The Canadian Militia System and its Applicability to our own Requirements at Home

By Major F.G. Stone, R.G.A., p.s.c., Gold Medallist R.A.I.
The United Service Magazine, Vol. XXIII, New Series, April 1901 to September 1901

1.     Defence Force of Canada—The Canadian Defence Force consists entirely of Militia under the three following categories :—

I.     The Permanent Force. (Active Militia.)
II.     The units of Active Militia not included in I. (Active Militia.)
III.     The Militia Reserve.

2.     The Permanent Farce corresponds practically to our Regulars it is however merely a nucleus for training the more numerous units of the Active Militia; its normal establishment is—

The units of the Permanent Force supply instructors and form schools for the Active Militia. A candidate for the Permanent Force on first appointment must be between 18 and 25 years of age, unmarried, and in possession of a diploma of graduation from the Royal Military College, Kingston; or have either 15 months' service in the Active Militia, including two trainings, or have seen active service, and have matriculated at a chartered university of Canada; or have passed the entrance examination of the Royal Military College, and also be in possession of a Long Course Grade A Certificate in the arm of the service to which he is seeking appointment.

Enlistment.—The term enlistment for N.C.O.'s and men is three years; age, 18 to 45; height, 5 feet 4 inches (5 feet 6 inches for gunners); chest, 34 inches.

Re-engagement is permitted for three-year periods up to the age of 45, or in the case of sergeants, 55 years of age.

Pay and pension—The following comparative table shows the relative rates of pay for officers, N.C.O.'s and men in the Canadian Permanent Force and the British Regulars respectively; the Canadian pay is given in British currency for facility of comparison.

Rates of Pay.

RankCanadaGreat Britain
All arms.
Lieut.-Colonel16 / 01 £ / 1 / 618 / 018 / 0
Major14 / 015 / 016 / 013 / 7
Maj., after 4 years15 / 0after 2 years,
17 / 0
after 2 years,
16 / 0
Captain11 / 3 ½13 / 011 / 711 / 7
Capt., after 4 years13 / 3 ½
Lieutenant8 / 07 / 86 / 101 / 6
Lieut., after 4 years10 / 0after 7 years,
7 / 10
after 7 years,
7 / 6
Lieut., after 8 years11 / 0
Sergt.-Major5 / 04 / 44 / 0Col.-Sergt.,
3 / 0
Qr.-Mr.-Sergeant4 / 03 / 43 / 9
Sergeant3 / 2 ½2 / 83 / 22 / 4
Corporal2 / 10L.-Sergt,
2 / 4
2 / 6L.-Sergt,
2 / 0
Bombardier2 / 7 ½Corporal,
2 / 0
2 / 3Corporal,
1 / 8
Acting Bombr. or L.-Corporal2 / 01 / 61 / 71 / 3
Gunner or private1 / 7 ½1 / 21 / 2 ½1 / 0

The allowances are based on much the same principles in Canada and Great Britain; the most striking differences being the following:—

I.     Married Establishments, Officer—There is a married establishment for officers amounting to about 50 per cent. of the number of officers on the establishment, and the scale of accommodation is very liberal.

II.     Rations, Officers—All officers draw rations, thus the cost of the messing is considerably reduced; the same system is followed in our Royal Navy.

These two allowances might with advantage be introduced into our Army. The idea of a man remaining unmarried all his life because he has entered the Army is ridiculous, and if carried out would stop the flow of candidates for commissions, who have the hereditary instincts and traditions of a military ancestry, and who have grown up under the influence of military surroundings. No civilian would credit the fact that in our Army a major who has served perhaps for twenty-five years, is only entitled to two rooms and a kitchen in a building which has a front door, passage, and usual accessories. Surely an officer who has served his country for twenty-five years, or, we might say, who has reached the rank of field officer, should be entitled to accommodation in which he could live as a married man.

The allowance of rations to officers has been found to work well in the Royal Navy, and appreciably diminishes the cost of messing, and there seems to be no reason why the same system should not be adopted in the Army.

Both the foregoing involve extra expense to the public; but, as it is understood that there is a general consensus of opinion in favour of making the Army a possible profession for men of limited means, it might be well to consider their applicability to our military system.

The bad features in the Canadian system are the inadequate pay in the higher ranks of officers and the absence of pensions; this latter drawback is a most serious one—to turn an officer or N.C.O. or private adrift at 60, 55, or 45 years of age without one penny of pension appears morally indefensible and administratively short-sighted. It is not necessary to enlarge on this point, as it is obvious that no country which adopts such a policy can expect to attract a sufficient number of the most desirable candidates for commissions, or to encourage the rank and file to make a serious profession of soldiering. I have known officers who have attained the highest rank which can be attained in the command of a district, ruthlessly thrown on the world at sixty years of age, and glad to obtain a dollar a day as clerk or storeman in the districts which they formerly commanded.

The Civil Service and the North-West Mounted Police receive pensions; it is only the military service which is treated in the manner described.

3.     The Active Militia, exclusive of the Permanent Force, consists of:—

4.     The units composing the above are of two distinct kinds:—

I.     Rural Corps.
II.     City Corps.

Rural Corps correspond to all intents and purposes with our own Militia. Their training is however confined to sixteen days, and as a matter of fact is never allowed to exceed twelve days. There is no preliminary drill for recruits, neither is there any permanent staff. Training is carried out in camps of exercise assembled in each military district, and is adapted to the limited possibilities which nine working days will afford. The training of the Field Artillery was formerly carried out in the district camps, but is now carried out as far as possible in a special camp, where gun-practice, manoeuvre, and scouting can be properly taught. This will be treated of later under the head of training.

A Rural Cavalry Corps is practically identical with our Yeomanry.

City Corps correspond very nearly with our Volunteers. Nearly all the Garrison Artillery, and a considerable number of cavalry and infantry units are "City Corps."

5.     As previously stated, the Permanent Corps forms a sort of nucleus of "Regulars" for the training of the Active Militia of all arms: schools are maintained at the various head-quarters of the Permanent Corps, for the instruction of officers and N.C.O.'s of the Active Militia; certificates are granted at these schools which qualify the holders for the various positions which they desire to obtain. A great impetus was given to these schools, by sending officers to England to be attached to the various branches of the service at home, pass through courses of instruction, and pass the qualifying examinations for promotion under British regulations: this system was also extended to selected N.C.O.'s, more especially in the Artillery, and Major-General Hutton commenced to carry out the same system with the Medical Staff and Army Service Corps, the former of which already bears active testimony to the value of the good seed thus sown.

6.     Mobilization.—A scheme of Mobilisation based on the strategical requirements of the country was drawn up by Major-General Hutton in 1899, thus forming a sound framework into which the various tactical and administrative units, staffs, and departments should be fitted as the development of the military system progressed. This mobilisation scheme will ultimately provide—if carried out—for a considerable reserve to feed and if necessary to augment, the troops in the field and in garrisons.

7.     Staff.—The commencement of a trained staff was inaugurated in 1898 by the establishment of a Staff Course, under the auspices of Colonel Kitson the commandant of the Royal Military College at Kingston; the course was promptly followed up by a Staff ride, conducted under more realistic conditions than is usual with our Staff rides in England, and immediately after by the annual camps of training at which the officers who had been under instruction were employed in various Staff capacities.

8.     Departments.—The Army Service Corps and Army Ordnance Department are practically non-existent in Canada; there is a Civil Store branch which very inadequately tries to perform the functions of these two departments. An Engineer Department is also required and could easily be organised under the present chief engineer, Mr. Weatherbee, an able engineer, organiser, and practical man of business. It is in the absence of Departmental Military organisation that Canada will suffer, if she is called upon to carry out military operations: Canada has not taken to heart the lesson which the United States learnt at such a heavy cost in the war against Spain.

9.     The Military System is however far superior in one important respect to that of our American cousins, inasmuch as it is administered by a central authority for the whole Dominion, and thus uniformity and cohesion can be assured; whereas in the States, each State has entire control over the equipment, establishment, organisation, and employment of its own Militia.

10.     Training of the Active Militia has already been briefly alluded to, and as this is really the most interesting part of the subject, and the part from which we may possibly derive suggestions valuable to our own future training, I will treat of it somewhat fully.

The training of the City Corps corresponds closely with that of our Volunteers, and that of the Rural Corps with the training of our Militia.

In each case, the maximum period allowed by statute is sixteen days, but in practice twelve days is never exceeded. The conditions are, enrolment for three years, and payment at the rate of 2s. a day for each man and 4s. a day for each horse: owing to the strong representations made by General Hutton it is believed that the Field Artillery will in future receive sixteen days' training, and that a progressive scale of pay will be arranged to encourage a longer tour of service, this latter reform being a very important one introduced by General O'Grady Haly.

Cavalry and Field Artillery bring their own horses into camp, and in this lies the secret of the really extraordinary progress which can be achieved in so short a time. As regards Cavalry, we have a practical parallel in our Yeomanry, but the latter is at a distinct disadvantage in regard to the number of days' training, and also in regard to the usual nature of the training-camps which they attend. In Canada a cavalry regiment almost invariably carries out its training in a camp with other troops, and great progress has been recently, and is still being made, in making that training more business-like. The system of training inaugurated by General Hutton both for cavalry and infantry was a daring innovation, the success of which however more than justified it: it amounted in principle to the application of common sense, and the adaptation of the means available to the end in view; it was evident that the time was too short to learn everything, and consequently the progressive training was entirely subordinated to the achievement of a fair degree of efficiency in essentials; drill was carried out in single rank, the formations being of the simplest character, but the mobility of the brigade was secured and the horizon widened beyond that of ceremonial and drill-field evolutions: combination with the other arms was inculcated, and the entire force taught to look at the training as a practical means to a possible end, instead of being the end itself. The unwearying efforts of General Herbert to improve the organisation and administration of the Militia in face of the greatest discouragement, had to some extent prepared the way for the success which attended the strenuous and unflagging endeavours of General IIutton to produce tangible results in the field.

I believe that the training of our Yeomanry is about to be carried out on more practical lines than heretofore; the time certainly requires to be extended and might well be not less than the twelve days which has of late years been the minimum in Canada: again, the training of our Yeomanry requires to be carried out under conditions more nearly approaching those of active service: I presume that the idea of a Yeomanry regiment in billets, confining its training to sword-exercise and ceremonial, in a small field near its head-quarters is now a thing of the past, though it is by no means ancient history. When I say "conditions more nearly approaching those of active service" I do not wish to be misunderstood: there is not the slightest necessity to artificially create the hardships and discomforts of active service, under the mistaken impression that these things are the essentials: no, let the scale of camp equipment he on the liberal standing camp scale, let officers and men have the comfort of ample mess accommodation, let blankets be provided in suitable quantities for horses and men according to the weather, in fact let everything be done which will encourage recruiting, assist in making the real essentials of training as little irksome as possible, and avoid injury to the health of man and beast.

I remember an interesting episode which occurred at some fortress manoeuvres conducted under the direction of a general who believed in the realism of active-service conditions, though he had never been fortunate enough to see any active service himself—he asked the fortress commandant how many reliefs he had provided at the guns; the reply was "Three:" "I don't like that at all," said the general—"making things much too easy, not at all like active service:" "But," said the fortress commandant, " I am only employing the numbers which would be actually available on mobilisation:" "Ahem, much too easy! I think they only had two reliefs in the trenches at Sebastopol:" "Yes, sir," said the fortress commandant (who had served in the Crimea) "but then you know—the men died!"

Let us by all means avoid the mistake of thinking that by taking private horses out of warm stables and picketing them in a May hailstorm without blankets, and feeding them at the same time on a smaller ration than they are accustomed to, we are thereby fitting them for active service; or that by exposing officers and men for one week in the year to the indescribable discomforts of active-service scale of camp equipment and personal kit, we are thereby hardening them to the consistency of the war-worn soldier, who after all represents the survival of the fittest: no, but let us make our Yeomanry pitch their camp, master the routine duties of camp life, picket their horses (and blanket them), cook their dinners, learn how to make the most of the Government ration instead of wasting half of it and supplementing it with purchased luxuries, keep their lines in a sanitary condition, acquire resourcefulness and mobility, learn detached duties on picket and Cossack post, and the art of discovering the enemy without themselves being discovered, and above all, let them have the few additional days' training in combination with other troops in camps other than regimental camps at regimental head-quarters. I am well aware that in some districts a very near approach to the conditions above suggested has been arrived at already, and that even as long as ten years ago, sustained efforts were being made in some quarters to render the Yeomanry training of more practical value; but the time has always been too short to attain even approximate efficiency in one portion of the training without sacrificing some other portion which is equally essential.

It must be remembered that whether Yeomanry be trained as cavalry, or as mounted rifles, it is essential that efficiency with carbine or rifle should be attained; this is a portion of the training which is too apt to be neglected. In the Canadian cavalry the musketry course is now carried out with as much care as it is in the infantry; if there is no range near enough, then the course is carried out with Morris tubes.

The splendid service which our Yeomanry have rendered in South Africa shows what grand material we have to work on, and I have no doubt that the responsible authorities have fully considered the subject and are quite prepared with a more business-like programme of training spread over a longer period than has hitherto been the case.

As regards the infantry, our Militia has nothing to gain by borrowing anything from Canada; the preliminary training of recruits, the subsequent twenty-eight days' minimum embodiment, the excellent permanent Staff, the frequent and I may say normal practice of brigading Militia battalions in large camps to take part in more or less extended manoeuvres, leaves very little to be desired and is very far in advance of anything which is done in Canada.

Strictly speaking, the infantry is the only arm of the Militia which has its exact counterpart in Canada, although I have compared our Yeomanry with the Canadian Militia Cavalry on account of the similarity of the organisation. When we come to the artillery however we find that in England there is absolutely no Militia Field Artillery. I believe that most people would be inclined to say off-hand that a Militia Field Artillery would be a practical impossibility. I shall however endeavour to show that not only is it no impossibility, but that it is within the range of practical politics.

In Canada each field battery usually has its head-quarters in one of the principal cities such as Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Kingston, Quebec, Hamilton, St. Catherine's, Winnipeg, Newcastle, etc. At the battery head-quarters, Quebec, there is a drill-hall with more or less suitable accommodation for guns, waggons, harness, clothing and equipment generally; their drill-halls are usually provided partly from local and provincial funds, and partly from a Government grant; in many cases they leave much to be desired, but the correct principle is there, and as funds can be found they are devoted to the most pressing cases—or possibly to the cases which are most pressed! The majority of the officers, N.C.O.'s and gunners will usually belong to the city, and voluntary drills will be carried out during the greater part of the year; these depending on the energy and zeal of the battery commander; lectures and theoretical instruction are also given. The drivers come principally from the country districts, and are usually farmers who bring a pair of their own horses; there are however many drivers who live in the cities, and bring a pair of the horses which they are working with every day, into camp for the training.

The time of year for the training has obviously to fall in with the dull time in agricultural work.

It has been found an excellent plan in some cases to adopt a system of outlying sections—a section consisting of a subaltern officer and two guns, together with the entire personnel and horses required for those two guns. An energetic subaltern, of good position in a country town, can relieve the pressure on battery head-quarters immensely if he assumes the entire organisation and administration of his section during the non-training period; great local esprit de corps is aroused, and a thoroughly wholesome tone is infused into the local life, the drill-shed becomes a desirable place of resort in the winter evenings, and the best elements of the working population are united in a common object. The section can be mobilised for training at its local head-quarters and proceed thence to battery head-quarters, or join the head-quarters of the battery at the training-camp, according to circumstances. The fact of the horses being brought into camp in pairs, by their owners, greatly facilitates what would otherwise prove one of the principal difficulties to be overcome in a Militia Field Artillery; the horses settle down to their camp life and their team work in the field with truly marvellous rapidity, and get accustomed to the firing in a remarkably brief space of time; the drivers too, have to get accustomed to artillery driving themselves, as well as to train their horses to it, and the visible progress which is made from day to day has to be seen to be believed. Battery commanders who really take trouble over the organisation and administration of their commands, have little difficulty in getting about seventy per cent. of horses which have been through a previous training, and this is of course a most valuable factor for the success of the training.

I cannot however pass from this portion of the subject without stating that I am fully convinced from very considerable experience of buying, hiring, training, and embarking Canadian horses, that they are better tempered and more easily managed than English horses; I have observed the same thing about American horses, and it applies to thoroughbreds as well as to draught horses.

The system inaugurated in 1900 for training was to take about one half of the field artillery, two brigade divisions at a time, in a large artillery camp, at a place called Deseronto on the Bay of Quinte; and the other half divided up between the various district camps, in the districts to which the batteries belonged. The Deseronto camp was situated on the confines of the Mohawk Indian Reserve, and the lease of an area about four miles long by one and a half miles wide, was acquired by the Militia Department, under certain specified conditions as regards compensation for disturbance and damage to property. The camp commandant was able to utilise the whole of this area for gun-practice and manoeuvre, and it was intended to combine cavalry and infantry training with that of the artillery, but this had to be postponed on account of the paucity of officers available for Staff and instructional duties owing to the absence of the whole of the permanent Field Artillery officers and a considerable number of cavalry and infantry officers in South Africa.

The actual programme of work need not now be given, and it suffices to say here that the number of days available for work was nine; every officer was on parade at 6 a.m. daily, and did not finish his work till 6 p.m.; the first five days were devoted to drill and instruction of the battery, and the last four days to simple movements in brigade-division, manoeuvre, scouting, and gun-practice. At manoeuvre active-service conditions were always insisted on, one brigade-division being worked against another in accordance with a tactical idea, and in the absence of cavalry, each commander being made to depend on his own scouting; the scouting was made into a very special feature and led to the most instructive results. As regards gun-practice, 200 rounds per battery were allowed (against 40 rounds in previous years) and the practice was conducted precisely on the same principles as are now in force at Okehampton, including cavalry surprise-targets, and the advance to successive positions in accordance with a tactical idea; in every case the battery or brigade-division commander being left afree hand as to his choice of position, route by which to reach it, and formation on leaving a position, advancing and taking up a new one.

Every evening the work of the day was discussed and criticised, and instruction given by the camp commandant in regard to the work for the next day.

The inspection of the batteries was carried out during the training and embraced the whole curriculum of the instruction, including practical questions to every officer and N.C.O. as well as marks for fire-discipline, practice, administration, cleanliness of camp-lines, condition of harness and equipment, clothing, drill, etc.

The time was all too short however for what was required; in fact, there was not time to practise what had been taught, and batteries left camp just as they were beginning to get into the swing of really useful work. It is most satisfactory to know that the period of training is to be extended to sixteen days this year.

Now, if these results can be achieved in Canada in the short time hitherto allowed for training, and without the aid of a permanent staff for each brigade division, I venture to say that far better results could be achieved in England with a Field Artillery organised and trained under similar lines, but with the added advantages of our own Militia system which would comprise—

Summary.—In the foregoing sketch I trust that I have not appeared to paint the Canadian Militia in brighter colours than the actual condition of affairs would justify; my personal affection for the officers and men who were always ready to meet me more than halfway, may have given me an unconscious bias; but to prevent the creation of a false impression, I must add, that the Canadian Militia is only at the beginning of a process of evolution quite recently initiated, and that it requires careful guidance, much encouragement, and a determination on the part of the Government to take up Militia Reform as a national question, altogether outside party politics.

Immense strides have been made in a short time, a thoroughly business-like administration is all that is required to enable the forward movement to continue. Canada will be rich in officers and N.C.O.'s who have returned home with the honours and experience of a severe campaign fresh upon them; and we may confidently hope that a powerful Government recently returned to office, will seriously set to work to make the best possible use of the splendid material ready to its hand.