Training: System

The Canadian Army trained according to the principles and guides of the British Army, as set out in a number of pre-war publications. Yesterday’s first snippet from Training and Manoeuvres Regulations, 1913, is followed immediately by the emphatic statement that “The principles that should guide our forces in war are given in Field Service Regulations, Part I, and it is on the principles and requirements therein laid down that all our training must be based.” (page 9)

Other relevant titles produced by the General Staff of the War Office included Infantry Training, Field Service Regulations, and Field Artillery Training, all 1914. Reference has already been made to the Manual of Physical Training of 1908; a Manual of Field Engineering was published in 1911.(1)


military booksThus there was no shortage of standard textbooks to be consulted by those responsible for training Percy and his fellows. And if Percy’s experience was anything like that of 21st Battery, recruited in Montreal in late 1914, he was subjected to regular lectures – “repeated so the lessons would sink in” – on such topics as “Discipline and Interior Economy,” “Military Law,” “Ammunition,” and later, “Map Reading,” Battery Tactics,” and “Emplacements and Concealment.” (2)

Though the standard textbooks were pre-war, the training they laid out was modified by the pressures of building an army from wartime volunteers, and by the experience of the Western Front.

About the same time as the 21st Battery was being lectured in Montreal, Captain Arthur Birchall of the 7th Royal Fusiliers, who had been an exchange officer with the Canadian militia in 1913-1914, published Rapid Training of a Company for War. Birchall saw the challenges of “turning ordinary civilians into disciplined fighters” — he had seen them first hand with militia training — but felt sure that they could be met by a combination of “efficient training tempered with a good dose of common sense.” (3)

And lessons from the trenches began to be brought back: Some Notes on the Minor Tactics of Trench Warfare by B.C. Battye noted the requirement of closer co-operation between engineers and infantry when war bogged down in the mud and trenches that were anything but temporary. (4)

(1) Iarocci, Andrew. Shoestring Soldiers: The First Canadian Division at War, 1914-1915. Toronto: 2008. 32
(2) Grout, Derek. Thunder in the Skies. A Canadian Gunner in the Great War. Toronto, 2015. 42
(3) Iarocci, 34
(4) Iarocci, 33

The image shows one of more than twenty pages included in the Training and Manoeuvre Regulations listing military titles issued under the authority of His Majesty’s Stationery Office.

Copyright 2016. See “About this project.”

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