An examination of the pension files of men having served in the 22nd Battalion (canadien-français), the Canadian Corps’ only French-speaking line battalion, situates veterans into a specific ethno-linguistic and, more generally, socio-economic context. This article seeks to illuminate some of the many personal crises that could, and commonly did, afflict veterans, their families and their survivors. It demonstrates that beyond the devastation of serious physical or psychological wounding, many of Canada’s returned men, perhaps far more than we imagined, suffered persistent ill health, financial distress and family estrangement. Almost without exception, the sixty 22nd Battalion case files examined for this article revealed wounded or ill veterans’ poverty, despair, and their struggle to survive from month to month.

This review offers a detailed and representative cross-section of the postwar lives and pension experiences of veterans having served together and who frequently came from the same cities or regions. While no two battalions shared identical compositions and war experiences, there were broad commonalities between many of them having seen front-line service for about the same period. The findings from the 22nd Battalion veterans’ files likely would be similar to the experiences of men from many other battalions, and to those of their survivors.