A Semi-Autonomous Defence (1871-1898)

The Militiaman and His Training

Volunteer Training

Throughout the year, and during the weeks or month immediately preceding the camps, volunteers were trained in their companies or, sometimes, at the battalion level. Their curriculum included drill and shooting practice. They learned to march, deploy in various ways, change fronts, execute movements by echelon, form lines of attack and fire at random. The training schools for officers and non-commissioned officers that proliferated after 1883 helped improve the quality of this kind of training.

The courses they offered lasted three months and concluded with a series of tests comprising some 40 questions dealing with manoeuvres, 10 with weapons and internal economy, and 20 with the articles of war, the Militia Act and the regulation for calling up troops in aid of the civil authorities. The written examination lasted six hours and concluded with a one-hour oral exam administered at camp. Books, notes and conversation were banned during the written test and no one could leave the room. The examiner gave three points for perfect answers, two for partly correct answers and zero for wrong answers. Candidates had to obtain two thirds of the maximum score to pass. One interesting provision in the regulation covering the courses tells us something about the real value some people attached to them: 11 corps commander or military doctor who sends a candidate to a course when he cannot read or is infirm shall pay for his return trip.” 6

Candidates for the Permanent Militia were required to take courses as well. A young man could hold a temporary commission but could not be officially accepted without passing a series of tests. For artillery candidates, the courses and tests dealt with ballistics (theory and practice), dynamic and static calculations, the resistance of materials, equipment, field artillery (theory and practice), the pieces used in garrison or in the field, aiming, firing, and use of the tackle, gin and crane. The RMC also offered a three-month introductory course on surveying, bridge-building in the field, demolition, land and underwater mines, and basic strategy and tactics. Elements of military law and administration appeared in subsequent promotion examinations. After this, the young officer returned to one of the batteries, where he was taught to assemble and work the guns. All told, he was required to progressively serve in all the positions held by his men in order to achieve a full understanding both of their duties and of his field gun - generally a rifled, muzzle-loaded 9-pounder firing ordinary shells, shrapnel, point-detonating and air-burst fuses and canister shells.

Mess life was pleasant but difficult. In winter, a wood stove heated the room, but in the Quebec Citadel, for instance, there was only one running-water outlet to serve everyone, and it was located in the basement. Light was provided by kerosene lamp in the mid-1880s, and the privies were outdoors. 7 Furthermore, unless he was of independent means, the married officer with children might face some anxious moments. While attending a six-month training course in England in 1893, Oscar Pelletier left his family with his father, for his pay was insufficient to support them during his absence. 8