During the First World War, No. 2 Construction Battalion (No. 2 CB) served Canada with courage and integrity in a time when the nation did not afford the unit’s members equal rights because of the colour of their skin.
Despite their desire to fight for their country and against oppression, initial attempts to enlist by the Black community at the outbreak of the First World War were mostly rejected, with potential recruits being told that it’s a “White man’s war.”
It would take almost two years of protest and lobbying before the military would grant approval to establish No. 2 CB on July 5, 1916. The formation of the No. 2 CB was a major step towards a promised equality in Canada, as it was the first and only all-Black battalion-sized formation in Canadian military history.
After its establishment, the No. 2 CB had to continue combating racial discrimination and harassment during the war. They were not trusted by their officers to engage in traditional combat, and instead were assigned to build roads, railroad tracks, and bridges—providing valuable and, often, hazardous service for Canada.
The unit was unceremoniously disbanded on September 15, 1920, without recognition for its members’ service.
On June, 01, 2022, in an effort towards reconciliation, the battalion was awarded the theatre of war honour “France and Flanders, 1917–18”, and the perpetuation of the unit was assigned to the Canadian Military Engineers, with 4 Engineer Support Regiment (4 ESR), located within 5th Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown, having the privilege of publicly recognizing the perpetuation.
4 ESR is proud to carry forth the tradition of selfless courage and service embodied by No. 2 CB. As part of continued efforts to recognize the service and contribution of Black soldiers in the Canadian Armed Forces, 4 ESR will be leading several events in celebration of the No. 2 CB later in February, as part of Black History Month.