OA-S15042 | Acton and district must supply 100 men
Acton and district must supply 100 men
About 1915, 20th century
This artefact belongs to: © Ontario Archives
Keys to History
This is a rare picture of recruiting in 1915, when the government left the job of finding soldiers entirely to local initiative. The 164th Halton Battalion was organized from Milton at the northern end of Ontario's Halton county, a rural district between Toronto, Hamilton and Guelph. Most of these posters were created in Great Britain under the auspices of the Parliamentary Committee for Recruiting. Hundreds of sets were shipped to Canada on the assumption that arguments that worked in Great Britain would also work in much of Canada, especially in a town like Acton, Ontario. In rural areas it was harder to find volunteers. Farms were labour-intensive and cash-poor. A farmer needed his sons for the hard work of seeding, cultivation and harvesting, especially when wartime scarcity raised demand and prices. At the same time, farm boys, inured to uncomplaining work out of doors, made prime soldiers.
Many of the posters distinguish between big bold talk and taking action. In 1914 all sorts of people promised to enlist if they were really needed, or when their present job was done, or after the harvest. The war was not over by Christmas 1914, and loyal talk had not defeated the German Kaiser, the huge German armaments company Krupp, or Germany's militaristic Kultur. To find a thousand volunteers for the 164th Battalion, Acton and the surrounding district was assigned a quota of a hundred volunteers.
To recruit Canada's huge commitment of men for the British Empire's war effort, the Minister of Militia, Sir Sam Hughes, insisted on local initiative. Local militia regiments and citizens' committees raised the money for advertising and facilities. Patriotism and community pressure combined to cover costs and to press men to enlist. This is what it looked like in a small English-speaking Ontario town.
Someone has made available a makeshift, somewhat shabby shop in the little rural town of Acton in northern Halton County as a recruiting centre for the latest C.E.F. battalion to be organized in the region.
The 164th Battalion was authorized in 1915. With wet pavement and signs of snow on the ground, this picture was probably taken towards the end of that year.
The sad little graph in the window tells the key story. "Make This Grow" says the sign, but winter is coming and of Acton's quota of one hundred volunteers only ten men have come forward. The 164th Battalion was to recruit only 710 soldiers, three-quarters of its target.