Background on Canada’s Imperial War Service Gratuity


Imperial Gratuity Record for Frank A Waller.
Source: Library & Archives Canada

Last week Library and Archives Canada announced digitized copies of Imperial Gratuity records would soon be available through their Personnel Records of the First World War web portal. Paid subscribers to Canadian record sets on Ancestry can access these records today through Ancestry’s Canada, Imperial War Service Gratuity record set.

At the end of the war most who served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force received a War Service Gratuity that was based on an individual’s rank, length of service and whether that service was at home or overseas. Canadians who served in British units received both a Service Gratuity and a War Service Gratuity however the amount received from both was still less than that provided to Canadians who served in the CEF.

According to the War Gratuity website the British Service Gratuity was a single payment of £2 paid to any soldier, regardless of rank, length or location of service. A soldier who served more than 24 months was entitled to an extra £1 for every 12 months of service up to a maximum of £5. The British War Service Gratuity was a separate lump sum payment introduced in December 1918 that took rank, length and location of service into consideration. The War Gratuity website provides a very handy Gratuity Calculator and subscribers to UK record sets at Ancestry can find specifics on the gratuities paid to soldiers in Ancestry’s UK, Army Registers of Soldiers’ Effects, 1901-1929 record set.

In late 1919 the Canadian government chose to level the playing field by allowing Canadians who had served in British units to apply to ‘top up’ their British War Service Gratuity. The offer was available to servicemen who served in the Royal Flying Corps, Royal Naval Air Service, Royal Air Force, Royal Navy and the British Expeditionary Force. Women who had served with the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service or as a Voluntary Aid Detachment nurse were also eligible. Applicants had to prove that they were a Canadian resident when war broke out on August 4, 1914. They also had to return to Canada after the war and be residing here permanently at the time they submitted their application.

An applicant’s Imperial Gratuity records can often be extensive as they include correspondence as well as documents used to support their application. Some will provide interesting reading, especially those whose applications were rejected or required additional information before a gratuity could be paid out.

The Imperial Gratuity record for Frank Archibald Waller is available to view for free at LAC (the only record at the time this article was published). Frank served for 2 years and 4 months with the Inland Water Transport section of the Royal Engineers. Had he served in the CEF he would have been entitled to a War Service Gratuity of $500 having both a dependent and having served for between two and three years “overseas”.

Frank stated on his application that he didn’t know what gratuity he would receive from British authorities and so it appears the Canadian authorities did the calculation on his behalf. As a Corporal serving 2 years they calculated he would receive £14, £6 for the first 12 months and 10 shillings for each of the additional twelve months plus the £2 Service Gratuity. This total was subsequently deducted from his Imperial War Service Gratuity.

I think Frank may have been shortchanged by the equivalent of £2 pounds as their calculation was based on him serving overseas which I suspect he did not as a member of the Inland Water Transport section. However they didn’t give him credit for the extra four months that presumably the British authorities did and so this would have reduced the impact of the miscalculation, assuming of course there was one. The file doesn’t contain any correspondence from Frank challenging the calculation so perhaps there was no error at all. It’s also possible that he felt it wasn’t necessary to quibble over £2 having received a hundred times that in compensation, possibly money that many Canadian veterans of British units never expected to see.

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8 replies

  1. Clearly byzantine financial compensation rules are not a new thing. And to think they were figuring this all out without computers!

    • The paperwork and administration required to keep the CEF running is quite extraordinary. As bizarre as some of the practices were you can’t help but admire their ability to get the job done. While computers would have sped up the processing I can’t imagine we’d have won the war had we needed to follow the Software Development Lifecycle and endure countless JAD sessions.

      • Handy website for the future – the war gratuity site is mine (thanks for the link) but up until now I’ve only read about the Canadian system in passing.

      • The accuracy of the British Records is amazing for the numbers involved. Just for deceased men they had circa 650,000 soldiers effects records to create initially and then they had to go back through each one and create a second entry to each of these for the War Gratuity.

        There are very few errors amongst them – and I must have done thousands of war gratuity calculations so far.


    • Hi Craig,

      Thanks for your comments. I found your website really helpful so I was happy to provide a link. I couldn’t find any owner information at the time which is why I didn’t include your name.

      Thanks again,

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