The Issues Crystallize

Canadian Military Life After South Africa

The Military Lessons of the War

Head nurse in winter uniform, Canadian Nursing Service, circa 1908

Caption: Head nurse in winter uniform, Canadian Nursing Service, circa 1908

The lessons learned in South Africa would be useful. In particular, the experience would revive Canadians' interest in their militia and, for some, pride in their army. Canada itself would turn away from its focus on territorial defence to a gradual involvement in world affairs.

There was nothing to indicate that the conflict might be a prelude to Canadian participation in a European war, but in some respects it had been just that, including the opposition between French and English Canadians. In 1914-18 the leaders, and their arguments and political tactics, would be similar to those of 1899-1902.

The main shortcomings noted in the Canadian militia during that war had to do with planning and supply, particularly the replacement in units of men lost or concluding their contracts. There were also the improvised medical services. Some of these matters were corrected with the establishment of, in 1899, the Militia Medical Service and, in 1904, the Canadian Army Medical Corps. In 1903 the Corps of Royal Canadian Engineers appeared under the aegis of a former RMC officer cadet, Lieutenant-Colonel Paul Weatherbe. That same year saw the appearance of the supply service, the Canadian Army Service Corps and the Guides and Signals Corps. The Headquarters Corps of Military Staff Clerks appeared in 1905 and the Canadian Pay Corps in 1906, though the Pay Corps was not officially operating until 1 July 1907, with 33 members of all ranks. In 1913 the Canadian Officer Training Corps had its beginnings in various universities across the country.

During this period, budgets increased, as did maximum volunteer militia recruitment and daily pay for camp. Extensive properties were purchased for training, including Petawawa, and exercises were resumed. In 1899 new rifles and guns were purchased. Training standards and officer promotion criteria were reviewed, while the army adopted more practical field uniforms.