Unending Seige

Canada’s Participation in the War

Canada’s Army at War

In August 1914, with some 3,000 professional soldiers and 60,000 men in the Non-Permanent Active Militia, the army was far from representing a threat to the Central Powers. Canada was able to manufacture ammunition for personal weapons along with artillery shells and some small arms, but its usable armaments could hardly equip two divisions, and military aviation was nonexistent.

Though Canada was automatically at war, it was up to Canadians to decide what its effort would be. Precedents going back to 1867 indicated what route it should take. Voluntary enlistment would be the basis for recruiting the forces to be sent overseas. In a miscalculated fit of imperialism, however, all these volunteers would be sent into battle, with new divisions being created over the months rather than reserve troops used to make up losses. By late 1915 enthusiasm for the front was flagging, and, beginning in 1917, the numbers of volunteers enlisting each month were no longer sufficient to offset casualties. Thus conscription followed, and it caused deep wounds that would never completely heal.