The Minute Book
Friday, 16 May 2014

The Evolution of the Canadian Army
Topic: Canadian Militia

The medals of Brigadier-General C. F. Winter, The Royal Canadian Regiment, late Royal Fusiliers and Governor General's Foot Guards. Egypt and Sudan 1882-89 (Tel-El-Kebir clasp); North West Canada 1885 (Saskatchewan clasp); Queen's South Africa 1899-1902 (Cape Colony, Orange Free State, Johannesburg); Jubilee 1935 ; Coronation 1937; Colonial Auxiliary Officers' Decoration, EviiR.; Khedive's Star 1882.

The Evolution of the Canadian Army

From the Lecture on "The Evolution of the Canadian Army" by Capt. C.F. Winter, the G.G. Foot Guards; The Officers' Association of the Militia of Canada; Transactions of the Semi-Annual Meeting 1899

Brigadier General Charles Francis Winter
July 1931

Charles Francis Winter was born in Montreal, Quebec on the 3 February 1863. He joined the British Army at age 17 in 1880, serving with the 7th Royal Fusiliers. He took part in the Egypt campaign of 1882, seeing action at Kassassin and Tel-el-Kebir. On his return to Canada he entered the Civil Service and served with the Governor General's Foot Guards. He served in the North West campaign of 1885 as Colour-Sergeant of the Ottawa Sharpshooters, including at the relief of Battleford, 24 April 1885. Wounded at Cut Knife Hill on 2 May 1885 and served in operations against Chief Big Bear's Band, June-July 1885. Winter was later commissioned in the Foot Guards and served in the South African War as Captain in the Second (Special Service) Battalion of The Royal Canadian Regiment. There he served in operations in the Orange Free State, April-May 1900, including the action at Zand River; operations in the Transvaal, May-June 1900, including actions near Johannesburg and Pretoria; operations in the Transvaal, east of Pretoria, July and September 1900; operations west of Pretoria, August 1900 and operations on the Orange River Colony, August 1900. He transferred to the Canadian Permanent Staff in 1907 as a Major and was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel in 1913, serving as Military Secretary at Headquarters until 1917, working for the Minister of Militia and Defence, Lieutenant-General Sir Sam Hughes. He served as Secretary-Treasurer of the Dominion of Canada Rifle Association, and was Adjutant of the 1912 Bisley Team, and Captain of the 1922 Team. Winter retired as a Brigadier-General in 1921 and died on 21 October 1946. He was a prolific author, who published articles containing anecdotes and accounts of his service at Tel-el-Kebir, in the North West Rebellion, and in South Africa. Winter also wrote one book, The Hon Sir Sam Hughes, Canada's War Minister 1911-1916, an account of his experiences with the latter.

The Present [1899]

The organized defensive forces of the Dominion to-day have an established strength of 36,204 officers and men, with 3,715 horses. This Force consists of cavalry 2,607, artillery, 4,497 with 114 guns. Engineers, 212, and Infantry 28,889 and is composed of 863 officers and men belonging to Permanent Units, (practically "Regular," though theoretically "embodied militia") and 35,342 active militia proper, these latter being again subdivided into 10,212 officers and men of City Corps, and 25,992 officers and men of Units in rural districts. Of this Force, however, only 25,296, or 71% received any training at all last year while, according to the Dominion Census of 1891 we have in the Country 657,788 men of military age, capable of bearing arms and who could be taken for service if need be. Speaking generally and broadly we have the very best of assurances for believing that the above enumerated organized force is, on the whole, composed of very excellent personnel it has very lately been rearmed at considerable expense the Artillery with new breach-loading 12 pdrs, and the Infantry (though the distribution to all Units is not yet completed) with "Lee-Enfield" magazine rifles, (and about to be provided with the Oliver equipment), in addition to a certain number of Maxim machine guns already distributed. Facilities for the training of our officers in all the preliminary and elementary work is afforded by the various Royal Schools of military instructions, and one may perhaps say, so far as armament and the preliminary training of its officers is concerned, there are few militia forces in the world our superior. Upon these points therefore we may be assumed to have evolved very materially in a forward direction since the days of "The Montrealers d'Ailleboust." It is, however, when contrasting the organized strength maintained just after Confederation and for some years subsequent to the passage of the Militia Act, and the organization of our present Force, with its aggregate to-day, and the known difficulty of getting full musters at inspections, that one is inclined to say, in this respect at any rate our evolution has not been at all satisfactory.

Chap. 41, of the revised Statutes of Canada provides for the control and government of the armed defenders of the Dominion, and while in enacting that the Militia of the country shall consist of every able-bodied man between the ages of 18 end 45, stipulates that the number to be trained in any one year shall not exceed 45,000 men. The numbers maintained and trained in some of the years immediately subsequent to the passage of this Act were as follows:

  • 1869 — 43,541, with 25 additional corps enrolled, but Government was unable at the time to provide the necessary arms and uniforms these made the total number in reality over 45,000.
  • 1870 — number trained, 44,519.

Of course the Fenian disturbances on our borders and the expedition to the Red River explains very much these figures, since in 1877, notwithstanding that our area to guard had in the meantime been much increased by the entry into the Dominion of British Columbia, Manitoba, and Prince Edward Island, the numbers fell to 23,000, and have ever since varied from the latter figure to about 35,000, or, roughly, one Corps d'Armee.

These numbers, drawn by purely voluntary enlistment from a much smaller population than we boast to-day, certainly show that we have gone backwards in the position of the Forces for defence, in so far as numbers are concerned. We have, however, gone distinctly forward in other directions, even outside of armament and equipment. Our Officers and N. C. Os., on the whole, are decidedly superior in professional attainments (owing to facilities of the Military Schools) to their predecessors of similar ranks in 1867-70 — many still remain in regimental ranks who had the practical experience of actual service in 1885 and we are commanded by an Officer of tried experience and first-class reputation, who in the short time he has been with us has already won the confidence of all in a singular degree. We have however, lost the collective example and guidance of the Imperial Regulars who for over a 100 years were the inspiration and mentors of our Militias. Our Permanent Corps, valuable as they have been, and are, cannot, owing to their very limited establishments, but in part make up for the withdrawal of the Regulars in 1870. The old guides to which our predecessors looked in 1775-6, 1812-14, 1837-8, 1866 and 1870, are no longer permanently with us, except upon the extreme confines of our Dominion their administrative departments of all kinds are no longer here to rely upon, and at present we can scarcely see anything that has been established to take their place. Speaking generally, we are still a certain number of battalions of Infantry of varying strengths and value, a few engineers, and cavalry, a fair artillery, with a small lot of, on the whole, patient and painstaking men as teachers and instructors in the Permanent Corps, but these altogether are in no military sense, as yet, an army, or even a complete Military organization. In the light of very recent campaigns, we all now know that any military force which does not include the proportion of all arms, viz: infantry, artillery, engineers, and cavalry, with the administrative departments requisite to feed, clothe, supply with ammunition and war material, etc., as well as care properly for the sick and wounded and provide means of trans portion, etc, is more or less valueless for practical military operations in the present day.

elipsis graphic

The main great duties of our Militia may be generally classified as follows:—

1st. The support and maintenance of the Civil Law and Order within the territories of the Dominion.

2nd. The primary defence of Canada against invasion.

3rd. Assistance in the defence of the Empire and assumption of the "offensive-defensive" for such purpose.

elipsis graphic

Captain Winter's paper concludes with the following recommendations, each of which he presents in detail:

1.     The elimination of all political control from the purely military administration of the country's defences.

2.     The education of the public of the country to a more favourable view of their national defences, and the creation of a public spirit of real interest in all that concerns the efficiency and welfare of the militia.

3.     The expansion of the cadet system and the establishment of drill companies in all public and separate schools in cities and towns.

4.     The creation of supply and other departmental adjuncts for our militia force, and their organization upon lines bests calculated, to meet our own special requirements.

4a.     The education of a corps of officers from whom a trained staff may be selected in case of mobilization, or the formation of a national contingent for participation in the "offensive-defensive," should such contingencies arise.

5.     The inauguration of manoeuvres, or something practical on a more extended scale than is provided by our present camps of exercise and holiday reviews, with, at the same time, the exaction of a more rigorous discipline while under arms from all ranks.

Canadian Army Battle Honours

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 16 May 2014 7:25 AM EDT

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