The Minute Book
Friday, 10 February 2017

How Canada Gets Along Minus Army (1925)
Topic: Canadian Militia

How Canada Gets Along Minus Army (1925)

Called Greatest Pacifist Nation Indifferent to Things Military
Militia is Reliance
3,000 Men in Uniform No One Interested in Soldiering

The Border Cities Star, Windsor, Ontario, 10 August 1925

Veterans of the C.E.F. for the most part brand any man who would join the army in times of peace as several kinds of lunatic at large.

Toronto, Aug. 10.—Under the heading "Canada, the Greatest of Pacifist Nations, Seems Indifferent to Things Military," the following article appears in the Toronto Weekly Star.

Until today, the world has never seen a great nation with flourishing seaports on two oceans, with ships carrying her merchant flag on the seven seas, and three thousand miles of frontier, unarmed and unprotected. It simply never happened in history.

Canadians are like no other people in the world. We are an Atlantic power, and a Pacific power. To the east is Europe carrying more bombs and side arms than in 1913, and to the west is the perennial yellow menace. In the Republic to the south last year the Government of the United states put on a "Defence day" and 16,000,000 Americans showed their interest in the affairs of arms by taking part. Even the South American republics have a total of 180,000 men under arms today. In the midst of all this Canadian go about the business of earning their daily bread with a general indifference to things military. It seems to be the accepted principle that it costs too much to have soldiers cluttering up the countryside. Maybe it is healthy.

Queer Lot

The permanent force is always the first to feel the knife of parliamentary economy which slices away methodically every year until infantry officers find they have only a few barrack sweepers to command and cavalrymen find nothing to ride in their riding schools.

We are a queer lot in Canada. Seven years ago we had an army of shock troops the equal of any fighting men in the world. Today, we have about 3,000 men in uniform and no-one is interested in soldiering. If there was any interest in it in Canada, it would have been capitalized by politicians and made a political issue long ago.

Next to tax collecting soldiering is the most thankless job, It takes genuine courage to hold His Majesty's commission in the Dominion in these piping times of peace—perhaps more courage than it did in the big bass drum days of Armageddon.

Veterans of the C.E.F. for the most part brand any man who would join the army in times of peace as several kinds of lunatic at large. The soldier is looked at askance as the most insignificant of civil servants, a sort of economic liability who must be tolerated for sake of old times. The permanent force is always the first to feel the knife of parliamentary economy which slices away methodically every year until infantry officers find they have only a few barrack sweepers to command and cavalrymen find nothing to ride in their riding schools.

Yet working quietly at their jobs every day, are a group of men who are making the most of the money appropriations for national defenses of this country. There are no grand manoeuvres every year in Canada. There are no great, glittering reviews. But the Canadian headquarters staff of the Department of National Defense—men who would be a credit to the Imperial war office—are from day to day working at the defense problems of Canada.

League's Opinion

In the lobbies of the League of Nations building at Geneva last year the younger men of the secretariats used to gather and talk informally. Conversations invariably turned to disarmament and the Canadians always interjected "Well, when you chaps get down to our basis of disarmament we'll begin to talk to you." But there was usually someone present who gently ruined the effect of the statement with a reminder that the British navy and the Monroe Doctrine made an ever-present row of bayonets around Canada, and that the unarmed condition of the Dominion was largely a matter of dollars and cents. It never failed to leave the Canadians without a "come back," and in their hearts they knew that their countrymen were more indifferent to armaments than any political influential people in the world.

By statute the enrolment in the Canadian permanent force is limited to 437 officers and 6,000 men. Actually the present strength is 413 officers and 3,085 men. The maintenance is of course in the hands of parliament. In 1924 when United States demonstrated its was resources on Defense day, Canada reduced her estimates for national defense by $1,000,000.

Horrible Example

South American republics have made such good fiction with the supposedly musical comedy armies made up mostly of generals.

So, with half the authorized strength, Canada's professional soldiers carry on. Pacifists say, "Well done, an example to the world," while militarists say "A horrible example of unpreparedness." Certainly it never happened before. No country claiming equality of nationhood with any nation on earth and about to send an ambassador to a foreign capital, ever stood in the international arena with a few minesweepers and about one battalion of infantry to back its claims.

Denmark not long ago announced that she was about to disarm and the world was amazed. Denmark's disarmament constituted a reduction of an army of 11,000 to a civil police force of about 6,000. Canada has done better (or worse) than that. Canada, with a score of lakes that could absorb Denmark, could parade the army, the navy, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and still go recruiting for enough to equal the 6,000 of "disarmed" Denmark.

South American republics have made such good fiction with the supposedly musical comedy armies made up mostly of generals. But, Chile with an army of 21,000 German-trained troops constantly under arms and the Argentine with a regular army of 18,000, assume the proportions of world powers. Brazil, with compulsory military training, has 42,000 men carrying arms, and Mexico, with a more stable government than she has had for 30 years, keeps 65,000 active soldiers.

Armed Powers

A few other examples of armed power are interesting: Japan, 16,000 officers and 216,000 other ranks; Russia (army and navy) 562,000; United States, army 36,500, navy 100,000; Irish Free State, 1,080 officers, 14,600 men. New Zealand has compulsory cadet training for all men between the ages of 12 and 25. South Africa requires men between 21 and 25 to belong to a rifle association and learn to handle firearms. Australia with compulsory military training of a senior cadet nature maintains nearly 6,000 active troops and a sea-going naval reserve of 8,000.

Analyzed, the condition of the Canadian permanent force is as follows. The figures speak for themselves and offer good arguments for pacifists and militarists. The Royal Canadian Dragoons consists of 17 officers and 272 men; and the net expenditure for the regiment was $64,814 during the fiscal year ended last March (a trifle less in the cost of upkeep than Mister Coolidge's White House policemen). Lord Strathcona's Horse maintains 16 officers and 183 men at a cost of $64,317. The Royal Canadian Artillery kept 56 officers and 617 men at a cost of $203,970. The three infantry regiments were: The Royal Canadian Regiment, 404 all ranks, $104,631; Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, 269 all ranks, $93,391; Royal 22nd Regiment (French-Canadian), 189 of all ranks, $43,396.

Military Costs

The Royal Military College at Kingston cost Canada $338,082 in the last fiscal year. The attendance for the year was 165, and as well as the regular studies for cadets, the college carried on staff courses for officers of the permanent and non-permanent militia.

On cadet service $450,000 was spent in 1923-24, which was the largest amount expended on this work since the war. The estimates for cadet work for 1925 have been reduced to $400,000. The total number of enrolled cadets was 110,000 for the year ending last March.

That is where Canada stands in military matters. The headquarters staff is concentrating its efforts on the maintenance of a training service. Consequently nearly a full quota (under the statute) of officers is maintained. The theory is that the officers will constitute a training staff for the non-permanent militia and a skeleton organization for a fighting force in times of emergency. It is tough work. Officers without men to command must have their hearts in their work to carry on.

Has War Plans

Present strength of the non-permanent militia is, on paper, 140,000. The figure is not to be taken literally. It is extremely optimistic but headquarters continues to carry the names of authorized militia units which are barely breathing, rather than let the slimmest organization be lost.

Canada has war plans. There are two complete combat schemes filed in the National Defense department. One is to meet emergencies of home defense, the other is to place an expeditionary force abroad in the event of Canada responding to an empire call. They don't talk much about them at headquarters but they think a lot about those plans and they don't tell the world their thoughts. Headquarters bets on the militia. In the long run they count on the all-round citizen soldier of Canada to do the big fighting jobs, and they tell you without boasting that there is no finer militia material in the world than in Canada. Present strength of the non-permanent militia is, on paper, 140,000. The figure is not to be taken literally. It is extremely optimistic but headquarters continues to carry the names of authorized militia units which are barely breathing, rather than let the slimmest organization be lost.

So, at Ottawa with sincerity and that devotion to duty which has always characterized their profession, a small group of highly trained officers works thoughtfully on iron rations. To these men the St. Lawrence River development, obscure harbors on the British Columbia coast, and the sand dunes of Sable Island have a significance unknown to civilians.

Meanwhile the world wonders. Is in Canada the pacifist vision coming true, or is she indifferent to the rattling sabres of the world?

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST

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