Once someone has acquired the service record of a Canadian soldier, sailor or airman of the First World War or the Second World War from Library and Archives Canada, there remains the challenge to decipher the contents. That the military has a cryptic and steadily changing system of abbreviations for unit titles, personnel statuses and training establishments probably surprises none, but the bewildering variety can be a daunting hurdle for any genealogical researcher to untangle as they try to figure out where Uncle Albert trained and with what units he served.
But, no need to be downhearted as one stares at page after page of cryptic notations, for others have trod this path and dug solid trench-lines through the layers of hen scratching left by staff officers and clerks. To start with, the Library and Archives Canada maintains a page of abbreviations that they have compiled to assist us:
In addition to the LAC list of abbreviations, various other reference lists can also be found on line throgh searching for your mystery abbreviation. A few of the available resources are:
- Canadian Expeditionary Force Study Group - Acronyms & Abbreviations : CEF Servince Records & War Diaries
- The Long, Long Trail - Common British military abbreviations
- The Calgary Military Historical Society - Abbreviations Used in Military Documents and for Medal Inscriptions
If all else fails, whether you are unravelling the story of a soldier of the Great War or the Second World War, or of a set of medals or other artifact, posing your questions on an appropriate military history message board may help when the compiled lists fail to answer your question.
- Canadian Expeditionary Force Study Group (CEFSG) Forum
- Great War Forum
- British Medals Forum
- canadiansoldiers.com ("A referenced source regarding the organization, vehicles, weapons, uniforms, traditions, and insignia of Canadian soldiers in the 20th Century.")
- Army.ca - Military History (subforum)