While I’m trying to get caught up on my reading, I thought I would provide background on this Canadian Military Police Corps (CMPC) history project. Additionally, I wanted to provide what questions I am hoping to answer, or rather, where is this whole thing going anyway.
As stated in the first post, I purchased a news spread of Rockcliffe Camp as a Thank You gift. The honored persons are retired Ontario Provincial Police. So, I thought it would be a good gift when I saw the photos of the CMPC trainers. However, I didn’t want to leave them with just the photo. I wanted to provide some context to the men in the photo.
As I was just starting to learn about the depots, training pipelines and flow of men from Canada to the front in France, Richard Holt’s book, “Filling the Ranks”, was released. I haven’t finished reading it, but it has provided very fascinating insights. The book covers a lot of the larger issues on recruiting and manpower in Canada during WWI. Interestingly enough, Holt didn’t address enforcement, but he did address, in general terms, the shift from voluntary to conscription (Military Service Act, 1917).
Holt highlights the recession in Canada in 1914 and 1915 as one of the reasons for success in rapidly recruiting. From personal experience, economy ebbs and flow are major influences on military recruiting. In Ontario, Paul Maroney added to this with a study on how a “decentralized recruiting system produced an impressive propaganda campaign by drawing on the intellectual and cultural norms of the prewar decades.” These systems appeared to have worked well enough for the early years of the way. By 1917, though, social and economic conditions changed to the point where voluntary enlistment was not able to meet political promises.
Borden started off with a promise of 150,000 which was increased to 600,000 by 1917. (NOTE: I’m still trying to track down the sources and announcements for these numbers.) Holt breaks down the difficulty and realities of these numbers quite effectively. The recession turned around by 1916 with the influx of war contracts. The dead printed in newspapers and the wounded returning home from battles like Ypres. These factors started to erode on the majority’s will.
Additionally, there was difficulty with some of the minority factions. Quebec seems to have had a long standing issue with conscription. Quebec was called out twice in the report on the Operations of the Military Service Act. First, All recruiting outside of Quebec was stopped on August 1, 1918 in order for Quebec to meet quota, which happened on Oct 3. Second, there is a whole section on “hostility to the Military Service Act”. Large parts of Quebec were identified as being “energetically opposed to compulsory military service.” Furthermore, two articles, written by Brown and Sanders respectively, add to the narrative of the growing social backlash.
Interestingly enough, there are hints of conflict within Sir Robert Borden between the promises and realities. After his return from visiting wounded Canadians in hospitals in England, he appears to take a more aggressive role in demanding information from England. He also seems to struggle with the idea of conscription. However, this is based upon preliminary review of the documents.
While I’m trying to sort out the recruiting picture, I intend to move on to the CMPC force structure and responsibilities beyond MSA enforcement. I really want to know more about the office in New York City.
1. Maroney, Paul, ” ‘The great adventure’: The context and ideology
of recruiting in Ontario, 1914-17″; The Canadian Historical Review ; North York Vol. 77, Iss. 1, (Mar 1996): 62-98. (https://doi.org/10.3138/CHR-077-01-03)
2.LtCol Machin, “Report on the Military Service Act”; Ottawa King’s Printer; 1919; pg 3, (https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uiug.30112049607077;view=1up;seq=37)
3. ibid. pg 25
4. Brown, Lorne, “Canada’s Legacy in WWI The Great War: A Crime Against Humanity”; The Canadian Dimension ; Vol. 48, Iss. 6 (Nov/Dec 2014) (https://canadiandimension.com/articles/view/the-great-war-a-crime-against-humanity)
5. Sanders, Richard. “WW I: Slave labour camps and other extraordinary renditions”. CCPA Monitor. Dec2014/Jan2015, Vol. 21 Issue 7, p48-49. 2p. (https://www.policyalternatives.ca/sites/default/files/uploads/publications/National%20Office/2014/12/Monitor_Dec2014-Jan2015.pdf)