CEF-BEF Transfer

The Great War: Vimy Ridge
George Van Wyck Laughton, M.C.

Canadian - Serving in the British 3rd Army, 34th Division,  
26th Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers (Tyneside Irish)


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This page last updated on January 31, 2013




An interesting aspect of the research into George Van Wyck Laughton has been the interaction between service in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) and the British Expeditionary Force (BEF).  Once this became a topic of discussion on the CEF Forum I went back to my records to see if I could track the actual transfer.  

A summary document on Grandfather Laughton's military record (see link on left side) has been prepared that tracks his movements through the various Militia Regiments, into the CEF Battalions and then on to the BEF.  A great part of solving this puzzle has been learning about how "the system worked", such as how regiments became battalions, how "Overseas Battalions" were absorbed into "Reserve Battalions" and then how these might be further dispersed in England prior to departure to the field of battle.  Also in this process, is the transfer of enlisted men in the CEF to officers in the BEF, of course after completion of the necessary training programs.  That is the process that was followed by Grandfather Laughton.

The following was my answer posted to the Forum (April 16, 2005) , which is followed by a second series of postings relating to the CEF service (August 7, 2005).  On August 20, 2005 I inserted some extracts from other sites that explains a bit about the interaction of the regiments and battalions.  (Most images are hyperlinked to the full sized document).

Forum Posting April 16, 2005

I can tell you the story of the CEF to BEF switch as best I know it in my grandfathers case. With the documents in hand (copies are on my web site from both Canada and England) and the story as told by my Uncle Paul Laughton, I was able to somewhat track the transfer. Family "stories" suggested that Grandfather Laughton could not wait for the CEF to send him overseas, so he left the CEF on his own and caught a berth on a ship to England.  The official records suggest that he first went to England and it was there that he resigned from the CEF after the CEF officer's ranks were reduced, he was downgraded to Private, and he took the option to transfer to the BEF at his former officer rank (Lieutenant).

A number of University of Toronto students apparently went to the CEF Officers School, graduated to the rank of Lieutenant, and then were subsequently struck (demoted I presume that means) as the forces were reorganized (8 Lieutenants to 4 Lieutenants). That means perhaps a quick drop from an Officer to an Enlisted rank, so they went overseas and joined the BEF to get back to the rank of Officer. The CEF allowed a discharge so he could join the BEF. As soon as he left the BEF, after his injuries in France, he apparently was automatically back in the CEF as a private.

The documents that were in our family records are located here:


The documents that I retrieved from Archives Canada are located here:


I still do not have the records from the PRO (Public Records Office) in England, but I am working on that process.

The time line appears to be as follows (reference links and material located also provided):


 Timeline for George Van Wyck Laughton

Source of Information and Web Link:


September 1915
University of Toronto Faculty of Law, COTC

(Canadian Officers Training Corps)

University of Toronto, Roll of Service 1914-1918
Page 343:

LAUGHTON, George Van Wyck; University Coll. 1919; 7th Regt., Lieut. 142nd Bn., Lieut., Nov. 1915; Northumberland Fusiliers, Sec. Lieut.; France, Jan. 1917. Armentieres, Arras secs., Vimy; Wounded, Vimy, April 29, 1917; Invalided June 1917; att. U of T O/S Tr. Coy.; Discharged April 1918; M.C., Arras Apl. 1917.


December 13, 1915 to February 11, 1916
Qualified for the rank of Lieutenant, 7th Regiment Fusiliers
School of Infantry, Department of Militia and Defence
London Ontario CANADA




Canadian Military History Gateway
The London, Ontario unit that was given the number 7 in the list of Canadian Volunteer Militia infantry battalions was formed in 1866 from six independent companies. Like many others in the Canadian militia, the London unit chose to imitate the title and dress of one of the more impressive types of British regular infantry - in this case the fusiliers, with their bearskin busby. This plate shows an officer in full dress.

Land Forces: The Canadian Fusiliers
The Canadian Fusiliers web site indicates that Fusiliers were reorganized in 1920 to perpetuate the CEF (3rd Battalion perpetuating 142nd Battalion CEF). I assume that means they were somehow related prior to that time as well, or was the 7th Regiment Fusiliers always part of the 142nd Battalion? 

The answer lies in the 7th Regiment providing recruits for the 142nd Battalion.

March 3, 1916 Record
Record of Officer's Service December 8, 1915 to March 3, 1916
142nd Overseas Battalion, CEF

"Orders to reduce the establishment from eight supernumeraries to four, Lieut. G. V. Laughton struck of the strength as one of the latest officers".


4th Battalion Royal Canadian Regiment
On 6 August 1914, the 7th Regiment Fusiliers were placed on Active Service for local protective duties. Neither they, nor the 22nd Regiment, the Oxford Rifles were selected for overseas service as units, but both contributed heavily to the group formed in the Western Ontario Area. The first group was formed in September 1914 and was designated as the 1st Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Forces (Western Ontario Regiment). Both units also recruited drafts for the 33rd, 71st, 142nd and 168th Battalions, CEF. These latter battalions were broken up once they arrived overseas and provided reinforcements for the Canadian Corps.


February 3, 1916
Reported for duty, Lieutenant G. V. Laughton
142nd Overseas Battalion, CEF

The Regiments of the Canadian Army were not mobilized as such, and instead, these Regiments instead recruited for the overseas units.   Many of the initial units were formed from one or two Militia units, and despite the official desire of the Minister of Defence to keep these CEF units separate, some adopted regimental insignia from their parent regiments.  Other CEF units drew recruits from several separate Militia Regiments, either selecting the identity of one of them, or simply adopting their new numbered identity without question.

"Subsidiary Titles" were added to the official battalion designation of CEF units - for example, the table below lists "Western Ontario" as the subsidiary designation of the 1st Battalion.  The full title would thus be First (Western Ontario) Battalion, CEF or First Battalion, CEF (Western Ontario).    There are some exceptions; the Tenth Battalion for example was often simply referred to as Tenth Canadians.  The two Permanent Force units did not have a subsidiary title, as they were not granted a number. 



Unit Location Raised Founding Militia Regiment(s)
Subsidiary Title of CEF unit
Date of Raising Assignment
1st ontario.gif (1035 bytes) Western
1st Hussars
7th Regiment (Fusiliers)
21st Regiment (Essex Fusiliers)
22nd Regiment (The Oxford Rifles)
23rd Regiment (The Northern Fusiliers)
24th Kent Regiment
25th Regiment
28th Perth Regiment
29th Regiment (Highland Light Infantry of Canada)
77th Wentworth Regiment

Western Ontario

Raised at Camp Valcartier, Quebec
Sep 1914

1div.gif (848 bytes)
1st Brigade
142nd ontario.gif (1035 bytes) London 7th Regiment (Fusiliers)
22nd Regiment (The Oxford Rifles)
July 7, 1916 Attestation Papers 

Private G. V. Laughton
32nd Battalion, CEF (at the age of 19 years, 2 months)
Shorncliffe, England

Maybe there is an error in the records as the 32nd is from Calgary and this makes it look like it was the 33rd, as they included the 7th Regiment (Fusiliers)?

32nd alberta.gif (1328 bytes) Calgary 12th Manitoba Dragoons
33rd ontario.gif (1035 bytes) London 7th Regiment (Fusiliers)
22nd Regiment (The Oxford Rifles)
25th Regiment
July 17, 1916 Discharged from CEF

Discharged in Shorncliffe, England in order to accept commission in BEF.



December 1916, Oxford University

He completed the Officer's short course at Oxford University. It is here he met the "Geordies" in Newcastle and thus the link to the Northumberland Fusiliers.



February 26, 1917 Posted to BEF

Lieut. G. V. Laughton posted to the 26th Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers, 34th Division, British 3rd Army.


March 15, 1917

Final pay to Private G. V. Laughton, CEF
Transfer papers issued due to commission with the Imperial Army




April 9, 1917: Military Cross

Award of Military Cross for "Conspicuous Bravery" at Vimy Ridge.


March 1917, Scarpe Valley
Despatches from Sir Douglas Haig

Injured and buried to the neck, foodless for 5 days behind enemy lines and found only after the British captured the position (good thing!).
Granted extended furlough to Canada as a result of injuries. Transferred to hospital in England on May 1, 1917.


Canada 26/5/17

To be concealed behind German Lines and remain food less for five days and nights was the recent experience of G. V. Laughton, Northumberland Fusiliers.  Mr. Laughton was on night patrol with a sergeant, and eventually found himself behind the German front line and unable to get back to his own unit.  The sergeant was killed by a shell, and the officer had perforce to remain hidden for five days and nights without food.

At the end of the period the British captured the enemy position, and Lieut. Laughton was found unconscious as a result of his privations.  The features of this case have aroused great interest in medical circles.  Mr. Laughton has been granted extended furlough to Canada.


May 11, 1918 telex to F. V. Laughton in Toronto, Canada

War Office England grants resignation of temporary commission in BEF due to ill health.



February 3, 1920 Discharge from CEF

Discharged as Private George Van Wyck Laughton. No record of Medals and/or Decorations (assume in CEF)


June 18, 1943

Certificate of Military Qualification, Canadian Army - Captain, Infantry
(did not serve overseas due to medical problems associated with WWI injuries)




I have posted an interesting response from Chris Wight on a note page that provides for an interesting analysis of the events of the time.

Transfers of Soldiers from the CEF to Officers in the BEF


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