The Issues Crystallize
Canada and the Imperial Connection
Imperial Defence Concepts
Caption: Trooper, 19th Alberta Dragoons, circa 1912
In 1909 a special conference on imperial defence dealt with naval and military problems in terms of the basic principle of standardization. As far as possible, this uniformity was to extend from the make-up of units to the weapons they used, including their transportation. Here we find complete Canadian autonomy coupled with the quick and easy integration of Canada's forces should they have to rally to Britain's defence.
Although less obvious than it had been at the turn of the century, imperial centralization was nonetheless coming to pass. After the 1909 meeting, some British officers came to Canada to take part in the labours of the Canadian section of the general headquarters whose creation had been approved in 1907. At the same time, some Canadian officers travelled to Britain to familiarize themselves with British methods. Mobilization plans were drawn up both for defending Canada and for sending an expeditionary force overseas to assist London. Neither Laurier's resistance to all centralization nor the largely ineffectual trumpetings for imperial federation would impede this quiet integration, which would form a single school of thought. Despite the advantages of this development, factors that might deprive the Canadian soldier of his distinctive character were already in evidence. Rather than preparing for the defence of their own country - conducting winter manoeuvres, for example - Canadian militiamen were rehearsing to be as British as possible.
The Colonial Conference of 1911 revolved around the coronation of George V Relegated to second rank, military discussions focused on details arising from implementation of the decisions of 1907 and especially 1909. Beginning in 1912, the imperial general headquarters absorbed Canadian and Australian officers within the Dominions Section, an initiative that saw Canada more fully involved in the defence of the British Empire. In 1914, Canada, without being fully aware of it, was poised to expand an effort that would far exceed the wishes of its most fervent imperialists. On the one hand it was moving towards greater autonomy, while on the other hand the various colonial conferences that had been taking place since 1902 had helped to cement the Anglo-Canadian rapprochement.
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