Conscription In The First World War

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History Essay

When Canada entered the First World War, the government promised citizens any effort would be optional. After allied forces took Vimy Ridge it became obvious that another method of recruitment needed to be implemented, due to the fact that wounded Canadian soldiers were being sent back to battle causing the casualty rate to be high, and there just weren’t enough new recruits to replace the shrinking Canadian forces. Plenty of young men were willing to volunteer because they all had the impression that the war would be over by Christmas and it was a way of impressing ladies. However, as the war progressed the government found out that less and less people were willing to enlist and in order to replace the casualties suffered by the army, conscription was introduced. Although many Canadians were opposed to the idea of forced military service also known as conscription, Prime Minister Robert Borden had no other choice but to implement it. The British Prime Minister convinced Prime Minister Borden that the war had to be won at any cost and that Victory would require more troops. Sir Borden went against his word and made a Military Service Act that made enlistment mandatory. Although I do not like the fact of conscription in general, for this situation I think it was necessary for Prime Minister Robert Borden to implement it. Canada was not the only country looking at conscription as a method of filling out troops. When the United States entered the war, they had an automatic draft imposed. Conscription was also used in WWI by France, Germany and Russia, which was one of the reasons why they had such a big army. Sir Robert Borden thought that conscription was for the best but it made things worse. Conscription started becoming an emotional issue for people that divided the country. Also recruitment rates were not balanced. Many French Canadians felt like people where forcing them to fight a war that wasn’t there’s. Many people were aggravated and opposed conscription, for example farmers needed their sons to help them farm and make a living. Industrial workers believed that they had already contributed to the war and they had problems hiring employees. Red Cross Workers had to deal with people getting injured/ killed. Members of Armed Forces had to live through the war leaving family behind and watch soldiers die. Last but not least relatives of those in service had to watch their loved ones go into war and fight. Although many people disliked constriction there were people who were for constriction like the English Canadians. They were for constriction because they wanted to support their country and because Canada was under British authority at the time. The Military Service Act became a law in July 1917, but it was not imposed until January 1918, after the federal election. Conscripts were selected based on age and status. French Canadians were never as connected to the war as English Canadians. The French did not have strong ties with either England or France. They looked more to North America. Language barriers in the Canadian Military caused difficulties for French Canadians to enlist and train. Military forces were not very concerned with the creation of French Regiments, or the promotion of French officers. An explanation for the resistance of French Canadians was the legacy of Sam Hughes. He was the former Minister of Militia. He made no attempt to place French Canadian volunteers in French units, and believed they should be receiving orders from English officers. Had Canada not joined the war with Britain at the start, there is a chance conscription would