100 Years Ago: 100 Canadians Wanted as Airmen, Negro Battalion to Be Organized

The Intelligencer July 8, 1916 (page 1)

“100 Canadian Birdmen Wanted for Overseas. Ottawa, July 7.—Announcement is made by the Naval Service Department that the British Admiralty have requested the department to enter another hundred men from Canada to train for probation and flight sub-lieutenants in the Royal Naval Air Service. The period of service is for the war.

Candidates must be between the ages of 18 and 25 years, but particularly suitable applicants between 18 and 19 will be accepted. Only athletic and perfectly fit men of good education and intellectual capacity will be accepted. Perfect eyesight is also required of the applicants.

When the number of volunteers asked for have been secured, Canada will have contributed 350 airmen to the Imperial Service, a large number have already rendered valuable service and probably a score have been killed or injured.”

The Intelligencer July 8, 1916 (page 7)

“Negro Battalion to Be Organized. Montreal, July 7.—A battalion of Canadian negroes is the latest development of the recruiting for overseas service. Notice to this effect was yesterday received by Col. Fages, acting O.C. here, with authorization for the organization of No. 2 Construction Battalion, C.E.F. This battalion will be formed along the same lines as No. 1 Construction Battalion, which is still recruiting one-half its force here.

The new construction battalion, however, will be composed entirely of colored men, with the exception that its officers will be white men, in command of Lieut.-Col. Daniel Sutherland. …

This is an entirely new departure with the army service, although there have been a number of Indian companies in various infantry regiments for years past, and of late several companies of Japanese have been raised in British Columbia.

No attempt has hitherto been made to mobilize the colored population of Canada, and it is expected that the call will meet with a good response, the more so as many of the colored families here are closely connected with the negroes who escaped to freedom on British soil before the American civil war.

When the present war broke out a number of Montreal colored people were anxious to start a negro battalion, while this idea was also broached in other cities and towns. They will now have opportunity to back up their loyal impulses with a battalion which will be utilized for some of the most important work of an advancing army—repairing the ravages caused by the enemy.”