The Infantry Militia Officer of To-day and His Problems

By O.N.E.
The Connecting File (regimental journal of The Royal Canadian Regiment), Vol. V, No. 4, December, 1926

The main object of this article is to picture to the officers of the Permanent Force and N.C.O.'s of the instructional cadre what the active militia officer is up against to-day, so that they can see the situation from our point of view.

The title might imply that to-day's Officer of the Canadian Militia is a different type from the pre-war scarlet coated gentleman. Basically he is the same in that he is willing to serve his country, for the most part without taking his pay, and in many cases actually paying into regimental funds out of his own pocket to improve the standard of his regiment. He, like his pre-war brother must devote a great deal of time to this hobby and is still looked upon, by his civilian friends, as a mysterious sort of a fellow to be interested in such a pursuit. To illustrate this latter point; about the middle of last August when politics was the order of the day, I was approached by one of our local politicians insisting that I dig in and do some work for the party. I replied, "Sorry, old man, but I'm going to camp on the 29th for two weeks, taking a course—so can't possibly do anything." For a moment I am sure he thought I was quite insane. When he got his breath he said, "What's the matter with you militia fellows anyway, do you think there's going to be another war?" I replied, "No, but if some fellow punched your nose isn't it a feeling of security to know that you can at least give him a rap: and possibly if he had known that you could handle your fists scientifically he would not have punched your bally nose in the first place." "Well maybe," he rejoined stalking out of my office. I am still convinced that my political friend thinks I am not quite sane and also I doubt if he got the point of my parting remarks.

To return to the point of this short article. The militia officer of to-day is invariably an active man in some form of business, financial or professional life. Due to the after war depression he finds he must put a lot of energy into is civil occupation in order to make a living. In fact he often wonders if it be fair to himself and his dependents to devote his limited spare tme to a hobby of this sort. With this picture of civilian life in mind I would ask my readers to visualise the militia as it is to-day. Its numbers and pageantry have gone: therefore it has not its former appeal to the recruit. He sees a squad where he feels there should be a regiment, it does not give him a thrill. If this squad were dressed in red serges it might or might not stir up that something which impels youth to join the colours. I am not prepared to answer this question as there is a good deal to be said on both sides. The City units find it imperative to keep up a brass band and often a bugle band or drums as well (and the Highland Regiments must have their special taste for music satisfied) which means the number left to be trained in the art of soldiering is very small. These are a few of the facts facing the militia officer to-day. The layman would say it was easy: so few to train, not much for the officers to do. But those of us who are in the game realise that the very things which make it look easy to the civilian are our biggest problems.

Small numbers make it very hard to keep your men interested. All formations of drill require a certain number to make the movement effective, whether it be ceremonial or ordinary battalion or company drill. The same may be said to a greater degree of battle drill.

Problem No. 1—To carry out the training as laid down for a battalion with a mere handful of men: keep them from getting fed up and be practical in your method of training.

Problem No. 2—To do Problem No. 1 in the limited number of days now allowed for the annual training of the militia.

Those two problems perhaps do not exist in the units of Montreal, Toronto and other large centres where the O.R.'s turn their pay into regimental funds and they can therefore enlist more men and extend the period of training to suit themselves. The rural regiments, doing their annual training at camp, are faced with these problems, but they are partly solved for the officers by the Permanent Force instructors who take over a great deal of the instruction. But the officers who are really faced with this situation are those of the regiments doing their training at local headquarters.

I do not propose to solve these probblems but merely submit suggestions which may help to combat them. Possibly some officer of The R.C.R. would work out a solution and carry on this article where I leave off.

For the moment I wish to exclude the rural units and deal with the city corps as they are the ones vitally concerned. Primarily I would suggest that the officers educate the O. R.'s along the lines of taking no pay for their service: that is, turn in their pay to regimental funds to be used for any purposes a regimental committee may decide upon. With this accomplished you would not be limited to the small numbers actually paid by the government. Neither would you be limited to the eight days training or whatever number of days the government grant covers, as your amateur militiaman serving without remuneration would not object to doing twelve more days as he is in the thing for the love of soldiering. This suggested solution I think is the ideal one from all aspects.

If it be found impossible to get the O.R.'s to go on the no pay basis I would offer the following suggestion;—First, do not attempt too much. Simplify what training you do to a minimum.

Suppose eight days' training is allowed. After allowing for a day at the rifle range and half a day for the annual inspection you are left with thirteen trainperiods of two hours each at the local armouries. The officers get a panicky feeling When they think of all the various things a militia soldier should know; Rifle, Lewis-gun, Drill and so on. They will also get another jolt when they find that many of the men they trained the previous year have left the regiment and their places have been taken by raw recruits. The situation complicates itself as you examine it more thoroughly.

To return to the suggested solution. I would work out the major details as follows; Divide your thirteen periods into three divisions of four periods, which leaves one period at the end for rehearsing for the annual inspection.

I would limit the instruction to platoon drill, company drill, battle drill (as for a company), elementary rifle training and as much Lewis gun work as they can intelligently absorb. Use your first four periods for platoon drill and rifle training. One hour for each subject per night. The second four to be used for company drill and Lewis-gun training, one hour each night as in the first instance. Do your battle drill in the last division using the second hour or part each night for a talk on discpline and other subjects not usually known to the civilian soldier. This scheme I think would break the monotony and cover part of the requirements necessary fora certain degree of efficiency. The recruits, of course, would not be able to do anything the first year but squad drill: so pray that they may be with you next year.

It is to be noted I have not included battalion drill in the syllabus. Bearing in mind the size of a militia unit of to-day I think the reader will agree it is out of the question. Nor have I allowed any time for bayonet training and other essential things. I am firmly convinced if they learn the syllabus I have worked out they will have a good grounding. Under present conditions I do not think it possible that more can be expected.

The main object of this article is to picture to the officers of the Permanent Force and N.C.O.'s of the instructional cadre what the active militia officer is up against to-day, so that they can see the situation from our point of view.