Making it up as you go: racial policy in the Canadian military during the two world wars

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University of New Brunswick


Approximately two thousand Black soldiers served overseas as part of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) during the First World War. An unknown number of Black soldiers enlisted and served with the Canadian military during the Second World War. Private James Eatman, born March 1882, served with the 25th Infantry Battalion in the First World War, and his son, Sergeant Arthur Eatman, born May 1920 served with the Carleton and York Regiment during the Second World War. They are two of the many Black soldiers whose stories are largely absent from the historical record. This report uses the personnel files of James and Arthur Eatman, along with other military records, to examine the wartime policies of the Canadian military towards racialized Black soldiers and to consider the affects of these policies on Black soldier’s wartime experiences.