The Royal Navy, Ruler of the Seas

The Volunteer Corps

Although the Royal Navy was able to patrol the coasts, and although the engineers were systematically surveying the southern part of the colony, the new towns had no form of defence. The statutes of Great Britain were well and truly in force in British Columbia, 125 but because the colony had not passed any specific laws concerning the militia and volunteers there was no Sedentary Militia as there was in the eastern part of Canada. However, corps of volunteers were eventually established.

In 1859, at the time of the Pig War, 67 men suggested that a company be formed in Victoria. Governor Douglas refused because he had no weapons to give them, so they formed a company of volunteer firemen. The next year 45 Black Americans who had taken refuge in Victoria created the Victoria Pioneer Rifle Corps, which existed until 1866. In July 1861 the Vancouver Island Volunteer Rifle Corps, with two companies, one of which was an artillery company, was raised from the white population of Victoria, but it was disbanded a year later because of disagreements between the companies. In May 1864 the Victoria Volunteer Rifle Corps came into existence; it was, however, to have a longer life. 126

In New Westminster, which was founded in 1859, the need for a volunteer corps was felt only after the disbanding of the detachment of Royal Engineers in 1863. In January of the following year the New Westminster Volunteer Rifles were raised. In June 1866 a corps of approximately 60 men, called the Home Guards, as well as the Seymour Artillery Company, named in honour of the colony's governor, were founded. The latter received its first two field guns the following year. Most of these volunteer artillerymen were former Royal Engineers who had settled in New Westminster. 127

Thus in the mid-nineteenth century, thanks to the Royal Navy, the Hudson's Bay Company, a few British military detachments, and units of Canadian volunteers, British North America, which was destined to become Canada, was able to extend and maintain its sovereignty over an immense expanse of land, both to the north and to the west of the Great Lakes. However, the most worrisome threats during what was perhaps the most turbulent decade in the history of North America would rise in the east.