Topic: Canadian Militia
The Militia Officer: Costs of Service
Military News and Comments
The Mail and Empire, Toronto, Ontario, 20 Oct 1900
Military Editor, Mail and Empire:
Sir,—Your remarks in last Saturday's Mail and Empire, concerning the society of officers in the Canadian militia, were worthy of the serious consideration of all who have the welfare of our country at heart. I have had some experience in militia matters, and ask for a small part of your valuable space, wherein to condemn the penuriousness of the Government and the bare-faced robbery of militia officers by military tailors and outfitters.
A young man gets a commission in a rural battalion. He is obliged to expend at least $100, and should expend $200 or $400 on uniform, etc. His pay is $1.28 per day for twelve days in a year, and his messing at least seventy-five cents per day. Leaving him fifty-three cents per day. In order to qualify for a first lieutenancy, he is obliged to attend a school of instruction for two months, involving the loss of the amount of time and perhaps his situation. When he reaches a captaincy his pay is $2.82 per day, and increase over the $1.28, but he is obliged to pay the difference, and often more, in “getting up” his company. If he goes on to a majority, there is an additional outlay for uniform, saddlery, etc., and by the time he reaches a colonelcy his pay, although $4.87 per day, will be found to be about $2 per day less than his expenses. Perhaps $4.87 per day would be quite sufficient if the annual drill continued a month or more, but the expenses connected with a regiment are so great that the first twelve days' pay is gone before the regiment reaches camp.
The Government allows a regiment $75 per annum for a band. This, with 50 cents per day, drawn by the bandsmen, and $1.00 per day, drawn by the bandmaster, for a band of eighteen men and a master, will five a total of $280, leaving a balance of nearly $100 to be made up by the officers. The Government knows very well that the band allowance is not sufficient, but no change is made, and year after year officers are called upon to make good the deficit.
Why officers should be called upon to make the extra sacrifice has always been a mystery to me. Let me add a few words concerning the exorbitant prices charged by military tailors and outfitters. Buttons that a private can buy for twenty cents per dozen are sold to us at $1,20. Privates' caps at sixty-five cents, with two buttons, worth about five cents, are sold to us at $3.50. Badges of rank, worth twenty cents, sold to us for $1 or $1.50. Serges worth $3 or $4 sold to us for $10 or $12. If the Government will not furnish officers with uniforms it ought at least to place some limits to the extent to which they are robbed by the outfitter.
I contend it is the duty of the Government to grant to every militia officer at the time he gets his commission, either a complete outfit suitable for his rank, or money to purchase same. Or the money could be paid in installments, say, at every promotion, or a month before going to camp. Volunteer officers in Great Britain are allowed £25 for uniform, and surely there is more wealth amongst them than there is amongst our Canadian militia officers. If the burdens of outfits, bands, etc., were taken off the officers, a better wage paid to the men, and the time of the annual drill increased to sixteen or eighteen days or more, we would have a better class of men in the ranks, better dressed and better qualified officers, and a more efficient militia force.