The State of Readiness of the Canadian Armed Forces in 1914
The Permanent Active Militia and the Non-Permanent Active Militia
In 1913 British Major-General Sir Ian Hamilton had conducted an inspection tour of the Permanent Force and the Active Militia. In his report, the militia had 46,800 on its rolls but would need 158,900 officers and men to meet its mandate. To do so he indicated the force would need to add the following units:
- 48 batteries of artillery.
- 34 ammunition columns.
- 8 field troops and engineer companies.
- 34 infantry battalions.
- 11 telegraph and wireless detachments.
- 15 Companies of Army Service Corps.
He also indicated that Canada needed:
- 284 guns and howitzers, only 60 were ordered.
- 278 machine guns, only 50 were ordered.
- 97,000 rifles, only 13,500 were ordered.
- 140,000,000 small arms ammunition rounds.
- 150,000 uniforms and entrenching equipment.
General Hamilton also recommended:
- Increase the number of military instructors and their salaries.
- Increase the establishment of the active militia.
- Increased annual training at camps from 8 days to 16 days per year.
- Creating adequate war reserves of arms, ammunition, clothing, equipment and stores.
- Create a horse registry from which work animals could be drawn upon during war time, and
- Created a classified muster-roll of men liable and fit for active service.
While Colonel Sam Hughes had agreed with the findings in Hamilton’s report it was unlikely he could have tripled the militia with a cost conscious Ottawa. As the minister he had managed to increase the defence budget from $6.9 million 1911 to $9.1 million in 1913.
Also, in a speech by Major-General Sir William Otter on The Efficiency of the Canadian Militia for Defence, in January 1914, he indicated that the force had severe problems such as:
- Personnel - Problems in recruiting, retaining, and training officers.
- Material - He stated that it was sufficient for the current force however if Canada went on a war footing the equipment that General Hamilton’s report indicated was needed would not be obtained quickly or easily.
- Transport - While the militia had plenty of motorized vehicles they were not of much use since there was a lack of proper roads therefore the force would be reliant on horses to transport all the supplies that an army needs in the field. There was currently not registration of horses so that suitable animals could be easily obtained and to minimize disruption to business.
- Training - The militia requirement was for 36 days training but the men seldom did than 24 days. Much of this was cursory at best giving the men the unfortunate impression that they were well prepared.
- Discipline - there was a lack of discipline in the militia. In peacetime it is an annoyance but in war time can result in disaster. “Real discipline cannot be made to order,” he stated. “It must spring from a frequent practice in the art of obedience which grows by degrees into a tradition.”
Forces available in August 1914
When WW1 was declared Canada had a Permanent Active Militia (PAM) of 3,110 men and the Non-Permanent Active Militia of 74,213 officers and men.
Permanent Active Militia (PAM)
The PAM was in essence Canada’s standing army and it consisted of one infantry and two cavalry regiments. The force was assigned mainly to garrison the fortresses on the both coasts and to assist in training the non-permanent militia. They never actively served in Europe during WW1.
The main reasons were that Sam Hughes the minister of Militia and Defence, favoured the volunteer militia and he had a bias against the permanent force. The following graphic displays were the force numbers and where they were stationed at the beginning of the war.
Non-Permanent Active Militia
The Non-Permanent Active Militia represented the bulk of the Canada’s military forces at the start of WW1. They were volunteer part-time soldiers who drilled at night, on weekends and at annual camps. The force was organized in the following 6 divisional districts and 3 districts:
- lst Divisional Area, Western Ontario, H.Q. London.
- 2nd Divisional Area, Central Ontario, H.Q. Toronto.
- 3rd Divisional Area, Eastern Ontario, H.Q. Kingston.
- 4th Divisional Area, Western Quebec, H.Q. Montreal.
- 5th Divisional Area, Eastern Quebec, H.Q. Quebec.
- 6th Divisional Area, Maritime Provinces, H.Q. Halifax.
- Military District No. 10, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, H.Q. Winnipeg.
- Military District No. 11, British Columbia and Yukon, H.Q. Victoria.
- Military District No. 13, Alberta, H.Q. Calgary.
The following graphic displays the number of men that were on the rolls and the number of men that received training in the 1913:
When Sam Hughes called volunteers for an overseas force at the beginning of WW1 the plan proposed to embark a Canadian Division composed of the following troops. So many men volunteered that 31,000 men sailed for England in October 1914.
Prior to the outbreak of WW1 there had been an ongoing debate concerning Canadian naval policy. The Sir Wilfrid Laurier Government had proposed buying or building naval ships to protect the country’s coastline and its economic interests. There was stiff opposition to this proposal which was a factor in Laurier’s defeat in the 1911 election. Sir Robert Borden proposed instead to provide $35 million to the Royal Navy to build ships which could be call upon in a crisis. The bill was defeated in early 1914 by the Liberal dominated Senate.
When war was declared the Canadian Navy had only two vessels the Niobe and the Rainbow. The Niobe was cruiser of 11,000 tons displacement with sixteen 6-inch guns as its main armament and was stationed on the east coast at Halifax. The Rainbow was stationed at Esquimalt on the west coast of Canada. The Rainbow was armed with two 6-inch, six 4.7 and 4 12-pounder guns.
Also, on August 4, just before hostilities broke out, the British Columbia’s Premier McBride bought two H class submarines, CC1 and the CC2, that had been built for the Chilean government which augmented the Canadian Navy.
Sources and further reading
Canadian Militia - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Permanent Active Militia - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Non-Permanent Active Militia - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Ian Standish Monteith Hamilton - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Sessional papers of the Dominion of Canada 1914 - Documents Related to the European War
Sessional papers of the Dominion of Canada 1915 - Report of The Militia Council for the Dominion of Canada for the Fiscal Year Ending March 31 19I4