A Semi-Autonomous Defence (1871-1898)

The Defence of Canada by Canadians

Canada’s First Professional Soldiers

B Battery, Garrison Artillery, 1873

Caption: B Battery, Garrison Artillery, 1873

The lawmakers of 1868 sought to avoid upsetting Canadians, whether Anglophone or Francophone, who were largely opposed to a professional soldiery. Under the appropriate circumstances, they told themselves, the militia would rise in support of the British troops to drive out any invader. However, this assumption was challenged by the departure of the British military in the fall of 1871. To replace these soldiers, Canada immediately took moderate steps, an approach that was probably justifiable under the circumstances, since the United States was not the threat it had been four years earlier. Thus, in October 1871, even before the British garrison left Quebec City, the country established two field artillery batteries whose duties would include protecting the fortifications at Quebec City and Kingston. These few hundred men would also deliver training to the gunners and infantrymen of the Non-Permanent Active Militia. In Kingston and Quebec City, respectively, A and B batteries formed the initial nucleus of a regular Canadian army or, to use the term of the day, Permanent Active Militia. The first commander of B Battery was Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Bland Strange. He spoke French and had an impressive service record, having served in India, England, Ireland, Gibraltar and the West Indies before arriving in Quebec. He was a good choice, since B Battery (six officers with 153 non-commissioned members and men) included a number of Francophones from Quebec City's volunteer militia. This battery covered the fortifications at Quebec City, Lévis and Île Sainte-Hélène. In 1874 a detachment was sent to Grosse he as the garrison artillery. A and B batteries exchanged positions first in 1880 and again in 1885. In 1883 the new C Battery would be created and stationed in Esquimalt to defend that stretch of the west coast. The three batteries would henceforth form a regiment. In 1893 this regiment was reorganized into three field batteries and two garrison companies. The field batteries would later be combined to form the Royal Canadian Field Artillery, which in 1905 became the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery. The garrison companies would become the Royal Canadian Garrison Artillery.