ANC-C116588 | Recruits needed to serve overseas

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Recruits needed to serve overseas
1916, 20th century
This artefact belongs to : © National Archives of Canada
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Keys to History

Until 1917 the government insisted that recruiting for the Canadian Expeditionary Force would be so spontaneous that it need provide neither organization nor funds for the purpose. Eventually, Quebec became the exception. In 1916 Ottawa reluctantly appointed a chief recruiting officer, Colonel Arthur Mignault, and paid for staff and publicity. Operating behind a committee of volunteers, Mignault undertook a thankless and ultimately hopeless task. Cynics might argue that the slogan of the poster, "Canada appeals to the patriotism of its sons", is belied by the hard materialism of listing the pay and benefits of enlisting. However, the same information was just as keenly sought by recruits in English-speaking Canada.

As a private, a soldier earned $1.00 plus 10 cents field allowance a day, or $33.00 a month. He could send a Separation Allowance of $20 a month to his wife or his widowed mother, and the Canadian Patriotic Fund would add $10 a month for them as well as $7.50 for a child aged 10 to 15, $4.50 for a child aged 5 to 9 years and $3.00 for a child under 5. The whole family of two adults and three children could earn up to $78.00. If the soldier died, his wife or his widowed mother could count on a pension of $22 a month, with $5.00 for each child. Nowhere does the poster mention that half a soldier's basic pay or $15.00 had to be assigned to his wife or a family member before he could claim separation allowance.

  • What

    This poster provides the practical information any recruit would need before entrusting his life to the C.E.F. How much will he earn and how will he support his family. In much smaller type is information about what his family may expect as a pension should he die. Note how it compares with their income while he is alive.

  • Where

    The rates cited for the family benefits from the Canadian Patriotic Fund (CPF) indicate that this poster was limited to Quebec. Families in western Canada, where the cost of living was much higher, received more, with wives or widowed mothers averaging $15-20 a month. These differences were sensitive, because most of the CPF's revenue came from Montreal, Toronto and other big eastern cities, whereas British Columbia and Manitoba produced more recruits.

  • When

    The pension rates cited date this poster to 1916. By 1919 inflation and democratic pressure had pushed pension rates for all ranks up to those paid to lieutenants. By 1920 Canada was paying totally disabled veterans with families the most generous pensions in the world.

  • Who

    Though we tend to imagine soldiers as youthful feckless bachelors, data compiled after the war reveals that the average soldier in the C.E.F. was in his mid-to-late twenties, and more often a skilled urban worker than a farmer or cowboy. Many had family responsibilities as husbands and fathers or as the sole support of a widowed mother.