Unending Seige

Special Canadian Souls

In preparing to transport the 1st Canadian Division to the European continent, the senior Canadian chaplain, Richard Steacy, attempted to secure passage for his 33 chaplains, approximately one for every 1, 000 men. The British then had five chaplains per infantry division, or one for every 4,000 men. Lord Kitchener asked Sam Hughes to send fewer pastors in future and refused to allow the 33 who were in England to go to France. Steacy then proposed that he take 25 chaplains, only to be refused again by the British, who stuck to the magic number of five. The Canadians were furious.

A delegation made up of a United Church minister and a Catholic priest went to the War Office. The British maintained their resistance until the delegates stated the obvious: Canada was paying its own way and would do what it wanted. The War Office reminded them that despite the large number of chaplains accompanying the Canadian troops, their conduct on English soil was not the most refined. The response was swift.- The situation would be much worse if they were not there, claimed Pastor Frederick George Scott. Finally, the British Chaplain-General promised to intervene on behalf of the Canadian clergymen. On 2 February 1915 the British agreed to 11 chaplains for each Canadian division, a ratio that would later be applied for all British divisions.

Had the Canadians shown the way in this sector? One thing is certain: They had announced their distinct Canadian status, just as their political minister, Sam Hughes, had wished. 77