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Guide to C.E.F. Service Records The C.E.F. Paper Trail - A Guide to Canadian WW1 Service Records

Attestation Paper

by Brett Payne of Tauranga, New Zealand

A motley crew of new CASC recruits, Winter 1914/1915. Lesley Payne second from left. Image © Brett Payne


Front
Regimental Number Company & Unit Designated Name

Reverse

Introduction

The Attestation Paper is the first document which the soldier signed which has generally survived in the C.E.F. World War One service records. It is also the document which the National Archives of Canada has decided to scan digitally and make available on-line for all the soldiers who fought in the C.E.F.  The project is well under way, and at the time of writing this (November 2002), most (but not all) surnames have been completed. The National Archives C.E.F. on-line database should therefore be a researcher's first port of call, as the attestation paper will usually provide considerable information.

Attestation Paper Types

During the course of my research I have come across two distinct types of attestation paper used during WW1, each of these showing slight variations over time. Several examples are shown below, with their approximate dates of usage.

Type Ia
Type Ib
Type IIa
Type IIa (French)
Type IIb
Front
Reverse
Front
Reverse
Front
Reverse
Front
Reverse
Front
Reverse
Sep 1914 - Jun 1915
Nov 1914 - Dec 1915
Nov 1915 - Mar 1917
Mar 1916
Mar 1917 - Dec 1917

Type I - The first form to be used is immediately recognisable from the fact that the "Questions to be put ..." are numbered: 1, 2, 3, ... etc.  Type Ia and Type Ib are differentiated by the absence or presence, respectively, of the Form number "M.F.W. 23." at the extreme bottom left of the front of the page. This number seems to have first appeared in November 1914, although forms of the Type Ia were still being used as late as early June 1915.

Type IIa - Around November 1915, some changes to the layout of the attestation paper first appeared. This new form replaced the old very rapidly, and the Type I do not appear to have been in general use much later than December 1915. The new style is easily distinguished by the numbering of the questions: 1, 1a, 1b, 2, 3, ... etc.  The only significant changes as far as information provided is that, in addition to all the questions asked in the original form, the current address of the soldier and the relationship of the Next-of-kin were required. I have also seen a French version of Type IIa (see example above), but not all attestation papers from the province of Quebec were of this type.

Type IIb - In March 1917, an extra couple of lines appeared at the foot of the front page: "Attention is drawn to the fact ..." These forms were in use until at least December 1917, but it is not known how long Type IIa remained in general use.

Regimental Number

Regimental numbers of servicemen were not unique, although usually only one soldier in a specific unit was given a particular number.  Sometimes there were two or three soldiers CEF-wide with the same number, as is shown by a search of the CEF Database on the National Archives of Canada web site. The particular example of Attestation Paper shown above demonstrates that soldiers often had their numbers changed during the course of their service. Officers did not have numbers.  Those soldiers who only became officers during the course of the war, however, will sometimes appear in the CEF data base with their numbers, and sometimes not.  Examination of their original attestation papers, however - if you are lucky enough to be researching someone with a surname beginning with A to J or S - will often reveal the numbers.

Unit of Enlistment

The viewing of soldiers' attestation papers in the on-line CEF Database demonstrates that soldiers were often transferred into new units, and occasionally they even signed new attestation forms. The unit of attestation is often shown somewhere on the form - in the case of CLLP, even the company is shown - and if the soldier was subsequently transferred to another unit prior to his departure from Canada, this may also appear.

Name

Forenames and surnames were often spelt in different ways during the course of a soldiers' service, particularly if the names were foreign or foreign-sounding. In CLLP's case, the use of his third christian name on some records caused some confusion. As can be seen in the CEF Database there are file reference numbers for both versions of his name. A handwritten index card, which suggests that his service records are missing, appears to have been filled in during a post-war filing exercise, perhaps a result of confusion about his first names. With the Type II form, an additional question (1b) required the soldier to give his current address.

...to be continued (work in progress).

© 2004 Brett Payne All Rights Reserved