A Semi-Autonomous Defence (1871-1898)

The Militiaman and His Training

Conditions of Militia Service

Daily Camp Pay by Rank

Caption: Daily Camp Pay by Rank

Apart from these rare moments, which were often nonexistent in rural battalions, the volunteer had little contact with the military. People's daily lives, the many efforts to reorganize units whose companies varied in number for all sorts of reasons, the determination and enthusiasm of each unit's captain being its main source of motivation, the lack of interest in the highest reaches of political life - all of these factors conspired to make the volunteer a being apart, poorly supported by a society that was far from militaristic. For those units that participated, the North-West Campaign changed all this, but the dullness of routine quickly reasserted itself after their return to quarters.

The militiaman serving in a headquarters was paid $1 a day if he was an officer and 50¢ - climbing to 60¢ in 1876 - for all other ranks. Men attending camp were subject to daily scales based on their ranks that showed little variation between 1868 and 1898. It is well to remember that a day labourer in the mid-1870s earned about $1 a day, and even more in summer and fall, when militia camps were normally held.

In the wake of serious budget cuts, unpopular restrictive measures could not be avoided. Rations were free for everyone until 1875, when the decision was made to increase daily pay by 10¢ but to charge everyone for meals. The men were no longer paid for their days travelling to and from the camps or for the Sundays they spent in camp. In 1883, to stem general discontent, payments for these days were resumed. With the economic situation improving, staff officers were now paid for 15 days and company commanders for 12. That same year, the pay for soldiers serving in headquarters was also adjusted to reflect their ranks.

Even though officers in the Permanent and Non-Permanent Militia were better paid than their troops, they too needed a certain capacity for self-sacrifice to agree to serve their country. An officer-candidate for the Non-Permanent Militia had to ponder the uncertainty of his future status. After all, he was required to purchase his own uniform and provide his own barracks furnishings, and when he went on a course he had to be able to get away for 57 days to obtain his 2nd Class certificate or for 72 days to get a 1st Class certificate. Of course he was expected to be able to take dictation accurately and to keep accounts. 5 And afterwards, in a number of units, his pay or a large portion thereof would go to the regimental fund. All the same, the company captain was given $40 over and above his camp pay for keeping the weapons and uniforms of his men. Battalion commanders received $100 a year against expenses incurred in the performance of their military duties (stationery, postage, recruiting advertisements in the newspapers, and so on), and a further $100 if they added a band (always a draw at annual camps), as well as $40 per company to cover pre-camp training. This latter amount, however, was generally used for other activities: the band, the regimental fund, or else the commander would simply appropriate it for services rendered.

Additional Images

Officer at summer training camp, Canadian Artillery, 1890s