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Canadian Army Veterinary Corps, World War I

Privacy Level: Public (Green)
Date: 1914 to 1920
Location: Europemap
Surnames/tags: World_War_I Canadian_Expeditionary_Force Great_War
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The Great War came at a time when horses were still a primary means of transportation and played a crucial role in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF). In an era of growing mechanization and technological development, horses and mules still provided the overwhelming bulk of draught power in the combat zone. Those who would win war needed to have lots of horses and they had to be healthy horses. By the Armistice of 11 November 1918, the CEF alone utilized 24,134 horses and mules in France and Belgium. The task of overseeing their health and working efficiency fell to just a few officers and enlisted personnel of the Canadian Army Veterinary Corps (CAVC) - 73 Veterinary Officers and 780 Other Ranks.


Army Veterinary Service (AVS)

Before 1910 veterinary surgeons were either Non-Commissioned Officers or commissioned officers serving directly with mounted and artillery units.

On 2 November 1910, the Army Veterinary Service (AVS) was created, composed of qualified veterinary surgeons serving as officers, with other rank supporting personnel. The AVS consisted of:

- Canadian Permanent Army Veterinary Corps (CPAVC) (veterinary officers, NCOs and privates)
- Canadian Army Veterinary Corps (CAVC) (veterinary officers detailed for duty with mounted corps of the Militia
- Regimental Veterinary Service (RVS) (a short-lived service composed of officers already on the regimental staff of mounted corps).

There was thus a Permanent Force and a Militia component, with the senior officer of the CPAVC administering the AVS as a whole. Wikipedia:Royal Canadian Army Veterinary Corps.

Canadian Army Veterinary Corps (CAVC)

Within three months of the outbreak of the First World War, veterinary surgeons were dispatched to Europe as part of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. A Remount Service was also created to provide reinforcement horses to the CEF.

Canadian veterinarians served in the CEF as well as the British Army, with about 300 Canadian vets eventually seeing service in locales ranging from Europe to India, Egypt, Mesopotamia and Russia. In 1915, Canadian veterinary students in their final year were permitted to skip their final exams in exchange for enlisting in the British Army to help ease the shortage of trained veterinarians. Those that agreed were enlisted in the rank of Second Lieutenant and graduated automatically.

Horse casualties were moved by mobile sections to evacuation stations, and surgical and other treatment was done at base hospitals. Special hospitals were also set up to combat Mange. Guidelines for the CAVC Officer outline specific occasions where veterinarians were encouraged to intervene and demand that the soldier feeds or allows the horse water.

By the end of the First World War, the CAVC was responsible for returning 80 percent of the animals under their care to active duty. After the First World War, some veterinarians remained in Europe to oversee the disposal of animals, with the last officer returning in 1920. The remaining Canadian horses were eventually used for work animals or as food. The Belgian government bought every Canadian horse that remained in Europe in a direct deal with the Canadian government, which allowed Canada to forego a transportation costs to return the animals to Canada.

In all, veterinary personnel of the CEF had included 72 officers and 756 other ranks, who managed to treat in excess of 24,000 horses.

Sections, Hospitals, Depots

Organization: 9 Sections, each with 1-2 officers and 6-24 other ranks. The CAVC was divided into several sections, hospitals and depots, many of which are listed below. Many of these units were disbanded by General Order 194 of 1 November 1920.[1]

No. 1 Canadian Veterinary Hospital

No. 3 Section Canadian Army Veterinary Corps (Montreal) mobilized at Montreal on 18 October 1914 under the command of Captain T. C. Evans. It left Montreal 6 November 1914 aboard Megantic, and arrived in England 15 November 1914. It became No. 1 Section Canadian Army Veterinary Corps on 12 December 1914. It arrived in France 4 April 1915, and re-designated No. 1 Veterinary Hospital, Havre on 10 April 1915. After the armistice it returned to England on 4 April 1919.

No. 2 Canadian Veterinary Hospital

Organized at Shorncliffe in April 1917 under the command of Captain V. W. Best. Its' authorization was published in Canadians’ Routine Order 794 of 13 March 1917. It was closed 31 January 1918.

No. 1 Canadian Mobile Veterinary Section

Captain Maurice Gordon O'Gogarty commanded this section of the Canadian Army Veterinary Corps, which mobilized at Valcartier, Quebec on 26 Aug 1914. They left Quebec aboard two ships on 28 Sep 1914. The unit arrived in England on 16 Oct 1914. There were 2 officers and 26 "other ranks." The unit was re-designated as No. 1 Canadian Mobile Veterinary Section. Its' arrival in France was on 11 February 1915. They returned to England 28 March 1919 and by General Order 194 of 1 November 1920 it was disbanded.[1]

No. 2 Canadian Mobile Veterinary Section

Organized at Shorncliffe on 9 July 1915 under the command of Captain F. A. Daigneault, it recruited from personnel of No. 2 Canadian Veterinary Hospital. It arrived in France 16 September 1915, to be attached to 2nd Canadian Division. It returned to England and was disbanded by General Order 194 of 1 November 1920.

No. 3 Canadian Mobile Veterinary Section

Organized at Montreal in December 1915 under the command of Captain R. Waddy by an authorization published in General Order 63 of 15 June 1917. It was attached to the 3rd Canadian Division upon arrival in France 2 March 1916. It returned to England in 1919 and was disbanded by General Order 194, 1 November 1920.

No. 4 Canadian Mobile Veterinary Section

This unit was mobilized at Shorncliffe in 1916 under the command of Captain W. W. Forsyth and recruited from personnel of No. 2 Canadian Veterinary Hospital, Shorncliffe. It arrived in France 16 August 1916 and attached to the 4th Canadian Division. It was later disbanded by General Order 194 of 1 November 1920.

“A” Canadian Mobile Veterinary Section

Originally set up as No. 4 Canadian Mobile Veterinary Section, Canadian Cavalry Brigade at Shorncliffe on 13 March 1916. Under the command of Captain James H. Hennan, it recruited from No. 2 Canadian Veterinary Hospital, Shorncliffe. It arrived in France on 7 April 1916 and was re-designated as “A” Canadian Mobile Veterinary Section on 7 August 1916. It was later disbanded on 1 November 1920 by General Order 194.

No. 6 Canadian Mobile Veterinary Section

Mobilized at Petawawa on 16 September 1918 as No. 5 Canadian Mobile Veterinary Section and commanded by Captain C. J. Cooper. It included personnel from “A” Brigade Canadian Field Ambulance and Canadian Army Veterinary Corps stationed at Petawawa. Earmarked for the Siberian Expeditionary Force, it left Victoria, BC 12 February 1919 aboard Empress of Japan and arrived at Vladivostok on 27 March 1919.

Canadian Corps Veterinary Evacuating Station

Organized at Ecoivres on 16 April 1918 under the command of Captain J. F. Daigneault. Returned to Canada in June 1919.

Canadian Remount Depot

The Canadian Remount Depot was at Dieppe and shortlived, issuing only 75 horses to Canadian units on one occasion, before it was disbanded in November 1915.[2]

Prominent Members

Captain Harry Colebourn (April 12, 1887 – September 24, 1947), a veterinarian with the Royal Canadian Army Veterinary Corps, whose donation to the London Zoo, a bear cub named "Winnie" (which was short for Winnipeg) was the inspiration for A.A. Milne's "Winnie the Pooh" character.[3]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Guide to Sources Relating to Units of the Canadian Expeditionary Force: Canadian Army Veterinary Corps - Library and Archives Canada
  2. Canadian Remount Depot, War Diary23 July 1915. LAC RG 9 III-D-3 Vol. 5045 Reel T-10936.
  3. Harry Colebourn Wikipedia entry
  • The Regiments and Corps of the Canadian Army. Ottawa: Queen's Printer. 1964.
  • "Royal Canadian Army Veterinary Corps". Canadian Military History Gateway. Archived from the original on 6 July 2011. Retrieved 13 May 2008.
  • BARKER, C.A.V. The Canadian Encyclopedia © 2006 Historica Foundation of Canada
  • French, Cecil (1999). Barker, C.A.V.; Barker, Ian K., eds. A History of the Canadian Army Veterinary Corps in the Great World War 1914–1919. Guelph, ON: Crest Books. p. 302. ISBN 0-88955-472-2.
  • Love, David W. A Call to Arms: The Organization and Administration of Canada's Military in World War One (Bunker to Bunker Books, Calgary, AB, 1999) ISBN 1894255038
  • McEwen, Andrew. 2016. "Maintaining the Mobility of the Corps:" Horses, Mules, and the Canadian Army Veterinary Corps in the Great War. Dissertation. University of Calgary.
  • Stortz, G. J. (1982). A Canadian Veterinarian Overseas in the First World War.The Canadian Veterinary Journal, 23(6), 183–186.


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