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When the Conservative government was elected in 1911, Prime Minister Robert Borden appointed Sam Hughes as the Minister of the Militia and Defence.
He had been his only choice since Colonel Sam Hughes had been the defence critic for the Conservative government, was one of the sponsors for the Ross Rifle, and had fought in the Boer War. Also, he was a staunch Conservative with a bare-knuckle style of the political fighting.
When Hughes was appointed as the minister he began a program to improve the militia. He was also firmly convinced sooner or later that Britain would go to war with Germany.
He managed to increase the defence budget, built a network of militia training halls across the country, and by 1914 the number of volunteers that attended the annual two week training camps increased to 55,000.
During the period in the novel Sam Hughes spent more time out of his office rather than in it. He spent most of his time at the Valcartier Camp, than several weeks at Salisbury Plain.
He was on the road constantly promoting recruiting. It got to the point that his staff at the Woods Building, the Militia and Defence Headquarters in Ottawa, lost touch with him.
One thing Sam Hughes really wanted to do was command the contingent in battle. But, his reputation from the Boer War preceded him. The War Office pointed out it would not be appropriate to change ministers at this point in time.
HUGHES, The Hon. Sir Samuel, P.C. - Parliamentarian File - Federal Experience
HUGHES, Sir SAMUEL - Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online
WarMuseum.ca - South African War - Lieutenant-Colonel Sam Hughes
Sam Hughes - Fire on the Hill
Minister of Militia and Defence - www.canadiansoldiers.com
Military Council - www.canadiansoldiers.com
Haycock, R.G. Sam Hughes: The Public Career of a Controversial Canadian, 1885–1916. Waterloo, Ontario, 1986.
Allen, Ralph. Ordeal by Fire, Canada 1910-1945. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1961.