- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 15 Jan 1914, p. 110-121
- Otter, Major. Gen. Sir William D., Speaker
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- Item Type
- The speaker's personal experience and background with the Canadian Militia over upwards of fifty years. The aim and task of this address to place before the audience this important subject in as clear and lucid a manner as possible, without bias or exaggeration or any reflection upon the many ardent and patriotic men who have served or may now be serving in the Militia force of Canada. The idea that the time is fast approaching when all national disputes will be settled by peaceful arbitration a fallacious and dangerous one. Some words from a prominent and experienced officer of the British Army with regard to the duty of every self-governing portion of Great Britain to defend itself. Some issues of war and man's natural impulse with aggrieved or oppressed. The greater our prosperity the greater the danger of loss, and the stronger the necessity for means of protection. Why nations education their sons for the service of defence. The time of real danger for Canada arising through the Mother Country becoming involved in Europe or elsewhere. Circumstances under which we shall have to depend upon our own Militia for the country's safety. The purpose for which the Militia is maintained. To what extent our Militia is prepared to alone undertake the task of repelling an invader. Figures of strength in terms of men and equipment. Numbers needed to protect Canada. Some details which endeavour to show the principal difficulties to be encountered in placing our Militia in a fit state to perform the duty required for effective defence. A discussion of each of the following: personnel; material; transport; training; discipline. Conclusions from this synopsis with regard to the readiness of the Canadian Militia in its present condition to guarantee immunity from attack or conquest by a powerful aggressor. Some suggestions for remedying our apparent neglect.
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- 15 Jan 1914
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- THE EFFICIENCY OF THE CANADIAN MILITIA FOR DEFENCE
An Address by MAJOR GENL. SIR. WILLIAM D. OTTER, K.C.B., C.V.O., before the Empire Club of Canada, 15th January, 1914.
Mr. President and Gentlemen,--I have to most cordially thank you for the honour of inviting me to address you today, but fear that disappointment may be your lot, as neither the gift nor power of imparting my ideas in a convincing form is at my disposal.
The subject selected happens to be the only one that I feel at all qualified to speak on, and if I here refer to my military services it is not with the purpose of advertising such, but solely to show you that I am not assuming a claim to knowledge without fairly good reasons.
To my lot has fallen a very close connection with the Canadian Militia for upwards of fifty years, during which I passed through all the ranks from Private to Major General; taking part in three campaigns, in each of them seeing actual fighting, besides the experience of marches in the ice and snow of our own North-West, and the heat and rains of South Africa. I know also the discomforts of the battlefield and hospitals, through wounds.
Coming to peaceful conditions, I have perhaps had mare experiences in Canadian Military Camps than any member of the force, and to these may be added various attendances at manoeuvres in England, Germany and the United States: thereby obtaining opportunities of comparing the regular and volunteer troops of those nations with our own, particularly the last named.
Thus equipped, I venture to speak publicly for the first time upon "The Efficiency of the Canadian Militia for Defence," although I have twice made official reports upon lines similar to those I shall now express.
My sole aim is to place this important subject before you in as clear and lucid a manner as my capability will permit; without bias or exaggeration or any reflection upon the many ardent and patriotic men who have served, or may now be serving, in the Militia force of Canada.
The task before me is by no means an easy one, as any remarks that savour of encouragement to a military spirit are likely to be met by strong opposition in many quarters, probable criticism, and mayhap ridicule.
The idea that the time is fast approaching when all national disputes will be settled by peaceful arbitration appears to me an extremely fallacious one and most dangerous of adoption.
The only really safe belief is that "Peace can only be secured through ability to resist aggression," and with such conviction I feel in duty bound as a Canadian to urge to the full extent of my power the necessity for the development of our Militia in accordance with that precept.
A prominent and experienced officer of the British Army has thus expressed himself upon the Empire
"The primary duty of every self-governing portion of Great Britain is to make all reasonable provision up to the limits of its resources for defence against invasion of its own territories. If it fails, and relies rather upon its brothers over the seas than its own right arm, it is unworthy of its independence."
And again he enlarges upon the assertion by stating
"That home defence comes first, and the chief military problem which Canada has to find a solution for, is how to organize her manhood so as to give herself a reasonable security against aggression."
Against such sentiments I do not imagine any objection will be taken.
May I now approach the subject in another phase.
War is no doubt a terrible affliction, and the earnest hope that means may be found for the aversion of such a scourge, a most natural one.
But when a diagnosis is made of the composition of the human body and mind, in which the spirits of aggression, oppression and possession, with their attributes of envy, hatred and malice exist in what may be termed a predominating extent, there appears but little promise of any amelioration of the evil that is so devoutly desired.
In animals, birds, fish and reptiles are found the same traits; and can it therefore be doubted that in each case they were not so placed and ordained for a special purpose, to continue so long as this world lasts?
What is the natural impulse in either man or beast when aggrieved or oppressed? The answer is easy, to fight with the weapons which intelligence or nature has provided.
What induces the desire in man to oppress or possess? The acquisition of something that the one has and the other has not; be it in the form of land, money, metals, increasing power or numbers.
Allowing this apparent truth, it may safely be concluded that the greater our prosperity the greater the danger of loss, and the stronger the necessity for means of protection.
We see examples of this in every phase of life from the individual with his revolver near at hand during the hours of darkness or alone, to the nation with its army and navy.
Why do Australia, New Zealand and South Africa educate their sons for the service of defence? The reply is not difficult: they recognize the trend of human passions and fear aggression. Are not the same dangers to be feared for Canada? Yes, one may with safety say, doubly so.
Now, it may be asked has Canada reached a stage in which she may be classed among the rich and prosperous; likely to be thought worthy of possession, or become an object of envy by other nations?
I think that we shall all agree that very few countries equal her in resources, prospective wealth, increase of numbers and power.
Can it be assumed that Canadians have no sentiment, and will be content to serve under any flag, or be governed by any class, creed or colour, so long as permitted to individually accrue riches in ease and comfort?
I cannot place my compatriots in so low a scale of humanity as to think such is their temperament.
Lastly, I would inquire, are we so contented, happy and proud of our glorious inheritance as to strive for its retention in our own hands, and under present conditions?
Again I feel sure of your support in affirming that we are ready to fight for the continuance of our present constitution, inheritance, and flag, to the bitter end.
With such determination in view let us now analyze the situation and learn in what condition we are in to successfully maintain such a patriotic resolve.
At the present moment we have available for the purpose the Army and Navy of Great Britain and our own Militia, a combination that might naturally be thought fit to cope with any nation likely to attack us single handed.
Unfortunately, however, nations do not choose to engage in despoiling others, when the objective is strong and able to defend itself, but rather delays until the victim is under a handicap and certain to be more or less easily subjugated.
The time of real danger then for Canada will arise through the Mother Country becoming involved in Europe or elsewhere, and is unable to assist us with either Army or Navy; or only to a very limited extent. A contingency that is liable to happen at any moment, and constantly imminent.
Under such circumstances we shall then have to depend upon our own Militia for the country's safety.
As I shall now deal with the Militia only, the question may be asked: For what purpose is it maintained? The reply is: Obviously for defence: for if only to guard against internal troubles; we have been and are throwing vast sums away annually, because such bodies as the N.W.M.P. are fully capable of dealing with riots, while the personnel of the Militia is least of all adapted to such work for obvious reasons.
We are now arriving at the crucial point of my address, viz., to what extent is our Militia prepared to alone undertake the task of repelling an invader?
Its present strength is roughly 4,000 officers and 50,000 men, a total of 54,000, divided, governed and administered in accordance with the system adopted by the British Army; and for the purposes of training their strength the necessary guns, rifles, ammunition, clothing and equipment are available and serviceable.
However, no one for a moment can suppose that this comparatively small force would be found capable of holding its own against an enemy well armed, equipped, disciplined, trained, and of the strength that an invader would certainly prepare for the conquest of Canada.
It is the undeniable opinion of competent British authorities that the task of protecting Canada needs at least a force of 9,000 officers, and 250,000 men, so that after deducting our present numbers there would remain the large balance of 5,000 officers and 200,000 men to be found immediately on the outbreak of hostilities, together with a full complement of arms, ammunition, equipment and food, as well as the means of moving these necessary accessories; and then, to follow with the assembly of a Reserve of officers and men equal to half the above, from which to replace casualties occurring through death, wounds and disease; contingencies that follow in the path of war with amazing rapidity, particularly the latter.
Having so far been general in my remarks, let me now go more into detail, and endeavour to show you the principal difficulties to be encountered in placing our Militia in a fit state to perform the duty required for effective defence.
These may be classified as follows
Taking each of these subjects in rotation I will proceed to elaborate upon them in as few words as possible.
In the matter of Personnel (Officers and Men) our deficiencies and requirements have perhaps astonished you; but they are real nevertheless, and the most important factor in any scheme of defence must certainly be a sufficiency of officers and men.
In finding the men when the occasion requires, I do not think much difficulty will arise save in their training. But in the case of officers we face an apparently hard problem, for even now with our small establishment the trouble of procuring them is very great, while that of their training is much more so for the reason of the individual time and means necessary to prepare themselves for their responsible duties--when the number has to be suddenly doubled with no time available for education, the situation becomes alarming.
An officer, like a business or professional man, or a mechanic, must know his job: because in his hands are the lives of men, and if not trained to a knowledge of his responsibilities, and a preparation enabling him to meet them under varying circumstances, he is worse than useless.
I will now go on to the subject of "Material" under which is included such articles as Arms, Ammunition, Clothing, and Equipment, all of which I have intimated must be at hand when the personnel has been obtained. This, for the existing force, I admit, is available and serviceable, but with increase to war conditions the deficiency was found by General Sir Ian Hamilton at his official inspection in June last as under
Guns, 300 (60 under order).
Machine guns, 287 (50 under order).
Ammun., guns, 250,000 rds. (50,000 under order).
" small arms, 150,000,000.
Clothing (suits), 200,000.
Water bottles, 140,000.
Mess tins, 150,000.
In this list I have only noted such articles as require special manufacture and are not obtainable at a moment's notice; for blankets, rubber sheets, entrenching tools and tents, all necessary on mobilization, and more or less now short in numbers, have not been included, as they are easily procurable when needed.
My next subject is "Transport," or the means of moving supplies and stoves from rail head to the various bodies of troops in the field, for which purpose horses and mechanical transport in the form of motor-driven vehicles are the usual means.
Of the latter there are a large number, but I fear that roads fitted for their necessities are lacking, and therefore horses would likely have to be resorted to almost entirely.
Of that useful beast, the horse, there would be required alone for the transport services of our war forces at least 35,000--a small number to find, you will say, when told that there are something like 2,500,000 horses in the country.
But the difficulty that will here stare us in the face is that no system of registration is now in operation by which suitable animals could be quickly procured, or without deranging ordinary business requirements, consequently serious congestion would ensue.
I now come to the question of "Training." Under present conditions this consists of g actual days for the Cavalry and Infantry and 12 days for the other branches in each of the three years' enlistment: but as our population is a shifting one, it follows that the larger number of the men do not remain for more than two years with their units and therefore receive only from 18 to 24 days' training according to the branch to which they belong.
The importance of training for both officers and men may, in the words of an authority upon the subject, be summarized thus: "A sound system of training, like a good organization, must be built up systematically from the bottom."
In Switzerland where a militia system is adopted, the training of the recruit lasts for several weeks before he is permitted to engage in Company, Battalion or Brigade work. Again in Australia, the militiaman begins as a boy of 14, and before being considered fit to take his place in the lowest ranks of a Battalion, has had equal to 150 days. In the Territorial force of Great Britain the very least time it is considered a man can be made fit for the duties of defence is 180 days.
Compare these examples with our requirements of 36 days at most, but of which we seldom obtain more than 24, and that of a somewhat desultory character in the endeavour to give a smattering of every phase of military service, and the result is a confirmation of the adage, "A little learning is a dangerous thing," for that "smattering" creates the impression of full knowledge.
Another weakness in our training system is the lack of suitable grounds for the purpose, particularly in pastern Canada where the bulk of our forces exist. Only one such can be found up to the mark, viz., Petewawa, while for the troops centreing on London, Toronto, Kingston, Montreal, Quebec, St. John and Halifax, the practice of drill, rifle shooting and manoeuvres are restricted to areas varying from 200 to 1,000 acres in their respective neighbourhoods, a condition in itself which renders abortive any successful attempt in the efficient education of our force.
The final subject in our category of deficiencies is Discipline which has perhaps a greater bearing upon success in war than it is credited with; for without this quality victory or defeat will be equally dangerous, as in either case troops will get out of hand and the unity of the military machine disappear.
Discipline essentially means obedience to authority, and imparts a reliable courage which would be otherwise wanting to large bodies of men. In peace time laxness of discipline causes inconvenience, annoyance, and trouble; in war it means ruin and disaster.
Real discipline cannot be made to order. It must spring from a frequent practice in the art of obedience which grows by degrees into a tradition.
Any number of instances might be given you in proof of the enormous value of this trait did time permit, and for our own case, nowhere can better examples of failures through its absence be found than in the History of the Civil War in the United States.
The prominent weaknesses in the discipline of the Canadian Militia Force are not apparent on the outside, nor do they consist in the commission of serious crimes or exhibitions of rank insubordination; but rather in the evasion of duties and responsibilities, the performance of which cannot be avoided without disjointing the whole structure of military efficiency--the principal cause of this deficiency can be traced to ignorance of the danger and to the laxness of youthful training.
From my rather hasty synopsis of the situation can it be claimed that the Canadian Militia in its present condition guarantees immunity from attack or conquest by a powerful aggressor?
The situation is briefly this: Canada, rich and prosperous, with a frontier extending from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and from the 9th parallel to the North Pole, vulnerable on all sides, requires by expert computation a force of 250,000 trained officers and men, with their attendant Reserve, Arms, Equipment and Transport, to ensure her safety from aggression under probable circumstances. While against these obligations for safety her only present asset is a Militia Force of under 55,000 practically untrained and barely equipped.
The Militia Force itself has seemingly but little conception of its weakness or is lulled into a blind belief in its efficiency by the plaudits of admiring friends at a ceremonial or church parade; yet a greater evil appears in that the public, busily engaged in private affairs, remains totally unconcerned and oblivious to the dangers which its own enterprise are creating.
Is the all-important question of safety being treated as a business proposition and insurance provided against probable loss?
Are we not partaking of the habits of the ostrich who, when pursued, sticks his little head in the sand and imagines that safety for his great body is thus attained?
Would it not be better to unite with our friends who see universal peace in sight, abolish the militia and save the expense of maintaining an organization that without adequate support can only be the means of a useless waste of life?
You may ask what is the best remedy for our apparent neglect, supposing we eventually awaken to the danger of our position.
I venture to assert that the most economical and effective mode of meeting the deficiencies classed under "Personnel," "Training" and "Discipline" is by the adoption of the Australian system, that is, Compulsory Military Training in Schools and Universities; because from these sources we can secure both officers and men possessed of a fair knowledge of the rudiments of drill and discipline, thus forming a solid foundation upon which to prosecute further advancement.
Doubtless many of you will at once say: Are not our Schools and Universities now engaged in this very work?
Quite true, but under what conditions, and to what extent?
The Cadet and Officers' Training Corps are purely voluntary organizations, therefore if the parents of the boy and young man are opposed to anything in the way of military instruction, and there are many such, their sons will naturally forbear from becoming cadets.
As an example of the correctness of my contention
A return published in November last shows that only 5 percent of the boys attending schools throughout the Dominion belong to Cadet Corps. Universities assist to a less degree than even the schools in this desirable direction.
A patriotic citizen (Major Leonard) is endeavouring to encourage the prosecution of Military Training amongst the students of (queen's University by the contribution of a large sum of money for the necessary land and buildings, but why should a matter affecting the safety of the country be left alone to patriotic and public spirited individuals?
I repeat, what is necessary is compulsory education in drill and discipline for all boys at school, with the higher military education necessary for officers at the universities on similar conditions.
Such a course will likely induce the cry of "Militarism" and strong opposition; but does not every male inhabitant owe some return to his country for the air he breathes, the land that feeds him and the flag which protects him?
Is the education that will improve a lad's mental, moral and physical condition, and prepare him for the duty of defending his country if occasion arises, to be dubbed and denounced "Militarism?"
My designation for such a service is "Patriotism," and for it no other is applicable.
A word or two respecting the Reserve.
Its functions, I have said, are to supply the "waste" in officers and men, and no army would feel safe in taking the field without such a backing.
To obtain a Reserve in our case we should naturally take advantage of a clause in the Militia Act which prescribes that the whole male population between the ages of 18 and 6o is liable for military service. But in resorting to this means we should find a lamentable condition as no rolls or lists are kept of those to be detailed for this service, and as a consequence delay and confusion would ensue at a time when such could least be tolerated.
With respect to Training Areas, the acquisition of this indispensable adjunct to training will doubtless entail expense, but the outlay is fully justified, and delay will not help matters from a pecuniary point of view.
The several provinces could fairly be asked to assist in this direction.
Touching the subject of "Material."
Steps have already been taken in this country for the manufacture of small arms and ammunition; but for that of big guns and their ammunition we are obliged to depend upon Great Britain, and if she is engaged elsewhere, our own ports will likely be closed to the supply of any further assistance in that direction.
We must be self-contained.
Presuming we continue to "drift" what will be the result? In most undertakings time is an outstanding factor, but in none so important as military operations, and the nation that has not foreseen and arranged every detail for the mobilization of its forces immediately on the outbreak of hostilities will surely suffer severely for its procrastination.
Are we not cultivating the belief that we are fit and capable for any military strain coincident with invasion?
Are we not encouraging a rude awakening to find ourselves far short of such a consummation, with the result irreparable loss to us of all most dear and precious?