A Decade of Turbulence

An Anglophile Militia

French Influences Quashed - British Model Imposed

Officer, Corps of Royal Engineers, circa 1865

Caption: Officer, Corps of Royal Engineers, circa 1865

However, many French Canadians showed a genuine interest in the military; of course they asked to be assigned to units that functioned in French and they demanded a "national uniform." In 1862 a grey uniform of "homespun cloth with red cuffs" 139 was suggested, but to no avail. That same year the 4th Battalion attempted to give its dark-green made-in-England uniform the look of "Chasseurs français." 140 Between 1860 and 1870 citizen committees proposed raising French-Canadian battalions wearing the Zouave uniform, a military style that originated in the French army and was spreading to many armies around the world, but the higher authorities always refused such requests. 141

Such inflexibility is inexplicable considering that Scottish Canadians were permitted to wear tartan kilts and trousers. Even the Americans had a number of Zouave regiments, one in Plattsburgh, New York. Yet there was no lack of good will on the part of French Canadians. For example, even though they generally avoided wearing the red uniform, the 17th Battalion and several other French- Canadian battalions did wear it. Even Monseigneur Bourget's paramilitary guard, which was identified with the nationalist ultramontanes, became the corps of volunteers that formed the 65th Battalion in 1868-69, a Francophone unit that nevertheless had to wait until 1904 to have its name gallicized. 142

The stubborn desire of the authorities to give a thoroughly British character to the Canadian militia finally prevailed; they created an armed force that was closely linked to British military traditions. Their faithfulness to the original model was such that it was sometimes impossible to tell a British soldier from a Canadian one. 143 The fact remains that the British model was an excellent one, and its adoption contributed considerably to the high standard of the many Canadian units that adopted the military traditions of England in a spirit of loyalty to the motherland. The policy, which was in keeping with the patriotic feelings of many Canadians in the Anglophone provinces, thus greatly enriched Canada's military heritage.