Canada had nothing in the way of an Army Force prior to World War I or World War II. Because we did not have any armed forces the Canadian Governments of the time and our military minds of the time scrambled to find equipment and men.
WORLD WAR I
When war was declared by Canada against Germany we had 3,110 men in the Army with 684 horses, and 393 officers and ratings in the fledgling Navy and we had no Air Force. The Non Permanent Active Militia trained 55,000 men during 1913. Canadian officials felt satisfied that they had improved their organization and training. During 1913 the Militia in Eastern Canada was reconstituted by divisions so we could quickly go to a wartime footing. The 10 eastern Military Divisions became Divisional Areas with 6 being infantry divisions and 4 being cavalry brigades. The Western Canada Districts remained and had 3 cavalry brigades. When the war began Canada has 12 Staff College trained officers. There was concern the Militia numbers should be increased to 60,000 raising the training standards and getting sufficient stocks of equipment, arms, ammunition, clothing and reserve stores that would be then issued when war broke out. At this time the training period for men living in the cities was 16 days with 4 days at summer camp. the Rural training was 12 days at a summer camp. The number of personnel had now increased to where they could not be equipped properly. New units were being equipped with material for older units. Canada had 200 modern guns and motor vehicles and wagons pulled by horses were lacking. Any clothing available was old and obsolete. Canada had to depend on London - England to get all that was needed from United Kingdom factories. By the summer of 1914 the Canadian Militia numbered 77,323 of all ranks and there were 17,410 horses. Our Canadians were being sent to war with very inferior weapons, equipment and clothing.
By 1914 the 6 divisions did not have enough arms and equipment. The order went out by the Minister of Militia - Sam Hughes to all commanders of the Canadian Militia that volunteers were to be 18-45 years of age and have a high standard of musketry. This was a slow process and things were then changed by Ottawa that units go back to their normal positions. By the time the Canada's First Contingent embarked from Quebec for overseas Valcartier at 12,428 acres was the only place available for training.
As the personnel arrived at Valcartier most of the 1,500 officers had qualified as officers at military schools of instruction there was diversity in the training. Many of the men had no military training or experience. The Minister of Militia wanted the Canadians overseas sooner than later. This policy limited the time for training which was further shortened by interruptions. There was no organization within the units assembled. The men had to have their medicals, their shots, be attested and receive their clothing and equipment depending on whether the manufacturers had sent everything. This made training confusing because of the changes in structure, location and command of the assembled units were assigned. All the arms and services were engaged in elementary / foot drill / rifle exercises. To begin getting the men in shape there were route marches and physical training. The total number of instructors was 80 so unit commanders became responsible for arranging the training programmes. Daily Rations: Salt / pepper, 1 ounce oil, 1 ounce of tea, 1/3 ounce of coffee, i ounce cheese, 2 ounces jam, 2 ounces of butter, 1 1/4 pounds of bread, 2 ounces of beans, 6 ounces of fresh vegetables, 1 pound of potatoes, 1 pound pf fresh meat and 1 cubic foot of wood. By August 26, 1914 there was 1,500 targets in place stretching 2 1/2 miles and they began to use the Ross rifle for target shooting with 7 battalions in the field at a time. By September 19 most had fired the prescribed classifications, numbering 50 rounds at 300 yards. There was no time for any advanced or specialized training.
To date Canada had produced only enough material to outfit her Militia. The men in the Militia had to provide their own boots, shirts and underwear. When war was declared there was no large stocks, equipment, clothing or stores required for overseas service. Contracts were signed on August 10 to clothe 50,000 men by September 21. In less than two weeks the wool had to be woven into clothing, leather was needed to produce boots and horse harnesses. Ross Rifle: The Ross Rifle was what the Minister of Militia avidly supported and most of the 1st Contingent were equipped with the Ross Rifle MkIII. The Minister of Militia - Sam Hughes put his profits ahead of the lives of our Canadians. I believe he did so with the wagon issue, the clothing issue , the "McAdam" shovel and who knows what else. The Ross Rifle was more accurate than the Enfield and some snipers liked it but overall it was a substandard gun. The Ross Mk II alone had 80 modifications and some included the barrel length to 30". It was 9 lbs and too heavy for the battlefield, the total length was 60" and far too long, the bayonet fell off when it was fired, the magazine was designed poorly, the feeding mechanism prevented rapid fire, and the bolt often jammed in dirty conditions. By the summer of 1914, 12,000+ out of an order of 30,000 had been manufactured. Machine guns: They had only 20 Colt machine guns when they sailed and the War Office in London could not provide the Vickers light machine guns. Some were shipped overseas in the following months. Wagons was another issue as there only a few horse drawn vehicles in the Militia so farm wagons from eight different manufacturers were bought. Heavy units numbered 455 and light numbered 398 which was to cause serious issues later with maintenance. Once these wagons were overseas or in the field it would be very difficult to find spare parts and then get them to the front as all parts would be coming from North America. These wagons were found to be not suited for ride and drive work. The British harnesses were superior to the Canadian harnesses. The wagons were replaced with British wagons. The same issue was taking place in the mechanized vehicles which had to be bought from five manufacturers for 113 vehicles. As with the wagons once these vehicles were in the field and spare parts were required the parts would have to come from various North American manufacturers. Two types of Canadian vehicles once in England developed serious defects and these were replaced by British vehicles. They needed to get a hold of 7,000 riding / artillery/ draught horses. They purchased 8,150 horses for an average cost of $172.45. Some were unfit and sold for $54. Another Sam Hughes fiasco was the the "McAdam" shovel which was designed to be a shield and entrenching tool with a blade 81 x 91 inches and made of steel 3/16" thick, This was supposed to stop an enemy bullet from 300 yards. It was stuck into the ground if used as a shield on a 4" handle. There was a hole in the shield for the infantry to shoot through. These were useless and much too heavy for a man to carry over the battlefield. Eventually all of these items were scrapped for $1,400 as scrap. Footwear for the infantry was from a pattern used by the Canadians in the Boer War of South Africa and not the boot used by the British because it was felt they were too heavy. It was found the Canadian boot would not hold up on the British terrain. Marching took place on metal roads and the boots were always wet from the mud and constant rain. The policy was one pair of boots per man so he never had a chance to take them off and dry them so dobbin could be applied to waterproof them and then the boot stitching rotted. A pair of Canadian boots lasted 10 days. Web equipment was taken overseas by 5 battalions and the rest brought the obsolete Oliver web was rejected as it could not carry sufficient ammunition , it could not carry the entrenching tool and the wearer was being cut under his arms. New webbing was issued to 7 battalions. The Minister of Militia - Sam Hughes had a great deal of his equipment rejected and replaced by superior British equipment and from 1916 until the end of the war Canadian manufacturers conformed to British standards and the result was a much improved product.
The Salisbury Plain
The Canadians once they were overseas went to the Salisbury Plain which was an area of 90 square miles. The artillery and rifle ranges were substantial in scope. At the beginning of November 1914 thirteen weeks of training began with the infantry spending a lot of time on physical fitness, musketry training, foot and arms drilling along with entrenching drills. The Canadians learned that the German forces were astounded at how quickly the British could deliver their rifle fire. The Canadians then did extensive training by drilling the troops on rapid fire techniques Both the rifle range and the artillery range were deficient and this resulted in the Canadians and British jostling for time on the ranges. The infantry were able to fire 155 rounds each and the artillery batteries had one week of training after firing 50 rounds. Accommodation: For the Canadians it was bell tents. There were 1,000s of tents, marquees and kitchen shelters had been constructed. There were a total of 4 Canadian Camps. The Canadians tried to build huts, but winter arrived and the contractors were not able to keep up. The Canadians were then asked to supply carpenters, bricklayers and unskilled labour and quickly 900 men were building huts instead of training. Now it came to the health of the Canadians being affected resulting in the billeted in homes of nearby villages. Weather: Once the 1st Contingent had totally arrived on the Salisbury Plain it rained 89 out of 123 days. There was no escaping the wet and the damp conditions and the situation began to get progressively worse. At times it was below the freezing mark, cold winds passed through the flimsy tent fabric and the tents had no stoves and gale force winds flattened the tents. There was mud as far as a man could see and because there was chalk just below the surface the water had no place to go. All attempts at constructing drainage failed. The weather was also seriously affecting the horses and their rain soaked blankets did not provide them any protection but by end of January the situation had considerably improved. Troops: The weather had made training fatiguing and the men wallowed through mud and slime all day had no means to dry their clothing so they just kept wearing their wet clothing. There were those that tried their best to make things better for the men when they had a day off. There were parcels of food, clothing, and tobacco arriving from Canada and these were very much welcomed. The YMCA provided reading material along with stationary and operated refreshment centres. Canteens were opened in the camps and the men were forbidden to go into the nearby villages to drink. Health: The camps the Canadians used on the Salisbury Plain were not at all fit for training. The sick lists were growing and the medical staff was become anxious and worn out. Many were suffering from sore throats, violent coughing, and other ailments brought on by having to exist in the rain, the wind and the mud. Many did not survive the Salisbury Plain training and now rest in the local cemeteries of Wiltshire. The training began at home and totaled 12-14 days depending if you lived in a urban area or a rural area. The total training period at Valcartier was estimated to be about 6 weeks and the training on the Salisbury Plain was estimated to be about 4 months. The First Contingent were the guinea pigs as the above states but it is thought that as time passed the training would have improved substantially over the next few years. For the First Contingent their training would begin at the front lines and they were not prepared whatsoever.. For the Canadian Corps as well their training would begin on the front lines and during 1915, 1916 and into the spring of 1917 mistakes would be made and they would learn from that. It then made them into the crack troops of the Allied Armies from Vimy Ridge in April 1917 until November 11, 1918. Britain certainly did not do its part in fulfilling it obligation to Canada for the training of the Canadians.
It is now 1939 and 21 years since the guns fell silent in November of 1918 to end World War I. Surely, some government would have taken notice of the rise of Adolf Hitler and if so why was the world so silent?
WORLD WAR II
Canada has never been a military nation but even so your available manpower must be a priority within the military. When forced to go to war we do and we are the best on the battlefield. When Germany invaded Poland the Canadian Army consisted of one division with a second in reserve. On August 1, 1939 the Permanent Force numbered 4,261. The Non Permanent Active Militia numbered 51,418. The battalions and regiments of the 1939 Active Service Force were from the Militia and wore the badges and the titles of their regiments that the public has long been familiar with. On September 6, 1939 the Active Service Force was at 22,878 and on September 24 the number was 56,534 and at the end of the month it stood at 61,497. The numbers of the Royal Canadian Navy stood at 3,500 men of all ranks and 6 ocean going ships. The Royal Canadian Air Force had 4,061 personnel and 206 older aircraft. Since World War I the Canadian Army had become more mechanized with the result being that having an education was more important than previously. The Canadian Government and the universities together designed a program with regulations affecting students and the wider role of universities in a wartime footing. The Canadian Army and other services needed doctors, dentists, scientists, chemists, accounts, teachers, engineering ministers, agriculture and for men with trained intelligence and disciplined minds up to fundamental and specialized training. During the war university students in uniform combine their new stream-lined studies with military training. During the academic year they would have 110 hours of intramural training along with 2 weeks of summer training camp. The Canadian Officers Training Corps was much better established than 20 years previous increased dramatically in 1939-40. There are two ways of training which are individual and collective. Individual training covers basic, trades, leadership and other useful training such as Driver. Collective training covers platoon, companies, regiment, brigade or division. Individual training: Most men did not have any basic training and their training was in all probability was done in a group formation. Only a small number of Canadians went overseas in 1939 and they were regulars of the Permanent Force. Many stayed back in Canada to train the enlisting men. In 1939 much of the training was from World War I and very outdated and the Canadian First Division until 1940 concentrated on WWI doctrine and trench training on the Salisbury Plain. The Second Division did not go overseas until late summer of 1940 and trained at Valcartier and Camp Shilo. Their training had been hindered by transport shortages, weapons shortages, uniform shortages and equipment shortages. During 1940-41 the Canadians in the United Kingdom were the only armed forces available and their duties were coastal defence and this was because the British Army at Dunkirk had to leave all their equipment in France. Training changed in 1942 when "Battle Drill" was introduced and this focused on individual and small unit collective training which was very similar to an actual unit would do in battle. In a very short period of time entire battalions began to cycle through the battle drill schools in two week cycles.
Description of Battle Drill Training
- how to react when under enemy fire - there are 10 men marching in unison with arms swinging and rifles at the slope. The instructor screams "Under Fire" and the men halt and they turn to face the enemy. Then they order arms and stand at ease. The instructor yells "Rifle group, follow me" and when he screams "fire" the men come to attention, which is indicating that they are firing. The next order is "Rifle group engage - right flanking - Bren group over there" and the Bren group stand at ease and they are no longer firing, turn right and double off to the flank and then halt and then turn to face the enemy. The order comes "Down, Crawl, Observe, Fire", and snap to attention. The next order is "Rifle group, follow me" and the men stand at ease to show they are not firing and then they double off behind the commander and around behind the Bren group. They halt - and then they go through the whole process again. Finally, they have reached the last position, the commander screams "Charge" and away go the riflemen , rifles at the hip, bayonets are fixed and the commander yells 'Bullets, bullets, bullets" to show that they are firing.
This sounds totally insane, but it impressed the system in the mind, until civilians who are in uniform could be relied upon to snap into it when cold, tired, scared, disoriented and under real enemy fire from very real enemies.
This demonstrates several things - that at the most basic level Battle Drill could be an exercise on the Parade Square. - the order "Down, Crawl, Observe, Fire" is more than just a motto and many Canadian regiments mention this phrase in their histories and this was driven into the minds of infantrymen who would use it on the field of battle.
- when taking enemy fire - DOWN and immediately go to ground to present less of a target. - CRAWL to a position of cover and away from the spot you went to ground. - OBSERVE to see where the enemy is firing from. - FIRE onto the enemy.
the men had to be taught to work in two groups with the Bren gun being one and the infantry the other. ideally, one group would provide covering fire, to distract and inflict damage onto the enemy, while the other group exposing themselves and closing the range to the enemy. The commander would have to instantly be aware of any cover and then give the appropriate orders .
Once the men had mastered basic battle drills, the next step was platoon training where three sections would act effectively.
Battle Drill training
- Those who witnessed the Battle Drill demonstation quickly adopted the format.
- Battle Drills came to include more than the drills themselves. Soldiers were put into uniforms and full battle kit and made to double time everywhere they went. Battle innoculation became part of the Battle Drill training, where live ammunition was fired all around them and over them and with the addition of simulated artillery fire and grenades . Some troops were taken to slaughter houses, or else made to run obstacle courses covered in blood and animal entrails, on order to make them used to the sign of blood and gore. The obstacle courses along with the speed marching and this contributed to "hardening training" - turning soft civilians into tough soldiers.
- They had to be taught the art of war - how to fight the contact battle - offensive action in fluid conditions - the set piece attack - re-organization, and holding the ground gained - the counter-attack - the night attack - the dusk attack - forcing the passage of obstacles Once the Canadians were in Europe British General Montgomery inspected the Canadian units and gave his opinion quickly. During the raid on Dieppe the Fifth Canadian Brigade was tasked with providing a Company of the Black Watch and a Platoon from the Calgary Highlanders who were the prime unit in favour of the "Battle Drill" and supported it heavily. The Fourth and Sixth Brigades were the main Dieppe task force and they were badly beaten and were in no way ready for combat.
Battle Drill Fate
- The British placed the former commander of the British 47th Division to train the infantry and a Lt- Col was in charge of the newly formed General Headquarters Battle School. Battle schools were authorized for each division. For the Canadians, the Calgary Highlanders carried the Battle Drill doctrine to all Canadian units. Very soon the Canadian Army new Battle Drill School would be in Vernon - British Columbia.
- In the end, Battle Drill prepared platoons and companied for battle. The Canadian Army however would have to look beyond simple battle drill to prepare brigades and divisions for combat.
Now in Canada there were training centres in 9 provinces across the country.
Alberta: 3 Basic Training Centres 1 Canadian Army Training Corps Training Centre 1 Canadian Infantry Training Centre 1 Canadian Women's Army Corp Centre
British Columbia: 1 Officer Training Centre 2 Canadian Army Basic Training Centres 1 Canadian Engineer Training Centre
Manitoba: 2 Canadian Army Basic Training Centre 2 Canadian Artillery Training Centre 1 Canadian Infantry Training Centre 1 Canadian Paratrooper Training Centre
New Brunswick: 1 Canadian Infantry Training Centre 1 Special Officers Training Centre 2 Canadian Army Basic Training Centre 1 Canadian Army Infantry Training Centre
Nova Scotia: 2 Canadian Army Basic Training Centre 1 Coast Defence and Anti-Aircraft Artillery Advanced Training Centre 1 Canadian Infantry Training Centre
Ontario: Royal Military College 1 Officer Training Centre 13 Canadian Army Basic Training Centre 2 Non Permanent Active Militia Training Centre 1 Canadian Army Small Arms Training Centre 1 Canadian Army Women's Corps Basic Training Centre 1 Canadian Army Educational Basic Training Centre 3 Canadian Armoured Corps Basic Training Centres 1 Canadian Armoured Corps Training Establishment Centre Camp 1 Canadian Army Service Corps Training Centre 2 Canadian Artillery Training Centres 1 Canadian Engineer Training Centre 4 Canadian Infantry Training Centres 3 Canadian Infantry Basic Training Centres 2 Canadian Army Medical Corps Training Centres 1 Canadian Ordnance Corps Proving Ground Detachment 1 Canadian Ordnance Corps Training Centre 1 Canadian Provost Corps Training Centre 1 Canadian Signal Corps Training Centre 1 Advanced Driving & Maintenance School 1 Canadian Army Trades School 1 Canadian School of Army Administration
Prince Edward Island: 1 Canadian Army Basic Training Centre
Quebec: 1 Officer Training Centre 9 Canadian Army Basic Training Centres 1 Canadian Army Educational Basic Training Centre 1 Canadian Army Basic Training Centre / Canadian Officer Cadet and Basic Training Centre 1 Canadian Woman's Army Corps Advanced Training Centre 2 Canadian Infantry Training Centres 1 Canadian Machine Gun Training Centre
Saskatchewan: 3 Canadian Army Basic Training Centres 1 Canadian Reconnaissance Training Centre
The Canadian Government, the military and universities had got it right for the most part at the beginning of World War II as far as their training was concerned.