The Canadian Expeditionary Force Novels

Forging the Weapon cover 1914
Hammering the Blade cover 1915
Sharpening the Blade cover 1916
Tempering the Blade cover 1917


Frank Rockland


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:

He also indicated that Canada needed:

General Hamilton also recommended:

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:

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.

Table displays the strenght of the Permanent Force on March 31, 1914.

Source: Report of The Militia Council for the Dominion of Canada for the Fiscal Year Ending March 31 19I4

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:

The following graphic displays the number of men that were on the rolls and the number of men that received training in the 1913: 

Table displays the number of officers and men in the Active Militia during the year 1913.

Source: Report of The Militia Council for the Dominion of Canada for the Fiscal Year Ending March 31 19I4

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.

Table displays composition of units and the number of men proposed for the first contingent of the CEF.

Source: Documents Relative to European War, Sessional Paper No. 40 Twelfth Parliament of the Dominion of Canada, Special Session 1914

Naval Forces

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