The Story of the 123rd Overseas Battalion, Royal Grenadiers, CEF

Until now, the story of the Canadian Combat Pioneers in the Great War has been overlooked by military historians who have chosen to focus on the infantry actions.  This book chronicles the story of the Battalion raised by one of Canada’s oldest and finest Regiments; the 10th Royal Grenadiers, whose history began in December 1861.  The order to raise the 123rd Battalion was issued November 12, 1915, and Lieutenant-Colonel Walter Bernard Kingsmill, the Commanding Officer of the Royal Grenadiers at the time, relinquished his command to raise, train and command the 123rd Battalion.

They trained hard and sailed for England as a highly skilled infantry battalion, but just as they were about to mobilize to France, the Battalion was converted to a Combat Pioneer Battalion.  They served with excellence at all of the Canadian Great Battles, including Vimy Ridge, Lens, Hill 70, and Passchendaele, but were once again reorganized as a part of the major change affecting the whole of the Engineering Branch in May 1918.  Under the reorganization, the 123rd Battalion, Royal Grenadiers, formed the backbone of the new 3rd Canadian Engineer Brigade, as the 7th, 8th and 9th Canadian Engineer Battalions.  The officers and men of the 123rd went on to distinguish themselves in the Last 100 Days of the War, including offensives at Amiens, Bourlon Wood, Canal du Nord, Cambrai, Valenciennes, and they were the first Canadians at the gates of Mons in the wee hours of November 10-11, 1918, the day the armistice took effect.

The book tells the story in human terms.  It does not dwell on the great battles, but rather it portrays the officers and men, themselves, including profiles of some of the men who served.

This book will be of interest to military historians, to provide substantial facts about the Pioneers and Engineers who helped to save the lives of countless infantrymen and artillerymen during the heat of the battles.  Several descendants of men who served in the 123rd Battalion, Royal Grenadiers have contributed greatly to the research that culminated in this book.

I am of the opinion that much of the success of the Canadian Corps in the final 100 days was due to the fact that they had sufficient engineers to do the engineering work and that in those closing battles we did not employ the infantry in that kind of work. We trained the infantry for fighting and used them only for fighting.
This organization is so necessary that I would prefer to do without infantry than to do without Engineers.
– General Sir Arthur Currie