The Minute Book
Friday, 27 December 2013

Sam Hughes and the Permanent Force (Part 1)
Topic: Canadian Militia

Colonel Sam Hughes and the Permanent Force
(Part 1)

It will help to understand that the "Canadian Militia" at the time was an all-encompassing term for all soldiers in Canadian employ. This was divided into the "Permanent Force" (now the Regular Force) and the "Active Militia" (those part-time Militia units that were authorized pay for training), the latter being separate from a previously existing class of units that were authorized to be formed, but no pay was allocated for their annual training.

Over three successive posts, starting today, The Minute Book will examine through the published reports of the time, an incident where Colonel Sam Hughes, Minister of Militia, showed his contempt for the officers of the Permanent Force and to those who might challenge his actions. Those who have studied Sam Hughes will know he considered himself a consummate Militia soldier, with no respect for those who chose soldiering as a profession. His disdain for the Permanent Force would later, in 1914, again become clear when he intended to disperse the soldiers of The Royal Canadian Regiment and disperse the regiment's troops among the new units of the first contingent of the Canadian Expeditionary Force.

In this first part of three, Hughes criticizes the officers of the Permanent Force in his speech to a dinner held at Halifax on 11 July, 1909.

Col. Sam Lectures Militia Officers

Arraigns Especially Permanent Force for Frittering Time Idly in Society

Must Work With Militia
Officers of Permanent Force Only meant for Military School Masters, Says the Minister.

The Montreal Gazette, 12 July 1913

Halifax, July 11.—Col. The Hon. Sam Hughes gave a dinner at the Halifax Hotel tonight in honor of General Sir Ian Hamilton. The company, which numbered about 100, was almost exclusively made up of officers of the garrison, permanent force, and active militia. At the conclusion of the toast list the minister told the officers of the permanent force what he expected of them and intimated very plainly that they must do their work properly and in the interest of the militia of Canada, or leave the service. There would be no tolerance for incompetence, he said, but on the other hand efficient men who improve themselves and the force will be given a chance to rise.

Col. Hughes said he wanted the officers of the permanent force to remember he was at their back when the did their duty in earnest, and help the militia, but he wanted to say that no man would be allowed to remain in the force who did not sympathize with the militia force and seek its betterment. The permanent force was simply instructional. Its purpose was the improvement of the militia.

There would be no promotion for any officer of the permanent force, he said, who did not show his value by what he did for the militia. At the universities training opportunities were being provided and it was his intention to have drill halls at all the universities in order that men might be trained to take any military position, and he said further that it would be possible for men of ability and diligence to excel in the military profession just as surely as those who adopt medicine and the law may achieve success in those ventures of usefulness.

If the permanent officers were wise they would not devote their time to "society," frittering time idly away, but they would avail themselves of opportunities for improvement in their profession, and help to build up the militia. If they fail in this others who put conscience in their work will get the promotion.

Soldiering was a noble profession, none more freely admitted this than he, but the minister said he wanted once and for all to make clear that there must be no invidious differences between the permanent and the volunteer forces. His aim was to get efficiency and so long as he remained Minister of Militia that alone would be the standard of promotion.

The minister said he spoke thus plainly in Halifax because here the largest permanent force is located. The day when soldiering was looked upon as a mere pastime was gone. It was a serious business and must be made that.

Those in the service who thought otherwise or who acted differently could have no place in the permanent or militia force. There was no room for them. Any officer who asked for promotion must be able to show that there are other reasons for making the request from the mere seniority. Efficiency and usefulness must be shown. It is these alone that will tell. The minister said he trusted that when the university training courses are established the permanent force officers would be found taking full advantage of them and become members of what in effect would be a university for the training of the militia.

Officers Lazy, Hughes Asserts

Would Rid Permanent Force of Men Given to "Idleness, Profligacy and Social Gaiety."

The Toronto World, 12 July 1913

Halifax, July 11.—(Can. Press.)—Col. Sam Hughes, minister of militia, entertained the permanent and active militia of the Halifax garrison at dinner tonight and created somewhat of a sensation by roundly lecturing the regular officers for idling and neglecting their duties. He declared that the permanent forces were no places for men who desired to spend their time in idleness, profligacy and social gaiety and any men who failed to do their work could look for little sympathy. He referred to friction which had existed between the active militia and the permanent forces all over the Dominion and defended his policy of appointing men from the active forces to positions which men of the permanent force were qualified to fill.

Colonel Hughes said this condition had been met all over Canada, but he had refrained from speaking of it until he could do so in Halifax, the largest Canadian garrison. He impressed on the permanent corps officers that their force existed purely for instructional purposes, and that they were nothing more than military schoolmasters.

Sir Ian Hamilton, inspector-general of the overseas forces, paid high compliments to the local militia, declaring that the Halifax regiments were fully up to the standard of the best corps throughout the empire.

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Updated: Friday, 27 December 2013 12:51 PM EST

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