Canada’s Non (NPAM) & Permanent Active Militia (PAM, PF), 1871-1904.

The Non-Permanent Active Militia (NPAM) was Canada’s Militia reserve volunteer force, from Confederation to 1940. The term “Militia” applied to the NPAM and styled as the Permanent Active Militia (PAM,) being the authorised name aka the “Permanent Corps” then Force (PF). By G. O. No. 24 on October 20th, 1871 authorised for the organisation of “A” and “B” Batteries, the roots of present day Canadian regular force. At first both Batteries considered an artillery school, the 1st battalion of the 80th Royal Rifles, Lieut.-Col. Fielden, the last Imperial regular corps in garrison at Quebec, marched out of the Citadel and embarked on transport, while “B” Battery rolled in. Apart from the garrison in Halifax, no British regulars remained in Canada. “These batteries are perpetuated by the 1st Regiment Royal Canadian Horse Artillery.”[1][2]

Canadian Scots, Group of Sergeants, 5th Royal Scots, Montreal, QC, 1898

Canadian Scots, Group of Sergeants, 5th Royal Scots, Montreal, QC, 1898

The Canadian government passed a vote 9 of 43 forced to expand this tiny Permanent Force by adding small professional infantry and cavalry components. These would be called the Infantry School Corps and the Cavalry School Corps. Militia General Order Number 26, issued on 21 December 1883, established these two organisations. In time they would become, respectively, The Royal Canadian Regiment and The Royal Canadian Dragoons.[3] In the words of Colonel Bernd Horn, “…the Infantry School Corps was the root that would develop into The Royal Canadian Regiment.”[4] However, the Permanent Force was not to exceed 750 officers and men and was certainly not conceived as the nucleus of a large regular army. From the start, the Non-Permanent Active Militia opposed the Permanent Force and, through the powerful Militia Lobby, the “Parliamentary Colonels,” sought to preserve its status and dominance in relation to the much smaller entity.

 Victoria Rifles, No. 6 Company,Montreal, QC, composite, 1889.

Victoria Rifles, No. 6 Company,Montreal, QC, composite, 1889.

In 1900, 63-64 Victoria Chapter 18, was passed amending the Militia Act, Section 41, 45, 47. In hindsight Section 41 is a conundrum, prior to the Act commanding districts designated as “District Officers Commanding,” instead of deputy adjutants-general. Canada’s Active Militia in the birth of the twenty century brought forth reorganization in earnest to the militia, H.Q., and staff during 1901. “Bourassa’s criticism that he had been coerced into supporting Britain and so set a precedence for future imperial conflicts, he replied that “If we were to be compelled to take part in all the wars of Great Britain, I have no hesitation in saying that I agree with my hon. Friend that, sharing the burden, we should also share the responsibility . . . we should have the right to say to Great Britain: If you want us to help you, call us to your councils; if you want us to take part in wars let us share not only the burdens but the responsibilities and duties as well.[5]

Private of the 5th Royal Scots of Canada Montreal aka Black Watch.

Private of the 5th Regt. Royal Scots of Canada, Montreal aka Black Watch.

The Ross Rifle Fiasco: Considering Canada had to compete with the War Office, dependent on British supply, in 1986 the Government approved the purchase of 40,000 .303” Lee-Enfield rifles from Britannia’s ShopKeepers. Considering in 1900 Bore War II was in full swing the Government foresaw the need to increase the allotted amount. Contradiction in Accounts, Sir Frederick Borden, Minister of Militia vigorously tried to secure an order for (15,000) according to DND, DHH, CF. Report #15 official history, mainstream historians ect., while Borden states (1000) in February and on April 1907 claims 15,000, .303-inch Lee-Enfield rifles from the British factories. Owing the companies were manufacturing at full capacity filling the British Army’s orders, Canada’s government fell short. A factory was built by the Ross Rifle Company on ground adjoining the historic Plains of Abraham Ville de Québec, and the Militia received the first 1000 rifles only in 1905.

There was before the Colonial Conference in London in 1907, an official paper headed “Patterns and Provisions of Equipment and Stores for Colonial Forces.” In paragraph 6 of this paper the Quartermaster General and the Master General of the Ordinance recommended that. “It is most desirable that the area of supply of the warlike stores under reference should be as wide as possible, and therefore the Colonial Governments should be urged to arrange for local manufacture and provision rather than to rely on the resources of the United Kingdom”

Members of the Royal Canadian Regiment, in full marching order, as members of the Yukon Field Force, 1899 -

Members of the Royal Canadian Regiment, in full marching order, as members of the Yukon Field Force, 1899 –

Sir Frederick Borden Minister of Militia and Defence, speaking in the House in February 1907, made following statement:—
Why Ross Factory Established by Sir Frederick Borden: It was impossible to secure a thousand rifles in Great Britain during the time of the South African war, and I thought that it was the duty of this government, under the circumstances, to make as soon as possible some arrangement by which our rifles could be manufactured in Canada. I was in England in 1900 and went to the Birmingham Small Arms people and tried to induce the company to come to Canada. I quite recognize the desirability of our having, if possible, precisely the same rifle in Canada as is used by the British army, because if the militia of this country should ever be called out for war, it would be better that we should have the same rifles. We have one, however, which differs so little from the Lee-Enfield that there will be no trouble on that score. It was found impossible to prevail upon the Birmingham Small Arms Company, or any other small arms manufacturer in England, to come out here and start a factory. About that time Sir Charles Ross happened to be here. He had not then come to Canada for the first time, but, as the hon. gentleman must know, had been living in British Columbia, and had spent a great deal of money there in developing water-powers and establishing electrical works. He was introduced to me, I think, by Mr. Mackenzie, of Messrs. Mackenzie & Mann, and brought other letters from the most reputable men in Canada. He explained to me that he had a rifle factory in the United States, and was selling sporting rifles, rifles similar to what are being manufactured here now. He said that he would be willing to establish a factory to manufacture rifles for Canada with the same bore and to use the same cartridge as the Lee-Enfield rifle. It seemed to me that it was patriotic thing on my part to recommend and on the part of the government to accept this opportunity to secure a factory which would turn out rifles for Canada.[6][7]

COLONIAL CONFERENCE, 1907 (MINUTES OF PROCEEDINGS OF THE). Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives, 1907 Session I, A-05.

On the fourth day, April 20th 107, Military Defence, p.101.

Sir Frederick Borden; with regard to one other matter which, as Mr. Haldane said, is a matter of minor importance, that of purchasing through the War Office such military stores as may be required, in the very connection which I have just mentioned I would like to say that in 1900 Canada wanted to purchase a considerable number of rifles. “I think I wanted to purchase 15,000 rifles. I found it impossible to secure a single rifle.” After a time I was offered some 5,000 if I would wait long enough. That is a condition of things which may arise—we hope it will not—at any moment, and that is another argument in favour of having an independent source of supply within the Dominions themselves.

“Not a Canadian Rifle.”

We, the undersigned Canadian workmen, desire to state that this is absolutely and wholly untrue, and calculated to injure our livelihood, ourselves and our families. We desire to emphatically protest against the circulation of such malicious statements, which, visit to this factory at any time will demonstrate to be entirely baseless and absolutely untrue.

  1. B. Whyte, J. B. Deniss, C. N. Dawson, A. J. McCusker, M. H. Murphy, C. J. Dickson,
  2. Watters, P. Plamondon, T. Tremblay, N. McClure, E. J. Evans, S. P. Murphy, F. W. H.

Porter, D. Power, L. Auger, Charles Wm. Carey, Benie Gagnon, Fred B. Paulin, J. E. McCann.

Who Owns The Factory?

There are those in the Conservatives party who have not hesitated to insinuate that there are others interested in the factory besides Sir. Charles Ross. This certificate disposes of this subject.

Declaration of Partnership:

  1. 91 Ross Rifle Company of Canada, Canada, Province of Quebec, District of Quebec

I, the undersigned Charles Henry Augustus Frederick Lockhart Ross, Baronet of Balnagown, and Bonnington of the Counties of Ross, Cromtie, Sutherland and Lanark, in the Kingdom of Great Britain, residing at the City of Quebec, Manufacturer, do hereby declare that I intend to carry on at the City of Quebec the business of Manufacturer of fire arms, under the firm name an style of “The Ross Rifle Company of Canada” that I am the sole partner composing the said firm, and that I was married at Louisville in the State of Kentucky, one of the United States of America, on the 19th November, 1901 without any marriage contract or deed.

Dated at Quebec, this 19th day of May, 1903. (Signed) 0. L. ROSS.

Filed in the prothonotary’s office at Quebec, this 19th day of May, 1903, and enrolled herein pursuant to law.

Stamp—A true copy.

(Signed) ED. L. BURROUGHS, Deputy P.S.C.

(Signed T. W. S. DUNN, Deputy, P.C.S.

Comparison of Cost:

It has been maliciously stated that not only is the Ross rifle inferior to the Lee-Enfield but the government is paying much more for it. This statement is false. In 1896 the government of which Mr. Foster was a member, purchased from England Lee-Enfield rifles at $26.40 and the cost of the Ross rifle, made in Canada cost of inspection added is $26.90. The cost today of the British rifle latest pattern made in the government factory is $27.35. The same rifle if purchased from the trade would cost $33.60. It will therefore appear that the Ross rifle at $25 and $1.90 for inspection is a cheaper rifle than any other in general use.

Rifles Delivered:

The charge has been industriously circulated that the Government have paid large amounts of money for rifles that have not been delivered. This is not the case. A few figures will dispose of this branch of the subject; rifles delivered to date, 45,000.

Total paid to Rosa, $1,186,776.

There are 17,000 rifles on order now, 7,000 balance of orders given previous to October, 1906. and 10,000 on order dated March, 1908. Every rifle paid for has been delivered in good condition and passed inspection, and at no time have the terms of contract with respect to paying progress estimates been violated. Upon the 17,000 under order now the sum of $106,250 has been paid.

Rejected or Dangerous Rifles:

There has not been a single rifle rejected permanently. Some slight accidents have occurred, which have done damage easily reparable. The Ross rifle is not dangerous, and the statement that it is dangerous is a diabolical invention intended to injure the rifle, injure the factory, alarm the militia of Canada, and discredit the Government. The magnificent scores made, the glowing tributes of the European press are a sufficient answer to these calumnies. Canada is to be congratulated upon the possession of a rifle factory turning out the best small arm made in the world today.

My Thoughts on facts; I can’t express the amount of accounts on FC CEF, war accounts, etc., where the Ross rifle jammed, while in battle under repetitious fire, leaving companies of men without a weapon too suppress the enemies advance into their trenches. From its conception it went through numerous modifications due too many defects; the Mark II pattern went through eight. However at Bisley the Canadian marksmen used the Ross rifle with great success as records were broken, developed a reputation as a precision rifle on firing ranges in target competition. However when first issued caused grief to the PF, complaints poured in from training camps questioning its efficacy, efficiency with constant malfunctions in the field under unfavourable conditions. The Canadian Defence, Canadian Field and Canadian Military Gazette within their deference’s, entrenched in their position on the Ross rifle, lobbied their agendas. While in Parliament, press a controversial frenzy erupted, with one camp critically scrutinized the Ross rifle plagued with issue vs Rifle of Champions, proven marksmen rifle. Consequently Col. Sam Hughes president of the Small Arms Committee was a strenuous supporter, of the Ross rifle for the Canadian Militia. This committee supposedly ran rifles through “a series of rigorous test known to modern science.” In conclusion in the comparison of test made of the Lee-Enfield and Ross rifle 66% of the Lee-Enfield became unserviceable under the test, that is three out of five. Some results were the barrels bulged, Magazine arrangement gave out and could not be made to work, by replacing other magazine or with the means at the Dominion Arsenal. One shook to pieces and could not be fired. All of the Ross rifles passed the tests 6 mark III, 2 mark II, in a most extraordinary good manner demonstrating not only their superiority to the Lee-Enfield, but surpassing all other military rifles.

English Press on Ross Rifles as fallows:-

ROSS RIFLE Best small arm in the world—Won highest honours at Bisley—Establishment of Factory a patriotic act—English Press opinion.

“being a total of 726 out of a possible 750, breaking all records.”


“Long range champion—breaks all records—a rifle of wondrous precision.”


“Records broken at Bisley—fine Canadian rifle.”

STANDARD—July 15th.

“Triumph for Ross Rifle”—“Ross beats all the world’s rifles” “Lee-Enfield now obsolete;

scrap it.”


“Many experts declare that Ross better than new U. S. rifle. Ross rifle renders Lee Enfield obsolete.”


“An individual triumph”—“Lee-Enfield hopelessly behind.”


“Victory for the Ross rifle from Canada.”

THE TIMES—July 16th.

THE MERITS OF THE ROSS MATCH RIFLE—“After having been yesterday in the unhappy position from a patriotic point of view of being forced to compare our own service rifle and that of the United States very much to the disadvantage of the former, it is a pleasure today to refer to one that has been much in evidence during the first three days of the meeting and which can claim to have been designed manufactured and used as a service weapon within the limits of the Empire.”(Then follows a column of praise).


“Mr. Jones shot throughout with the Ross rifle and has undoubtedly succeeded in demonstrating that this arm, which has been served out to the Canadian Militia is of wondrous precision.”

THE SPHERE—July 25th.

“A plague of possibles.”

Owing the Government was committed in contract with Ross, and “many experts declared that Ross better than new U. S. rifle. Ross rifle renders Lee Enfield obsolete.” Even though complains on defects, malfunctions ect., by July 30th 1914, 12,200 were delivered out of orders totalling 30,000. Production was stepped up to capacity, and another 30,000 rifles were ordered on August 10th.

SVP; for detailed account of the Ross rifle see Appendix 111 to Colonel A. F. Duguid, Official History of the Canadian Forces in the Great War, 1914-1919, General Series, Vol. I (Ottawa, 1938).

Canada Militia Staff Officers Camp levis QC, circa 1913.

Canada Militia Staff Officers Camp levis QC, circa 1913.

The Colonial Conference of 1902 a majority of the representatives of various dominions were opposed to any “departure from the principle of Colonial self-government”; decisively rejected a War Office proposal that Dominions should maintain local contingents earmarked for Imperial wars (Canada’s quota would have been one brigade of field artillery and one infantry brigade, a total of 3000 men.)[8]

Britannia’s empire at large, the UK Dominion’s militia in post Boer War II realized inefficacies in administration, organization of Mother’s defensive forces. The question of improvement and reorganizing, contemplated changes were critically voiced in Great Britain. The matter in hand referred to the defence committee on the question in changes the Dominion Militia Act. Sir Frederick Borden on the invitation by the British government to discuss the question of defence sailed over the pond, for England on November, 1903. Borden met the Defence Committee with the endeavour to bring the Dominion and British systems into uniformity. Borden voiced a more independent Dominion force, with a number of mutually arrangements to Briton and her offspring Canada; this led to admit a number of Canadian officers yearly to the Staff College.

Development of HQ staff in 1903: On October 23 1903 the formation of the Ordnance Stores Corps, on the 24th October, the organization of the Signalling Corps. The “Ordnance Stores Corps” made provisions for a mounted company, strength of the company was 40 all ranks. The “Ordnance Stores Corps,” formed from Rank and file the previously employed in the Military Stores Branch of the Department of Militia and Defence.

According to Official DHH & Literature Historical Accounts:

The nucleus of permanent engineer, medical, army service corps, ordnance and other administrative services were created in 1903-1904. Also in 1903 the Directors-General of Intelligence, Engineer Services, Medical and Ordnance Services were appointed to Militia Headquarters at Ottawa.12 On 29 October 1903 the Governor in Council affirmed that the General Officer Commanding 10 was the principal adviser to the Minister of Militia and Defence and gave him “control” over the branches of the Adjutant General, the Director General of Military Intelligence, and Military Secretary, and “general supervision” over the other military branches, which now included those of the Quartermaster General, the Director General of Engineer Services, the Director General of Medical Services and the Director General of Ordnance Services. The Civil Branch headed by the Deputy Minister was now reduced to the Accountant’s Branch, the Contracts Branch and the Chief Clerk’s Branch.[9][10]

By G.O. 61 of April 1st, 1903, authorised a formation of the Corps of Guides, a unit to be specially trained in the duties of scouting, reconnaissance, military sketching, map reading, guiding and intelligence, with director of intelligence at headquarters and a district intelligence officer for each district, was provided for. Military Districts were sub-divided into local Guide Areas. Commanded by a “Director General of Military Intelligence DGMI,” under the control of the General Officer Commanding GOC. “The DGMI charged in collecting information on the military resources of Canada, the British Empire, and foreign countries.” “The Canadian Forces were run by a Militia Council, similarly constituted to the Australian Military Board with the Minister as President and the First Military Member. The Chief of the General Staff (CGS) had the responsibility to advise on questions of general military policy; Intelligence, and preparation for war; as well as the education of staff officers. Of particular interest was the fact that there were two Intelligence Officers on the Canadian Staff, assisted by a Corps of Guides element (consisting of 185 Militia officers) which had been raised on 1 April 1903.”[11] The Canadian Corps of Guides were responsible for the collection of military information, and their duties were described as follows: “The Guides should be intelligent men and capable of active work with a knowledge of the topographical features of the country as well as the roads, the country between the roads, side-paths, names of farmers, etc., in the area, and when possible, should be in possession of a horse.”[12] From 1763 to prior to the Confederation of Canada in 1867, the British Army provided the main defence of Canada, although many Canadians served with the British in various conflicts.[13] As British troops began to leave Canada in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the importance of the Militia (comprising various cavalry, artillery, infantry and engineer units) became more pronounced. Shortly after Canada entered the Second Boer War, a debate developed over whether or not Canada should have its own army.[14] As a result, the last Officer Commanding the Forces (Canada), Lord Dundonald, instituted a series of reforms in which Canada gained its own technical and support branches.[15] In 1904, the Officer Commanding the Forces was replaced with a Canadian Chief of the General Staff. The new various “corps” included the Engineer Corps (1903), Signalling Corps (1903), Service Corps (1903), Ordnance Stores Corps (1903), Corps of Guides (1903), Medical Corps (1904), Staff Clerks (1905), and Army Pay Corps (1906).[16] Additional corps would be created in the years before and during the First World War, including the first separate military dental corps.[17]


  • [1] Canadian Forces Publication A-DH-267-003 Insignia & Lineages, Canadian Forces. Vol. 3: Combat Arms Regiments. From 20 October 1871.
  • [2] Horn, Colonel Bernd, Establishing a Legacy: The History of The Royal Canadian Regiment 1883-1953, p. 16.
  • [3] R.C. Fetherstonhaugh, R.C. op. cit., p. 5-6.
  • [4] Horn, Colonel Bernd, op. cit., p. 17.
  • [5]House of Commons, Debates, March 13, 1900, 1846.
  • [6] Plain Truths; For The People Pages from the Record of The Laurier Administration from 1896 to 1908. p.55.
  • [7] Capt. E. J. Chambers; “The Canadian Militia,” p.104.
  • [8] Colonial Conference 1902 Minutes of Proceedings and Papers laid before the Conference, 210, 261.
  • [9] Report No. 15; p. 9-10. Directorate Of History Canadian Forces Headquarters.
  • [10] DHH Report No. 11.
  • [11] Harold A. Skaarup ‘Out of Darkness–Light: A History of Canadian Military Intelligence, Vol. 1.
  • [12] Ibid.
  • [13] Martin Brook Taylor; Doug Owram (1994). Canadian History: Beginnings to Confederation. University of Toronto Press. p. 399.
  • [14] Andrew Godefroy (2006). “Canadian Military Effectiveness in the First World War.” In Bernd Horn. The Canadian Way of War: Serving the National Interest. pp. 169–194.
  • [15] Richard Arthur Preston (1991). To serve Canada: a history of the Royal Military College since the Second World War. University of Ottawa Press. p. 19.
  • [16] Bernier Serge; Jean Pariseau. French Canadians and Bilingualism in the Canadian Forces. Department of National Defence, Directorate of History. p. 64.
  • [17] Paramjit Singh (2004). Military Dentistry. Jaypee Brothers Publishers. p. 31.

© Spañard



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