The 123rd (Royal Grenadiers) Battalion, CEF was authorized on December 22, 1915. They were based in Toronto, Ontario, and began recruiting right away, although some members had signed up for service as early as September 1915. The Battalion recruited, trained and mobilized as an infantry battalion in the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the First World War. Many senior members of the 123rd Battalion were serving with the 10th Royal Grenadiers prior to attesting in the 123rd Battalion. They had trained at home as infantry soldiers. The 10th Royal Grenadiers also contributed approximately 30% of the soldiers who attested in the 3rd Battalion (Toronto Regiment), CEF starting in September 1914.
The Battalion was separated into two groups in Halifax for mobilization to England, the first group sailing on the S.S. Cameronian and the second group sailing on the S.S. Metagama, arriving in England August 17 and 18, 1916, respectively. They mobilized with the 124th Battalion (Governor General's Body Guard), CEF.
On January 17, 1917, the Battalion was redesignated as the 123rd Pioneer Battalion (Royal Grenadiers), CEF, but continued to report up through the Infantry Division, while most of the other Canadian Pioneer Battalions reported through the Canadian Engineers. They commenced training as Pioneers, under the guidance of a Major of the British Pioneers. Many of the original members were fully trained as infantry solders and as pioneers.
The 123rd Battalion was commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Walter Bernard Kingsmill from the time of attestation, until May 1918, when the Battalion was broken up to form the 7th and 8th and 9th Battalion, Canadian Engineers.
Throughout 1917 and into early 1918, the 123rd Battalion absorbed large contingents of reinforcements, primarily from the 129th Battalion, 3rd Canadian Pioneer Battalion and 3rd Reserve Battalion, and others.
In many cases the 123rd Battalion served with front line troops, and in fact, in front of the front line troops, to improve roads, and establish battlements and fortification for the front-line troops to use and occupy. They suffered many casualties. Often they would build plank roads to facilitate movement of troops, artillery pieces, and supply columns, only to have the Germans shell the roads, requiring immense efforts to get Canadian forces to and from the front.
Many brave solders were wounded or died while serving with the 123rd Battalion, and many officers and men were decorated for their courageous acts.
The 123rd Battalion was demobilized and disbanded on September 15, 1920, at the same time most C.E.F. Battalions were disbanded.
The 123rd Battalion is perpetuated by The Royal Regiment of Canada of Canada's 32nd Brigade Group, the largest reserve regiment in Canada's militia forces today. The Royal Regiment of Canada also perpetuates the 3rd Battalion (Toronto Regiment), CEF, 58th Battalion, CEF, 124th Battalion (Governor General's Body Guard), CEF, the 170th Battalion (Mississauga Horse), CEF, and the 204th Battalion (Beavers), CEF.
Meek, John F. Over the Top! The Canadian Infantry in the First World War. Orangeville, Ont.: The Author, 1971.
War Diaries of the 123rd Battalion: February–August 1917. Library and Archives Canada
War Diaries of the 123rd Battalion: September–November 1917. Library and Archives Canada
War Diaries of the 123rd Battalion: December 1917-May 1918. Library and Archives Canada
Battle Royal: Lieutenant-Colonel Donald James Goodspeed, CD, Canadian Military Historian; Published by Royal Regiment of Canada Association: Toronto; MacMillan; First Ed. 1962 and Second Ed. 1979.
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