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History of the Militia

March 13, 2024

Victoria Regiment Recruits at Bobcaygeon During the Great War

By Guy Scott

One of the forgotten pages in the local history is the story of the Canadian militia. Militia units of part-time soldiers have been a part of Ontario history since the late 1700s. They were designed for purely local defence, the ‘enemy’ throughout our history being our neighbours to the south: the USA. Today it is difficult to imagine our southern friends and neighbours being a ‘threat’ to Canada, but until World War I, many Americans believed in a policy called ‘Manifest Destiny.’ This policy dictated that the USA was destined to control all of North America: and that included Canada! This threat of American annexation was a contributing factor to Confederation and the founding of Canada.

To counter this threat, Canadians of course relied on the British Army. But it was also realized we had to be responsible ourselves, and thus a complex militia system was a part in Canadian history. Canadian militia soldiers served with distinction in the famous war of 1812, the Rebellion of 1837, Fenian Raids (1866-70), and the Northwest rebellions (1870 & 1885). And when overseas service was required, they volunteered in droves to serve their country in the Boer War (1899-1902), both World Wars and the Korean War.

Militia regiments were organized along county lines. Victoria County was originally part of the Durham County Militia, but in 1897, the 45th Militia Regiment was active exclusively in Victoria County. It contained 6 companies, thusly: #1 Cameron, #2 & #3 Lindsay, #4 Omemee, #5 Janetville, and #6 Woodville. Company #5 was later moved to Fenelon Falls and in 1905 to Norland. Most of the men in this company hailed from the northern ‘back townships’ and Norland was considered central. Quite a few Kinmount men were members, including Lt. Alex Morrison.

The militia met frequently throughout the year for training. But the highlight of the years was ‘summer camp’ a two-week training stint usually held in Kingston. It was the vacation for the part-time soldiers in the era before vacations were common. The outbreak of war in 1914 led to many of the militia volunteering for service overseas as part of the 109th Battalion in 1916. After World War I, the Norland company was disbanded, but the 45th Regiment continued to be based in Lindsay.  

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