light Railway Operating Company, the 69th Wagon Erecting Company, and the 85th Engine Crew Company and the other existing Canadian railway battalions were brought together under a common 'Headquarters, Canadian Railway Troops.' The four Skilled Railway Employee Companies were again redesignated as Nos. 1 — 4 Sections, Skilled Railway Employees. Further railway battalions were also raised through redesignation of other units and use of personnel from the Canadian Railway Troop Depot. About the same time the Officer Commanding, Canadian Railway Troops was also appointed 'Director of Construction'. As such, his duties encompassed all construction of civil a engineering character in the zone of the British Armies."
The Canadian Railway Troops weren't involved in any of the fighting on the Western Front. Their main function is as their war diary suggests, grading railroad beds, laying tracks, digging ditches and any other job required to build rail lines. The 6th Canadian Railway Troops war diary give an excellent day-to-day account of their duties. Again from Love's book, page 250:
"The largest body of Canadians on the Western Front, separate from the Canadian Corps, was the Corps of Canadian Railway Troops. A force of experts on railway construction. From early 1915 to the signing of the Armistice, Canadian Railway Troops were responsible for the construction of all the light railways in the areas occupied by the five British Armies and sixty percent of the standard gauge lines radiating from the channel ports to the actual battle zones (light and standard gauge railways were steam-powered, Canadian Corps tramways were gasoline powered). Considered as non-combatant troops, railway workers were unarmed for most of their service at the front."
You might be interested to know the 6th Canadian Railway Troops was formerly the 228th Infantry Battalion, CEF.