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Other Pioneer Battalions
of the CEF

Pioneer battalions differed from normal infantry in that they would be composed of a mixture of men who were experienced with picks and shovels (i.e. miners, road men, etc) and some who had skilled trades (e.g. smiths, carpenters, joiners, bricklayers, masons, tinsmiths, engine drivers and fitters). A Pioneer battalion would also carry a range of technical stores that infantry would not. This type of British battalion came into being with an Army Order in December 1914.

A Canadian view: There is a difference between a Pioneer battalion and a Labour Battalion. Pioneers were Infantry, and only received recruits of A1 category. They provided a necessary function different than that of the standard Infantry Battalion. In the British Army the Pioneers received special training, received the pick of skilled (men with applicable trades) Infantry, and received extra pay. Canada had four labour Battalions in its Corps structure in France; these weren't pioneers. The Pioneers’ function was within the Division. They provided the extra man power to the Engineer Field Companies and skilled pioneer functions to the Infantry in the front line. In fact in the 1918 reorganization of the engineers the Pioneers were absorbed into the Divisional Engineer Brigades. It was the pioneers that built the dug outs, built the roads in forward areas, laid barbed wire entanglements, and were the power house in trench construction. Pioneers also were the ones who followed on the heels of the Infantry in the attack to fill trenches and build passable avenues for the guns to be brought forward.

See: "Pioneer Battalions in the Great War: Organized and Intelligent Labour," by K. W. Mitchinson

5th Pioneer

Recruiting Poster


K.W. Mitchinson's book about British pioneers