A Popular History of The Great War/Volume 1/Page 90

The home of the Lonsdale Battalion 1914-1918
Jump to navigation Jump to search


There was, it is true, a Department of Militia responsible for military matters, and at its head was a very active officer, Colonel (afterwards Major General) Sam Hughes. But Colonel Hughes's power was limited until the approach of war by the apathy of the people. There were some militia regiments, and a small regular force, but the average young man had not troubled to do militia training. The militia were little more than skeleton corps. But they were found, at the moment of emergency, to supply an invaluable groundwork on which a military organization could be built up quickly.

As it became clear that war must come, steady streams of men poured from every point to the various militia headquarters offering their services. Farmers drove in twenty and thirty miles or more, cowboys left the prairies; city men, clerks and bank cashiers, owners of prosperous businesses and mechanics–young men, middle-aged, and old–moved by one common purpose, offered themselves. The militia officers found themselves suddenly overwhelmed. There were so many recruits that they could barely record their names. Soldiering, yesterday the amusement of a few, became to-day the settled work of the nation as a whole.

Party politics usually burn with a fierce heat in Canada, and the line of cleavage between Government and Opposition, both in the Dominion and in the separate provinces, has always been clearly marked. Now, however, divisions were obliterated. Sir Wilfrid Laurier, the venerable ex-premier and leader of the opposition, called his chief adherents together and, after consulting them, publicly announced that his, the Liberal, party would lend its support without reserve to all measures deemed necessary by the government. "There should be a truce to party strife," said he, and he saw that the truce was observed. The statesmen of the several provinces echoed the same sentiment. The duke of Connaught summarised the national position–"Canada stands united from the Pacific to the Atlantic in her determination to uphold the honour and traditions of the empire." Parliament was assembled, and it unanimously resolved to raise an expeditionary force of 22,000 men, for dispatch to Europe. The Dominion government had already placed the two Canadian cruisers, the Niobe and the Rainbow, at the service of the Admiralty. The same authority paid the cost of a hospital for the wounded in Paris, and when news

← 89   ·   90   ·   91 →
(page index)