Canada and Imperial Defence
- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 15 Mar 1906, p. 219-229
- Mason, Lieut.-Col. James; Grier, Major E. Wyly, Speaker
- Media Type:
- Item Type:
- Lieut.-Colonel James Mason:
Canada contributing to the defence of the Empire as something that should be regarded not only as a duty but as a necessity; why that is so. The need for a large and efficient navy and army to protect and to defend the British Empire's possessions and trade. Some figures taken from recent returns to show to what extent the British taxpayer is burdened in order that this army and navy may be maintained. Canada's current monetary contribution. What gets done in Canada. What could happen in the event of a successful attack upon the Empire by a combination of Powers. Details of a plan suggested by the speaker with regard to what Canada can do in the way of a further contribution to the defence of the Empire. Four elements of the scheme. How this scheme would add or contribute to the defence of the Empire.
Major E. Wyly Grier:
Admitting the possibility of war. Canada possibly unable to maintain the position merely of an onlooker. The speaker's contention, looking at the condition of Europe today, of a war in which Canada would take a prominent or lesser part. Elements on unrest in Europe. Some comments on Colonel Mason's scheme. The strategic advantage in Canada's railways.
- Date of Original:
- 15 Mar 1906
- Language of Item:
- Copyright Statement:
Empire Club of Canada
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- Full Text
CANADA AND IMPERIAL DEFENCE.
Addresses by Lieut.-Col. James Mason, R.O., Officer Commanding Fourth Infantry Brigade, and Major E. Wyly Grier,
before the Empire Club of Canada,
on March 15th, 1906.
LIEUT.-COLONEL JAMES MASON.
I do not raise the question, "Should Canada contribute to the defence of the Empire?" for that must be conceded. Canada could not protect herself, and only exists as a self-governing colony, or nation, by reason of her connection with the Empire; so that to contribute to the defence of the Empire should be regarded not only as a duty but as a necessity.
The British Empire, with its vast possessions so widely scattered over the face of the globe, and its enormous business and trade interests, requires now more than ever in these days of alliances of nations, a large and efficient navy and army to protect and to defend its possessions and trade. The following figures taken from recent returns will show to what extent the British taxpayer is burdened in order that this army and navy may be maintained. The gross estimates, for the Navy for 1904-1905 are 138,327,838, and for the Army for the same year 132,237,049. These figures are reduced in the case of the Navy by a contribution from India of 103,400; the Australian Commonwealth, 1200,000; New Zealand, 40,000; Cape Colony, 150,000; Natal, 135,000; Newfoundland, 3,000; and other sums realized from purchase of discharges, stoppages of pay, sales of old stores and properties, and other sources; in all about one and a half million pounds, making the net expenditure, 36,889,500. The Army reductions consist of India's contribution, 416,000; the Colonies, 1537,000, of which Canada's share is 122,100; and other sources similar to those of the Navy, making a total of about 13,500,000; which leaves a net expenditure Of 128,370,219,000--a grand total of over 64,000,000, or about $300, 000,000. This gigantic sum is the levy for a single year only, and it has been frequently exceeded. Consider the heavy burden placed upon the shoulders of the forty-two millions of people who inhabit England, Ireland and Scotland. We, in Canada, contribute a little over $i00,000 to all this expenditure of $300,000,000.
Let us now see what we do here. The Militia estimates of 1896-1897 were $2,413,651, while those for 1904-05 are $3,995,868, to provide for a total strength of over 49,000 of all ranks. The large increase noticeable in the last year indicates a movement to place the force on a better footing, more numerous and more efficient. This sum has since been considerably increased to provide for the expenditure in connection with the taking over of the fortifications at Halifax and Esquimalt. This is a good sign, and recent utterances on the part of the Ministers at the head of the Militia and Marine Departments point to the continuance of the more liberal policy lately begun. It is asked: What is Canada's duty, or how best can we contribute to Imperial defence? By this is meant the aiding of the Home Government in maintaining the integrity and peace of the Empire.
It can easily be conceived that were a successful attack made upon the Empire by a combination of Powers, for no single Power could accomplish that, the Colonies and outlying states would find themselves in a position quite unfit to resist for any length of time a vigourous invasion of their territory, or to prevent the destruction of their mercantile marine. Canada might be reckoned among these, and s0 it is evident that we owe it to ourselves to do all we possibly can to back up and assist the Mother Country. I know there is a very general opinion held here that large grants of money would not be popular with the people of Canada. Money must be spent, however, if anything is to be done and if spent judiciously, and other means taken, I think we can materially add to the strength of the defensive forces of the Empire without placing a heavy burden upon our people; a burden very light indeed when compared with that borne by the people of Great Britain and Ireland. To come to details, the following plan has suggested itself to me, and I have for a long time believed it to be the most feasible and effective.
(1) A small but well-trained and well-equipped Permanent Force, much as it is at present and, with the exception of the force now required to properly garrison the fortifications at Halifax and Esquimalt, wholly devoted to the training and instruction of the Militia; the men composing this Permanent Force to be selected for their ability to impart instruction, the rate of pay to be such as to attract the class of men required and to be increased with each period of re-enlistment, with the addition of a pension at the end of a reasonable term of years. By this means the Permanent Farce would in time consist almost entirely of instructors. I would also have a return to the old system of military schools for the instruction of officers. This I should explain. In the system at present in vogue, none but those holding commissions in the Militia are eligible to enter the schools of instruction, so that a young man must be first gazetted to a corps and provide himself with a uniform, at considerable expense, before he can take a " course," as it is called. The result is that most, if not all, of the corps are short of officers, and many of those in the corps are not of much use, for commanding officers in their anxiety to complete their establishment frequently recommend for commissions young men who are not cut out for military work.
By the old system any respectable and educated young man, recommended by the senior officer of his district, could take a course and qualify for a commission without being a member of any corps. In the times I speak of-that is, when the old military schools were in operation-thousands of the best young men of the country took their certificates and were eligible for commissions in the Militia. Were this system re-introduced I feel certain that in the centres of education, where these schools would be established, a great many young men going from the different parts of the country to attend universities and medical schools, would take the course in one of these military schools, while many others, after quitting their local schools and colleges, and before beginning a business life, would also qualify. It will be easily seen, therefore, how in a few years a vast number of young men in Canada would be qualified to hold commissions, and would thus take a greater interest in Militia matters than they otherwise would. I would not advocate doing away with the present system' of instruction, but would have that carried on in conjunction with the other.
(2) The training of schoolboys is a movement which I am glad to see growing, and it should be encouraged to such extent that, in time, to find a boy leaving school who had not received a military training would be the exception and not the rule. The cadet corps are rapidly increasing in number, which shows how popular such training is becoming. It might be asked: Where are the instructors to be found for the thousands of schools we now have in Canada, where, in a great majority of cases, the teachers are women? I should say in answer to this that the return to the old military school system would soon furnish a large body of instructors; for these students and others, who would have qualified and returned to their own districts, would be competent and' no doubt, very willing, to instruct the youth of the schools in their own neighbourhoods, besides furnishing an ample supply of officers for the Militia. Some simple and inexpensive system of rifle practice could probably be devised for use in schools and colleges. The adoption of this scheme would, in the course of time, if efficiently carried out, result in the majority of the male population of the country having a fair knowledge of drill, and, if a great emergency arose and their services were required, they could in a very short time indeed be quite sufficiently organized to take the field, the officers have been already provided for by the military school system. If the Government were then prepared to furnish arms and equipment a formidable army could be mobilized in a very short time.
(3) The recently avowed intention of the Minister of Marine and Fisheries must have given much pleasure and gratification to those gentlemen who have so persistently and for so long been endeavouring to evoke an interest in the direction of a naval or marine volunteer force in Canada. There is no reason against, and many reasons in favour of, our having such a force. Material is at hand, and the young men residing along our sea coasts and lake shores could be found in sufficient numbers willing to form themselves into companies and squads if given the opportunity, and instructors could be found in just the same manner as they are now for the land forces, and all that would be necessary for their training could be as easily obtained: A few years of this latter line of action, if liberally and intelligently carried out, would result in our having in Canada a great number of good citizens pursuing their usual occupation for a living, and capable in a very short time of being fitted to take their places in the naval and marine forces of the Empire.
(4) I now come to the last item of the scheme I advocate. I think we owe it to Great Britain and ourselves to contribute from time to time one vessel of war to the fleet of England. A battleship is the highest type and, of course, the most expensive. Five millions of dollars is about what such a ship would cost. But is that too much? One dollar per head of our population every few years until it could be safely said that we had done enough, should answer the purpose aimed at. We should also maintain these vessels. I know this proposition may startle some people, but can we go on from year to year busily engrossed in our affairs, making a living and a good deal more in many instances, yet never thinking of our responsibilities. Disaster to England would bring ruin to many in Canada, just as with a community suddenly brought to face a conflagration which destroys all their property, because no appliances for extinguishing the fire are kept at hand, on the ground of expense.
It may be asked, omitting the contribution to the Navy, how all this would add or contribute to the defence of the Empire? To that question I would answer that, were any Power, or combination of Powers, contemplating an attack upon the Empire, their very first consideration would be a summing up of the forces they would have to meet in the event of a war, and in doing this they would not overlook what share Canada would take in the struggle. No one with any knowledge of the spirit that animates the Canadian people would doubt what would be done by them in the event of the Empire being engaged in a great and serious war. Of the male population capable of bearing arms, and who could be spared from their duties as citizens, few would hesitate to offer their services in such a case, and should the struggle become more acute, and the position more threatening, more and still more would press forward. What occurred a few years ago during the war in South Africa must have shown Foreign countries that in making an attack upon Great Britain they would have to reckon with the Colonies as well as the Mother Country. I will not say anything about what has been done by Canada in the building up of the country, and in providing the great facilities for its trade and commerce, thus encouraging immigration and adding largely to its population. I may refer more particularly to the lines of railway, present and projected, crossing and to cross the continent to open up the great West. A few years should see a great increase in our population in that part of the Dominion, and if the methods I now speak of were in active operation in the older parts of the country they would soon spread to those newer ones, and Canada would indeed become a source of strength to the Empire; and would be looked upon as capable of adding a very formidable contingent to the other forces of our common realm. We should then be freed from the justly merited reproach that we are enjoying the protection afforded by the naval and military forces of Great Britain without paying anything for it.
MAJOR E. WYLY GRIER.
Mr. President and Gentlemen,
I notice that it only requires a very short apprenticeship in the effort to become a participant in the defence of our country for one to win the reputation of being an authority on military matters. I don't feel myself competent to present any conclusions, or indeed make suggestions, of any great weight, but as it was the wish of our late President, Col. Mason, that I should say something I will try to tell you what has occurred to my mind that has a useful bearing on what we are discussing. It seems almost absurd that a number of gentlemen like ourselves should come together in broad noonday to discuss the defence of one of the most peaceful countries in the world. At present there is no cloud upon our horizon. We are busy building the railways to which Colonel Mason referred, and in the development of our marvellous resources which we have heard about and which are; of course, a very significant fact and which can't be too often dwelt upon; but while I do not wish to be an alarmist or to win the reputation of being fond of militarism, I do think that we should suppose the possibility of some war in which we would play a minor or a major part.
In every country there is a certain section of the public who are reluctant to admit that war is a possibility. I dare say that every gentleman here will remember that when the South African war was imminent a number of our personal friends didn't believe it would come to pass. I heard it stated by a' man of no small, gifts that the Spanish-American war could not take place, but the Maine was blown up about two days afterwards, and the war followed very rapidly. Now there have been other rumours of war which fortunately never developed into actual hostilities. I dare say we all remember the thrill of anxious interest which went through the country after President Cleveland's famous message, and it could be hardly stated that the arbitration on this subject of the Alaskan Boundary was so entirely a peaceful thing as it promised to be. It stirred up a certain amount of feeling which it will take a long time to make quiescent again. Then there was some talk of the purchase of an island on our Eastern coast, and what was that chilly whisper that has come down from Hudson's Bay.
There are advocates of arbitration who may believe in the possibilities of war and who are compelled to assume the duty of arbitration from fear of war. There was the picturesque figure of the Czar of all the Russias, who a short time ago had such a great army, and who showed himself before the world as the friend of peace, but the light which was presently thrown on that picturesque figure was a very lurid one, for he was plunged into a disastrous war and he fell with very much more disastrous results to himself as a procurator of war than if he had spent the time which he lavished upon his hobby in careful, thoughtful, Japanese-like preparations for a possible war which, perhaps, he did not honestly wish to provoke; and he would have a very much more contented realm than he now attempts to rule over. After that famous Venezuelan message which has been referred to, Canada purchased a number of very efficient horse artillery guns. It is true it has been suggested recently that when the weather is overcast we should get under that generous and limitless canopy of the doctrine of Monroe, but I notice that the Minister of Militia, who suggested that it was cheaper to subscribe to the doctrine of Monroe than to get money to build a Navy, has succeeded in getting a great deal of money for the purpose of building drill-sheds and armouries!
Then the recent wars and the indications of possible wars show us, I think, that the time may come when Canada will not be able to maintain the position merely of an onlooker. It is true, since 1813, we have lived practically in a condition of peace, though there have been outbreaks which I should not wish to minimize on account of the heroism and patriotism displayed on the occasion of those outbreaks; but at the same time there has been no real war in Canada throughout the whole length and breadth of the land. I contend that a war in which we would take a prominent part, or a lesser part, is eminently possible if you look at the condition of Europe today. I ask you to, contemplate the unrest in Russia today; it is like a cauldron that is boiling and it is liable to boil over and somebody will get scalded and there will be trouble. And this Moroccan question, how feverish is the feeling in that momentous conclave. Then what an element of unrest is centred in the personality of the Emperor William of Germany. The newspapers are capable perhaps of exaggeration in outlining the eccentricites of the great Emperor, but we can suppose that a man possessing the enormous egotism of this man may, through that egotism, bring about results as disastrous as did Napoleon and, as the personality of Napoleon plunged the whole of Europe in disastrous wars and changed the balance of power in the world, I say that the personality of that singular individual, Emperor William, may bring about a condition of things where wars and a series of wars would be the result.
Now the question, should the various parts of the Empire participate in a conflict which is the more immediate interest of one particular part, has, it seems to me, been already answered on the battlefields of South Africa, and where the appeal is deep and strong enough the various Colonies or parts of the Empire will inevitably feel the necessity of lending a helping hand to that portion of the Empire which is in immediate danger and the honour and the safety of the whole will be intimately involved with the fate of the one particular part.
Colonel Mason's paper is very comprehensive and while I recognize, as I am sure you all do, the great usefulness of the various items and the significance of the various plans of defence which he has suggested to us, I find it impossible, after the manner of the debaters in Parliament or after the manner of those legal gentlemen whose custom it is, to make anything like an impromptu comment, or to in any sufficient manner weigh the suggestions he has made. I noted with very great interest the stress which he laid upon the contributions of Australia in the direction of naval protection. I think Australia, our neighbour Colony, was responsible in leading the way in Empire contribution, although it does not seem to be the most obvious duty of Canada to contribute in a naval way, inasmuch as we have a comparatively small sea-board compared with our enormous land frontier, and while it does seem right that we should make some effort to exhibit our interest in the defence not only of our own shores but our neighbour's shores which may be attacked, I am perhaps more competent to refer to that part of our duty which lies upon the land-the military part which Canada should play
I very much liked Colonel Mason's idea of the revival of the old condition of things whereby intelligent men could be trained without going through a great deal of red tape and without going to the expense of investing in costly uniforms. Today all branches of the Military Service are scientific. I remember the branch which I had the honour of playing a small part in was considered one of the specially scientific branches, the artillery, but, I think, the Engineers were more so, and I found that if I intended to go on the next thing for me to do was to go back to school and go through a course of higher mathematics. It does seem to me that the suggestion that was made was good that there should be a sort of system of skeleton army in Canada whereby the officers would be trained for the purpose of instruction, and the non-commissioned officers likewise trained. Then we would have a force which would not be very expensive to train or to maintain and the rank and file would be improvised and, I think, the average farmer or the average man is of a very high intelligence and it doesn't take him many weeks to become a good unit in the rank and file of any branch of the service which he may choose to associate himself with.
Colonel Mason referred to the railways and the development of the North-West, but there was one feature of those railways which he did not impress upon us. It does strike me, living as I do now in that comfortable position of the army critic and playing no part actively; it does seem to me that there is a tremendous strategic advantage in the fact that our new railways which are being built, or which are proposed, follow a route running mainly east and west in a line which is considerably north of the present line of the C. P. R. and extending our country and our means of communication northwards. One railway is now projecting itself through Abitibi up to the James Bay. Then the development of the country not only west but north gives us the means of maintaining an army in the northern country so that the case of defeat--a possible defeat--during the first hostilities on our southern frontier, will not completely annihilate us. We can move northward to our timbered fastnesses and we can fight a desperate game, too, with the forests at our back and with the provision which nature has made for us.