Topic: Canadian Militia
The Army of Canada (1873)
The Victoria Daily Standard, 16 April 1873
From the Broad Arrow
The editor of the Army List has at last deigned to recognize the existence of the Canadian Militia. The February issue devotes no less than forty pages to a list of the officers of the several corps of which the force consists. Indeed, the greatest part of the space set apart for the Colonial Militia and Volunteers is absorbed by Canada, and the gross negligence or blundering, or both, which for many months has led to the omission of all mention of so important a force as the Dominion Army undoubtedly is, seems the more inexcusable when its importance in comparison with similar bodies is made apparent. It has always been understood in this country that Canada boasted a militia well organized and of considerable numerical strength, but the British public can have scarcely been prepared to find that the colony possessed an army which on paper at least has such a very imposing appearance. Nor is there any reason to suppose that Canada has not a tangible existence. The colony itself is perfectly content to be left to its own self-defence, but this self-confidence is perhaps the most satisfactory assurance it is possible to have of the efficiency of its militia, for it is a characteristic trait in the British character to underrate rather than overrate the value of existing institutions.
As the current Army List however, for the first time supplies us with the details of the Canadian Militia, it is rather more with a view to setting forth the materials of which the force is composed than of dealing with the question of its efficiency and utility, that we in this place comment on its existence. Commencing with a Commander-in-Chief, "Her Majesty the Queen personally, or by the Governor-General as her representative," duly furnished with a brace of aides-de-camp, there follows a very complete staff, headed by an Inspector of Artillery and Stores, and comprising Deputy-Adjutants-General, District Paymasters and Brigade Majors.
The Army itself seems to have been arranged with a view, to being assimilated as nearly as possible to the Imperial force. The cavalry is headed by a troops of the Governor-General's Body Guard, which we may regard as the Life Guard of the colony, and then follows the cavalry of the line, consisting of forty-seven troops, some of which are arranged regimentally, having a separate and independent existence. The somewhat complicated appearance of the cavalry force in the Army List however, suggested that is has been organized rather with a view to practical usefulness than to compliance with red-tape traditions, and such being the case, no fault is to be found with then uneven strength of the various corps.
The same system, moreover, would seem to have been adopted with regard to the Artillery. Sixteen batteries of Field Artillery, stationed at various places, head the "List" and the Garrison Artillery is so arranged that whole brigades are quartered in the principal cities, while single batteries are located at the smaller towns. The strength of the artillery force is not quite in proportion with the rest of the army, but it would seem that the Canadians are alive to the increasing importance of this arm of the Service, for schools of gunnery are established both at Kingston and Quebec.
The Canadian Engineers number but four companies, and as not even these possess the proper number of officers, it would seem that the ordnance corps generally were at present the weak features of the Service.
It is, however, in the Infantry and Rifle Regiments that the real military strength of Canada is recognisable. Like our own army, the Canadian Militia List begins with a regiment of Foot Guards, the headquarters of which are at Ottawa, and then follow the Rifle battalions of which there are three, rejoicing the in the distinctive titles of "Prince of Wales Regiment," "Queen's own Rifles of Toronto" and "Victoria Volunteers of Montreal."
The total number of infantry regiments is seventy-eight, none less than five companies strong, while many corps consist of ten companies. The average strength, however, of the regiments is eight companies, a respectable number for a militia force. The regiments, moreover, seem not only to possess distinctive titles, but to have preserved traditions of their own. Amongst the former, the most noticeable are "Les Voltigeurs de Quebec"; the "Argyle Light Infantry" with "Nulli Secundus" for their motto; the "St. Clair Borderers," "The Simcoe Foresters," "The Huntington Borderers," with "Front River" on their colours; "The Lisgar Rifles," a title suggestively recent, "Les Voltigeurs de Beauharnois" and "The 78th Highlanders." Most of the regiments boast of a motto, and many add to this a "distinctive device."
Next in order to what may be termed the regular infantry regiments, come the "Provisional Battalions of Infantry or Rifles," which seem to have been organized after the fashion of our Administrative Volunteer Battalions at home; of these there are twelve, comprising about five outlying companies each, to which are added nearly fifty "Independent companies," located at placed too remote to allow of their being attached to a provisional battalion.
Lastly comes the "Grand Trunk Railway Brigade," which is quite a little army itself, comprising, as it does, Artillery, Engineers, and three substantial battalions of rifles. A "temporary corps," on service in Manitoba, concludes the list of what, even as viewed in the pages of the Army List is an interesting and important force.
Although no doubt the organization of this army by the Canadians is due to the instinct of self-preservation aroused by occurrences which have taken place on the border, yet it is impossible not to feel that the country owes much to Canada for, even at this late period, taking on herself what some conscientious statesmen might take it into their heads was the business of this country. It is here that Mr. Cardwell's colonial policy has long since scattered to the winds the principle that England should pay for the protection of her dependencies, and the Army List sufficiently shows that even the poorest and most defenceless of our colonies are alive to the fact; but should a hostile force invade one of our dependencies it would be questionable how far the counsels of imperial economy would be allowed to prevail, and Canada is undoubtedly the ground on which the question would be most likely to be put to the test. It behoves us, therefore, to appreciate the public spirit which has, partially at all events, relieved this country of a grave responsibility. In the improbable case of invasion, we should no doubt send a considerable force across the Atlantic with all speed; but it is something to feel that in the meantime the Canadian would be in a position to hold their own till succour came if, indeed—thanks to their admirably organized Militia—they could not dispense with assistance altogether.
Our former colonists at Boston quarreled with their bread-and-butter, and even with their own cup of tea, rather than pay a moderate tax whereby an army and navy for their defence was to be provided. We then had no Cunard steamers, no Atlantic telegraph, no practical means whereby the Honorable Rip Van Winkle could have taken his seat in St. Stephen's as an evidence of the union of representation and taxation. Our Empire is smaller and larger now, and were it not for the millions of barbarians we govern in the East, there would be nothing to prevent the honorable member for Ottawa and the honorable ember for Melbourne embellishing London society, and becoming material for Punch's two augurs. As it is, we have, rightly or wrongly, devised another means of developing the military strength of the Empire,—we have graciously recognized the age and vigor of our two sons, released them from pinafores and apron strings, and proposed them for ballot in the military club of the world. Already New Zealand has proved herself able to cope effectually with all her military difficulties. Already Canada has quietly and firmly pushed back into its native whiskey shops the great and loud-sounding Fenian nation in arms. Our colonies, once our sons, but in future our brothers, have acted nobly and wisely. Under a more just and liberal policy than that under which the old American colonies thought they ought to grown, Canada and our colonies of to-day have been promoted to self-respect and self-dependence. It must be the future policy of England to throw the whole power of the Empire forward to the support of Canada, whenever, under any pretext, her territory is threatened. Meantime, what a satire it is on narrow-minded modern military nomenclature to speak of Canadian, or in fact any other British militia, simply as auxiliaries.