“Drill is not the end of training, but it is unquestionably the first of it.” (1) So much the first indeed that the earliest Canadian recruits had hardly been attested before they were drilling — even without uniforms.
The reason for drill’s pre-eminence, we are told, is that drill develops discipline, and discipline, according to the Commandant of the Canadian Training School, is “self control reduced to a habit.” (2)
Drilling — “the execution of movements in unison” (3) — requires attention to commands, attention to those around you, and attention to your own body. It may seem that marching around a parade square is not the most effective method of developing an army, but it was — still is — “a means of instilling in the soldier a sense of obedience and teamwork.” (4)
“Drill is of two kinds,” says the manual. Close-order drill is the first; it
teaches the formations and movements suitable to the assembly, the march, … and to ceremonial parades. In close order the troops are formed and move in accordance with the instructions laid down in this manual; the words of command are prescribed, and the rank and file have only to obey orders. (3)
That sounds easy enough, but putting it all into practice was harder, and gunners were not spared the drill established for the infantry:
Do you remember how the whole Battery used to be out of step with Stevenson, and how hard it was to get back into step with him? Even the Sergt.-Major’s copious profanity made no impression on Stevenson. (5)
(1) Barrie Pitt, quoted by Kenneth Radley in We Lead, Others Follow. First Canadian Division 1914-1918. 2006.248
(2) “Sparks from the Commandant’s Anvil. (From Notes taken during Lieut. Col. Critchley’s Lectures on Leadership). Chevrons to Stars. The Official Organ of the Canadian Training School. Bexhill, UK. [October 1917]. np
(3) Definitions. Infantry Training. London 1905.17.
(4) Bill Rawling. Surviving Trench Warfare: Technology and the Canadian Corps 1914-1918. 1992. 11
(5) Kay, Hugh, George Magee and F.A.MacLennan. Battery Action! The Story of the 43rd Battery CFA. Toronto: . 19
The image of recruits drilling at the Toronto Armories in August 1914 is from John Boyd’s First World War Photographs, City of Toronto Archives.