The Issues Crystallize

Canada and the Imperial Connection

Canada’s Contribution to the Empire

The rise of Germany prompted Britain to concentrate more of her energies around the heart of her Empire. The initial reverses suffered in South Africa had put the admiration professed by her colonies in a more realistic perspective. There had been reforms in London as elsewhere in the Empire. The Royal Navy was recalled to European waters, and Canada agreed to assume the defence of Halifax as of 1 July 1905. It did the same for Esquimalt in 1906, if only to provide supplies for the Royal Navy when it was on the move. Halifax became Canadian in 1906; Esquimalt would not follow until 1910. The British orders in council officially authorizing this transfer of power would not be signed until October 1910 and May 1911.

In spite of the raise in basic pay from 40 cents to 50 cents per day, Canadians were disinclined to sign up for the expanded, 4,000-man force. At the outset a number of British troops ending their contracts in Canada would form part of the new Canadian garrisons at Halifax and Esquimalt, but they did not provide enough manpower to meet current need. In 1908 only 2,730 of the 4,000 permanent army positions were filled.

More than ever, Britain needed allies. The Entente Cordiale with France stands as an example of what she sought in order to manage Germany. A substantial rapprochement with the colonies was also on the agenda. At the 1902 Colonial Conference in London, Joseph Chamberlain had asked the dominions to attach some of their troops to a special imperial reserve to be placed under the orders of the British government for service anywhere in the world. Canada, along with Australia, refused to relinquish its authority. Undiplomatically, the British criticized Canada for the weakness of its defences and its meagre participation in the common cause.

This rejection would not stop Britain from returning to the charge five years later with a different approach. Now, with a less centrally minded Liberal government and with Chamberlain out of the Colonial Office, Britain was trying for maximum uniformity in the Empire's armed forces, to be ruled over by an imperial general headquarters. There would be only one navy, however, under a single command, and standardization would apply to training, organization, equipment, supplies and ammunition.

The governments attending this 1907 Colonial Conference passed a noncommittal resolution calling for the creation of an imperial headquarters, which would, without meddling in national issues, advise the governments of the Empire "as regards the training, instruction and organization for war of the military forces of the Crown." 48 This agency would collect intelligence to be disseminated to these various governments and would make defence plans based on a common principle. In London, a chief of the imperial staff would run the central headquarters. This embryonic formal alliance within the Empire closely resembled the commitments that Canada and other members of,the North Atlantic Treaty Organization would make from 1949 on.