Topic: Canadian Militia
How the Militia Service May Be made Attractive
Continuous Instruction—Camps for the City Corps—Rifle Practice Under Service Conditions—A better System of Examinations
Harbor Grace Standard, Montreal, 4 November 1905
(Editor of "The Standard")
Sir.—The statement is made that service in the active militia is unpopular, and that young men are not attracted to its ranks in sufficient numbers. I do not believe the first part of this statement to be true, or that the latter assertion is more serious than could be made of a volunteer system in any country where the demands of business are so all-important as they are here.
The ratio of the force to the population is large, approximately one to one hundred and fifty, while in the United States it is one to over six hundred. There will naturally be difficulty at times in keeping the ranks full, even with an ideally organized and administered militia, but I am convinced, after close observation, that service in the militia is looked upon more favorably in Canada than in the other country.
The Canadian militia is not an ideal force, however; and as honest criticism is often beneficial, I want to make a few suggestions.
The principal defect lies in the small amount and superficial character of the instruction given. The system in the city corps of short drill seasons and long periods of idleness is not the one best adapted to the needs of the militia.
Continuous instruction throughout the year would be of much greater benefit in every way, would be found perfectly feasible, and no more onerous than the present method. Some regiments under the present system are brought to a very credible condition in show and parade movements; but it is at the expense of the more practical and important work.
Camps for the City Corps
All city corps should be put into camp for at least a week every year, as only in that way can the conditions of active service be learned.
The rural regiments are at present very imperfectly instructed, and few of them would be of much practical use in the field without two or three months' of continuous training.
The present method of appointing officers provisionally does not give good results. A reasonable test of ability should be made on first appointment, and commissions should be issued at once, practical qualifying examinations being required for promotions. In a country like this, a regiment which cannot educate in its own ranks enough men for commissions, must have a very poor "personnel" or be in a low state of efficiency.
Uniforms are Too Costly and Varied
To fill the vacancies among the corps of officers with those best fitted from a military standpoint, it will be necessary to restrict by orders the variety and cost of officers' uniforms and equipment, a wise measure in any case.
The present forcing system of provisional schools should be greatly modified and candidates required to prepare themselves on designated lines, examinations being held several times during the year, and at regimental headquarters.
The existing method, whereby regiments have sergeant instruction from the permanent corps, ought to be considered a reproach by the officers of any active militia regiment, especially those in cities. There should be enough competent officers in any regiment to properly instruct their non-commissioned officers and men.
The militia is not inspected often or thoroughly enough. As it is a well-known fact that most of the drills will be devoted to preparation for the expected requirements of inspectors, a great chance for the improvement of the force in practical efficiency lies in the power of those officers.
Rifle Practice under Service Conditions
The course of instruction in rifle practice should include work under service conditions, at unknown ranges.
The militia is not at present properly clothed or equipped for active service. Especially is this true wuith regard to uniforms.
Very few militia regiments are in a satisfactory state of discipline. Lord Dundonald rightly says that "Inadequate discipline is the besetting weakness of citizen forces." Experience, however, proves that such a condition is not inherent in a volunteer militia, good discipline being perfectly feasible with proper instruction and example, and with officers whom the men respect because of their superior knowledge and ability.
The companies are altogether too small for effective instruction, and would be swamped with the necessary number of recruits to bring them to war strength.
The class of officers and men now in the militia fairly represents the manhood of the country in all its various elements, and this very feature tends to its popularity, but more practical, intelligent, and thoughtful attention must be given to it to remedy its defects and put it on a serviceable basis.