The Theme Collections are composed of images of photographs and documents, including booklets, pamphlets, manuscripts, battalion newspapers, etc., all pertaining to specific military units, time periods, places, etc. They are mostly Nova Scotia related but with a high percentage of Cape Breton related content. The images in the Theme Collections were acquired mostly from private collections, institutions and museums. You may also see some images duplicated from the Personal Profile Collections in order that they may fit into a specific Theme Collection.
The Theme Collections are listed below and are in numerical and alphabetical order.
Click on the links below in red to access the Photo Theme Collections.
17th Canadian Reserve Battalion CEF - The 17th Battalion was authorized as an infantry battalion in August, 1914, and received drafts of men from various Nova Scotia militia units. They met and formed up in Valcartier Camp in Quebec. At the end of September, 1914, the battalion, still under strength, went overseas with the First Canadian Contingent. While in England the 17th Battalion was re-designated as a reserve battalion and was renamed the 17th Canadian Reserve Battalion and later the Nova Scotia Regiment. In the last years of the war, most drafts of men from Nova Scotia passed through the ranks of the 17th Battalion before being sent to units at the front. The 17th Battalion absorbed many of the soldiers from the disbanded Nova Scotia Highland Brigade battalions, including the 185th Battalion (Cape Breton Highlanders).
17th Sydney Field Battery (6th Field Battery CEF) - An artillery militia unit established in 1883 and headquartered in Sydney. It mobilized immediately after the declaration of war in August, 1914 and left Sydney by the end of the month for the large Canadian training base in Valcartier, Quebec. While in Valcartier, a reorganization of units took place. Some men and guns of the 17th were sent to other units and the remaining men, including its commanding officer, were amalgamated into the new 6th Field Battery. It affectionately became known as “the old 17th” for the many Cape Bretoners that served in it. The 6th Field Battery sailed from Quebec City with the First Canadian Contingent on September 30, 1914, bound for overseas. After a period of training in England, they arrived in France in February, 1915, and fought on the Western Front for the remainder of the war. Returning home, the 6th Field Battery arrived in Halifax on April 21, 1919 and was demobilized the same day.
25th Battalion (Nova Scotia Rifles) CEF - First World War Nova Scotia overseas battalion authorized on November 7, 1914. The battalion was mobilized in Halifax but recruited throughout the province. Approximately 25 percent of its original recruits were men from Cape Breton Island. The battalion went overseas in May, 1915 and fought on the Western Front in France and Belgium from September, 1915 to the end of the war. Casualties amounted to over 700 killed and just over 2700 wounded during the course of the war. The 25th Battalion was disbanded on September 15, 1920. Its memory is perpetuated by The Nova Scotia Highlanders.
85th Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders) CEF - First World War Nova Scotia overseas battalion officially authorized on September 14, 1915 and originally headquartered in Halifax, NS. It recruited across Nova Scotia with 'D' Company recruited primarily in Cape Breton. It trained in Halifax and Aldershot before heading overseas to England, as part of the Nova Scotia Highland Brigade, in October, 1916. The 85th crossed the English Channel to France in February, 1917, and fought on the Western Front until the end of the war. The battalion arrived back in Halifax on June 8, 1919 and was demobilized thereafter. The memory of the 85th Battalion is perpetuated by the current Cape Breton Highlanders.
94th Victoria Regiment "Argyll Highlanders" - A highland militia unit from Cape Breton tracing its roots back to the formation of the Victoria Provisional battalion of Infantry in Baddeck, in 1871. Its eight companies were mobilized for duty on August 4, 1914. It spent the First World War in Cape Breton on garrison duty, training recruits and guarding installations around the island. The 94th provided many recruits to the overseas units, especially the 85th and 185th Battalions. It was demobilized in June, 1918. In 1920 the unit was reorganized into the 1st Battalion, Cape Breton Highlanders.
185th Battalion (Cape Breton Highlanders) CEF - First World War Nova Scotia overseas battalion authorized on February 1, 1916, and originally headquartered at Broughton, Cape Breton. Its four companies were recruited in Cape Breton. It trained in Broughton and later Aldershot, NS, where it joined its sister battalions of the Nova Scotia Highland Brigade. It went overseas in October, 1916, where training continued in England. The 185th was disbanded in England in February, 1918 and its men were sent as reinforcements for Canadian units already serving at the front, in particular the 25th Battalion (Nova Scotia Rifles) and the 85th Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders). The memory of the 185th Battalion is perpetuated by the current Cape Breton Highlanders.
193rd Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders) CEF - First World War Nova Scotia overseas battalion authorized on January 27, 1916, and headquartered in Truro. Its personnel were recruited in the six northeastern counties of Nova Scotia, Cumberland, Colchester, Hants, Pictou, Antigonish and Guysborough. In the spring of 1916 the battalion relocated to Aldershot, NS, where it joined its sister battalions of the Nova Scotia Highland Brigade. It went overseas to England in October, 1916. Due to the high casualty rates for Canadian units already at the front, within a few months of arriving in England, the 193rd was dissolved and its men allocated as reinforcements for other Canadian units. A large draft of officers and men were transferred to the 185th Battalion (Cape Breton Highlanders) before that unit was also disbanded and its men sent as reinforcements for the fighting units already at the front.
219th Oveseas Highland Battalion CEF - First World War Nova Scotia overseas battalion authorized in February, 1916, and originally headquartered in Halifax. Its personnel were recruited from the western counties of Nova Scotia including Halifax, Lunenburg, Queens, Shelburne, Yarmouth, Digby, Annapolis and Kings Counties. In the spring of 1916 the various detachments of the unit relocated to Aldershot, NS, where they mobilized as a unit and joined the other battalions of the Nova Scotia Highland Brigade. It went overseas to England in October, 1916. Due to the high casualty rates for Canadian units already at the front, within a few months of arriving in England, the 219th was dissolved. A detachment of men were sent to the 85th Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders) while the remainder of its personnel were absorbed into the 17th Canadian Reserve Battalion. Most of the men were later transferred to other Canadian units fighting at the front, many to the 85th and 25th Battalions, both of which were from Nova Scotia.
Cape Breton Highlanders - A Cape Breton militia battalion formed in 1920 with its headquarters in Sydney. It can trace its lineage back through the 94th Regiment “Argyll Highlanders” to its initial establishment as the Victoria Provisional Battalion of Infantry in 1871. Upon declaration of war in the summer of 1939, the Cape Breton Highlanders mobilized and provided guards for various installations in Industrial Cape Breton. In January, 1941, the battalion moved to Saint John, NB, for a short stay before moving on to Ontario where they trained at Connaught Ranges and Camp Borden. They relocated to Debert NS, in the autumn of 1941 before sailing for overseas in October/November, 1941. After almost two years training in England, the battalion sailed for Italy in October, 1943. They fought in the Italian Campaign as a part of the 8th British Army. In March, 1945, the Canadian troops in Italy crossed the Mediterranean and joined the Canadian troops in Belgium and Holland where they formed the 1st Canadian Army. The Cape Breton Highlanders took part in the liberation of Holland until the end of the war. The battalion returned to Canada, via England, and landed in Halifax on January 26, 1946. In 1954 the Cape Breton Highlanders, the North Nova Scotia Highlanders, and the Pictou Highlanders were reorganized into two battalions of the Nova Scotia Highlanders, receiving new unit names and uniforms. In 2011, the Cape Breton Highlanders were re-established as a distinct unit. The battalion contributed personnel to the Canadian forces in Afghanistan between 2002 and 2014.
No. 2 Construction Battalion CEF - First World War Nova Scotia overseas construction battalion authorized on July 5, 1916, and headquartered in Pictou, NS, then Truro, NS. The unit was composed of black men, and with the exception of the chaplain, all white officers. The unit was known as “The Black Battalion”. It recruited in Nova Scotia, but also took in men from across Canada and a number from the United States. The No. 2 Construction battalion sailed from Halifax for England on March 28, 1917. Its nominal roll included forty-eight men from Cape Breton, mostly from Sydney and Glace Bay. In early May, 1917, because the battalion was under strength, its status was changed to company. Soon after, they proceeded to France where they were attached to the Canadian Forestry Corps and worked in the woods cutting logs for railroad tracks, bridges and frontline trenches. In early 1919, the unit returned to Canada and was officially demobilized in September of that year.
North Nova Scotia Highlanders - In 1936, with the reorganization of the Canadian militia, the North Nova Scotia Highlanders (MG) came into being with the amalgamation of the Cumberland Highlanders, the Colchester and Hants Regiment, and the Truro Company of the 6th Canadian Machine Gun Battalion. With the outbreak of the Second World War, the unit was mobilized for home defence and sent portions of its unit to various locations in the province. in 1940, the unit was reorganized for overseas duty and re-mobilized in Amherst, NS, as the North Nova Scotia Highlanders, or North Novas for short. To bring it up to strength quickly, troops were transferred from other Nova Scotia highland units, including a company from the Cape Breton Highlanders which formed the nucleus of "C" Company. The North Novas trained in the Amherst area before moving to Debert, NS, in May, 1941, prior to departing Halifax for England on the troopship Orion in July of the same year. The battalion trained in England and landed on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944. From Normandy, the North Novas fought throughout the campaign to liberate North West Europe and ended the war in Germany itself. The battalion returned to Canada, via England, and landed in Halifax on December 31, 1945. During the war, the North Novas also had a 2nd reserve battalion that stayed in Canada for home defence and recruiting, and a 3rd battalion that was formed and remained in Germany for occupational duty until April, 1946. In 1954, the North Nova Scotia Highlanders, the Cape Breton Highlanders and the Pictou Highlanders were reorganized into two battalions of the Nova Scotia Highlanders, receiving new unit names and uniforms. The Nova Scotia Highlanders contributed personnel to the Canadian forces in Afghabistan between 2002 and 2014.
Nova Scotia Highland Brigade CEF - First World War Nova Scotia overseas brigade authorized on January 26, 1916. It consisted of four battalions, the 85th Battalion, which had been recruited the previous year and became the senior battalion, the 185th Battalion, the 193rd Battalion and the 219th Battalion. The three latter battalion were raised in a span of three weeks. The brigade mobilized at Camp Aldershot, NS, in June, 1916 and embarked for England on the troop ship SS Olympic on October 13, 1916. A fifth unit, the 246th Battalion, was also raised as a reinforcement unit for the brigade. Shortly after arriving in England, the Nova Scotia Highland Brigade was disbanded. Only the 85th Battalion retained its identity and saw action as a unit. The remaining battalions were broken up and used as reinforcements for units at the front.