In historical accounts, protestant, Orangeman Hughes the Imperialist, is depicted as a bigot, bipolar, scruple, out of control madman, a figment of his own personified imagination, while championed by his entourage, cohort cronies, compensated in militia honorary commissions, or political favours. Elected to parliament in 1892, for Hughes this was the status quo, plagued by corruption, collusion, coercion, scandals, and gross political errors, despised in French Ontario and Québec. In the outbreak of the Second South African War, known by other names, while Sir Wilfrid Laurier dragged his heels, as Robert L. Borden Minister of Militia and Defence argued the matter in September replying, “I do not favour at all the scheme,” Lt.-Col. Samuel Hughes, offered to raise a battalion for service in South Africa. Hughes a NPAM officer was critical and scrutinised PAM, PF, especial British regular army officers, his offer in raising a force was rejected. Considering his demented demeanour, bluntly refused command, or commission in 2 RCRI first contingent, however allowed in an unofficial instructional capacity to accompany, while in South Africa, Hughes in the Karroo expedition, received an appointment with Brig.-Gen. Herbert Settle’s flying column. For a short time Sam, was considered a competent, front-line officer; however his arrogant hot-headed nature hastily surfaced, which caused friction and grief with British officers and file. Hughes convinced British command, lacked military tactical cohesiveness, arrogantly disobeyed orders, while he granted the Boer’ favourable terms of surrender, in a key engagement. The last straw that broke the camels back, were critical letters written by Hughes, published by Africana’, Canadian and British press, scrutinising Tommy Atkins, with accusation’s of incompetence. The British Army revoked his commission in the summer of 1900, charging him, “lacking military discipline,” and sent him packing back to Canada, on the next available sail-steamer. Hughes published a majority of his SAW accounts often stated; when he departed South Africa, the British commander “sobbed like a child.” While back in Canada, Hughes was waiting for good news from Britannia, concerning his heroic gallantry on two occasions, promised by British high command he’d be certainly gazetted, two Victoria Crosses. Cook states; “which even his friends must have viewed as somewhere to the right of brazen, and coming close to bizarre.” As time wore on, realising two VCs’ wouldn’t materialise vigorously lobbied, demanding he would settle for one. In 1911 R.L. Borden representing the Conservative Party appointed Hughes, Minister of Militia and Defence, compensated Hughes for his overwhelming support during the elections, instrumental in bring in the votes. While in tenure Hughes despatched a letter to Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, the Governor General, concerning his prolonged request on being gazetted the Victoria Cross. This prompted Connaught to bat an eye brow, in an absurdity of ridicule, privately contacting Borden, poignantly suggesting, “get rid of him.”
It’s to be taken into consideration, difference in narrative, information provided, there’re contradictions, discrepancies in numbers, etc, provided by Official History CEF DHH and CF in GW part of GS Vol. I, 1938 and OH DHH 1962-64 accounts. OH DHH FWW 1962 states, Hughes envisioned the war as a “call to arms, like the fiery cross pass through the Highlands of Scotland or the mountains of Ireland in formers days.” While Dickson p.36–38, argues: “Compounding the issue, Hughes’ regular attempts to promote and appoint officers based upon patronage and Canadian nativism instead of ability, an act which not only created tension and jealousy between units but ultimately negatively affected the operating performance of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) as well.”
In 1912 Hughes avoiding speculators earlier acquisition on a partial part of the property, with the help of a real-estate broker, land agent, registered the transaction in June, under William McBain’s name obtaining 4,391 acres, purchased price $82.772, 16 miles (25km) NW of Québec City: The construction of camp was estimated at 10 to $15,000, every summer would train 5,000 men. In the outbreak of war instead of using Camp Petawawa designated by the 1911 mobilisation scheme, which accommodated 30,000 men that summer, developed a new plan. Since Hughes called out for 25,000 men, he realised and believed Valcartier Camp was a proper location, proximity to CNR and city docks, expedited boarding of troops, horses and materials for overseas service. Once reinforcements, materials, etc., were in dire need, the Government came to the realisation; Québec City docks were closed during the winter months, entraining, and sailing from Halifax was the only option. Seeing the need for more land surrounding the camp, Hughes coerced, obligated the Government by the war measures act, expropriate land in the town of Saint-Gabriel-de-Valcartier. Order in Council (P.C. 2214 of 27.viii.1914) provided for this acquisition by expropriation or negotiation, of 10,116 arpents, mostly west of the river, at a cost not to exceed $140,000. According too Mainstream and DHH historians, “125 farmers were affected adding 8,600 acres at a cost of $40.000.” 12,428 acres would occupy Valcartier Camp at a cost of $428,131, contributing to McBain’s property and 5% commission; he gracefully pocketed (OH CF in GW Vol. I. 1938). On March 31st 1915, received $17,763.95 in commission, with expenses of $13,617.25, on August 10th Hughes awarded William McBain the honorary Lt.-Col., with pay and knighted.
Hughes ordered Valcartier Camp reconstructed on August 7, 1914 and “demanded be completed, by the time the entire force was assembled.” A contracting firm working at Connaught rifle range near Ottawa moved its men and equipment by special train to work on the new site with 400 labourers gathered at Valcartier, on August 8th work in progress as teams of lumberjacks cranked up their chainsaws cutting trees, clearing out camp lines with heavy bulldozers, trucks, levelling machinery. A selected section by the river, the camp would require a designated area in the center for a parade ground. Within a few weeks the labour force of 400 according to accounts, dug ditches, levelled roads, erected the pump house, HQ, staff-quarts, barracks, pay and post office, stables, icehouse, storage facilities, cinema. Providing sanitary water would require a large cost, digging into the Government’s set budget, Hughes approached William Price a wealthy businessman, who graciously accepted supplying water to the camp, in contribution to the war effort.
Mr. Price with construction plans in hand organised, knowing a need of supplying (OH CEF 1962) 80 showers screen baths with a concrete base, (OH CEF 1938) 200 baths, wash tables measuring 415 feet total length, drinking water for men, horses, cooking etc., while keeping up the pressure was vital, when a majority of the water fixtures would be simultaneously in use. The plumbing engineering plans called, for a steady supply of water estimated at 5000,000 gallons per day with 12 miles of drainage system, would require two pumps, one with a capacity of 1,000,000 and 500,000 gallons of water per day, on the Jacques Cartier River banks a pump-house was constructed feeding two water main lines, laid parallel in trenches by ditching machines, reaching the Camp connecting into two immense steel framed 5000 gallons water tanks injected with chlorination, resting on 50 foot towers, fitted too thirty hydrants 500 feet apart, which further distributed the water throughout the camp supplied by hose pipe. Hughes in gratitude, keeping within the status quo, presented Price on January 1st 1915, with the honorary rank of Lt.-Col., and as a matter of good form, knighted his lovely derrière.
The Quebec Light and Power Company using their generating station near St. Gabriel, transformed from 2,500 to 550 volts, providing electricity for camp roads etc, while erecting a network of telephone, telegraph poles with lines linking Valcartier Camp to Québec City. The construction of, (OH CEF 1962 states 3 ½ miles), while (OH CEF DHH 1938 accounts claim two ½ miles), of 400 yard rifle ranges with 1,500 third-class 4ft, targets, included firing positions, target houses, shelters with water supply, while work started on the 10th. The firing ranges were built on drained swampland, backfilled and levelled with tons of sand, nearby Hart Hill, while on target completed on August 20th, or 22nd, depending on account, creating the worlds largest military firing rang. The CNR, Canadian National Railway, provided transportation to Valcartier, the land was cleared, railway siding were laid, bridges erected, as armed guards, pickets provided security, pitching tents by the riverbanks, etc., on work completed or being carried out. On one railway siding CNR built an ordinance building, freight sheds with three loading platforms, creating 3.8 miles of track laid out towards ending two miles from Valcartier Camp.
Hughes stated while boasting in parliament, 1916: “Up to the same date, 12 miles of water mains had been laid in, and 15 miles of drains, open and covered had been located. Army Service Corps and Ordnance buildings were constructed, railway sidings laid in, fences removed, crops harvested, ground cleared, streets made, upwards of 200 baths for the men put in.” Permanent buildings at the Camp were few; owing it would be closed during the winter months, included Hughes residence and the pump house which contained a water chlorination system, preventing legionnaire disease etc., and the Army Service Corps and Ordnance, with other wooden buildings.
The total expenditure on the engineering construction of Valcartier Camp was $185,436.50; this sum included $3,824.19 maintenance costs to the closing down of the camp for winter on 9th October 1914.