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Corps of Guides

Corps of Guides

Created: 1 April 1903

Disbanded: 31 March 1929, absorbed by Canadian Corps of Signals

Perpetuated by: Canadian Intelligence Corps

The Corps of Guides was an administrative corps of the Militia and a precursor of the Canadian Intelligence Corps.

Lineage

  • 1 Apr 1903: Corps of Guides formed with headquarters at Ottawa.

  • 31 Mar 1929: Disbanded, with personnel absorbed by the Canadian Corps of Signals.
     

Functions

The corps provided intelligence services to the Non-Permanent Active Militia.

History

Lieutenant Colonel Victor B. Rivers carried out the necessary staff work which led to the formation of The Corps of Guides, authorized by General Order 61 of 1 April 1903. This Order directed that at each of the 12 Military Districts across Canada there would be a District Intelligence Officer (DIO) whose duties included command of the Corps of Guides in his District.

The Corps of Guides was a mounted corps; its officers, NCOs, and Men were appointed individually to headquarters staffs of various commands and Military Districts to carry out intelligence duties. Part of their mandate was to provide detailed and accurate information on local areas in the event of a war on Canadian soil.

By the end of 1903, the General Officer Commanding the Forces (Canada) reported that "the formation of the Corps has been attended by the best possible results. Canada is now being covered by a network of Intelligence and capable men, who will be of great service to the country in collecting information of a military character and in fitting themselves to act as guides in their own districts to forces in the field. I have much satisfaction in stating that there is much competition among the best men in the country for admission into the Corps of Guides. Nobody is admitted into the Corps unless he is a man whose services are likely to be of real use to the country."

Training was done under the supervision of the Director of Intelligence. Special courses stressed the organization of foreign armies, military reconnaissance, and the staff duties of intelligence officers. Drill was kept to a minimum. Although primarily made up of individual officers and men, there was also an establishment for a 40-man mounted company allocated to each district.

Each Military District was sub-divided into local Guide Areas. The head of this organization was the Director General of Military Intelligence (DGMI), under the control of the General Officer Commanding (GOC). The DGMI was charged with the collection of information on the military resources of Canada, the British Empire, and foreign countries.

The first DGMI was Brevet-Major William A.C. Denny, of the British Royal Army Service Corps. His staff included Lieutenant Colonel Rivers as ISO and two AISOs, Captain A.C. Caldwell and Captain W.B. Anderson responsible respectively for the Information and Mapping Branches, three lieutenants, a sergeant and two NCOs. All members of the Corps of Guides serving directly in the Military Districts were part-time Militia members.

At the start of the First World War, this was the basic military intelligence organization in place. Capt R.M. Collins, the Secretary of the Australian Defence Department, who had recently visited Canada, reported that:

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 ďadvise 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.

When the Great War broke out, the Corps was concentrated at Valcartier as part of the general mobilization. It was felt, however, that it would not be possible to employ the corps as a formed body or to carry out the missions envisioned for it in peacetime. At this time, the Corps numbered about 500 allaranks, but training had focused on mounted operations and reconnaissance on horseback, a role that became increasingely inappropriate as the Western Front devolved into trench warfare.

General Arthur W. Currie recorded:

"The Corps of Guides was absorbed into existing Units and formations. Officers to the number of about thirty were absorbed into Staff posts and various regimental and special duties. Owing to their special training in reconnaissance and scout duties generally, the officers appointed to Staff duties were utilized essentially as Staff Captains for Intelligence and General Staff Officers. Non-Commissioned Officers and men were absorbed into cavalry, horse artillery and various other Staff duties and, subsequently, into the Cyclist Corps which later became the natural channel for the absorption of the Guide personnel."

Those intelligence personnel that did serve with the Canadian Expeditionary Force performed infantry, liaison and reconnaissance duties in one of the five cyclist companies established - one per division. During the great advances of 1918, these personnel suffered many casualties as they attempted to keep Canadian commanders in touch with rapidly changing circumstances on the battlefield. Other officers and NCOs performed intelligence duties in HQs in the Canadian Corps, from Corps down to Brigade level. A Counter-espionage Section, known as Intelligence (b), was created in 1918 to counter the threat posed by enemy agents.

After the war, some organizational changes occurred. On 1 Oct 1919, a Cable Censorship Section was established in the corps. The Director of Military Operations and Intelligence (DMO&I), Col J. Sutherland-Brown, had planned to convert The Corps of Guide units and to use the newly created Cyclist companies as divisional Troops for security and protection duties. Using the Cyclists for screen protection was the old role of light cavalry units, however, and traditionally not a function of the Corps. On 15 May 1920, all companies except the censorship section were converted to cyclists.

With the lack of interest shown in the military by both the government and the Canadian public, only a few companies were formed and training was limited. No training had been authorized in 1920, and between 1922 and 1924 training was restricted to 50% of the establishment. In 1926, the establishment strength of each company was changed to one Major, one Captain, four Lieutenants, one Warrant Officer Class II, one Company Quarter-Master Sergeant, one Sergeant (artificer), four Sergeants, eight Corporals, one driver, two cooks, six batmen, and 88 Privates. Equipment consisted of 2 horses, 117 bicycles, and 1 wagon. The horses, wagon, and bicycles, had to be hired for the camp periods in the summer. These men were organized similarly to that of wartime companies, with a headquarters of 10 men, and four platoons of 27, for a total of 118 all ranks.

Junior officer training included normal military subjects, plus instruction in such special-to-corps subjects as characteristics of Cyclists, platoon drill with bicycles, Cyclists in reconnaissance, employment of Cyclists for protection, tactical action of Cyclists, map-reading and field sketching, employment of Cyclists with corps or divisional troops, the role of the unit in war, and almost as an afterthought, Intelligence in peace and war. Captains had to know these subjects and, in addition, become proficient in dismounted action and the employment of Cyclists in coast defence. Majors had to have a full knowledge of Intelligence in peace and war. NCOs took a modified version of the subalternís course.

In the 1920s, the role of the Cyclists and the methods used to fill it had lost their appeal. Recruiting declined, and few companies were really active. Among the active were the two in Toronto, through which passed some 855 all ranks between 1912 and 1929. Small units cost a great deal to administer for little apparent return. General Order 191, 1 Dec 1928, disbanded the Guides effective 31 Mar 1929. Personnel were absorbed by the Canadian Corps of Signals.

The disbanding of the Guides meant that only a small staff was left in Ottawa and in some of the military districts to carry out the Intelligence functions in Canada. After the outbreak of the Second World War, Canadian Intelligence Corps was formed, carrying on the traditions of The Corps of Guides.

Units

On the date of formation, 1 Apr 1903, one company was established in each Military District:

No. 1 Company at St. Thomas, ON.
No. 2 Company at Toronto, ON.
No. 3 Company at Kingston, ON.
No. 4 Company at Montreal, PQ.
No. 5 Company at Lake Megantic, PQ.
No. 6 Company at New Glasgow, NS.
No. 7 Company at Woodstock, NB.
No. 8 Company at Toronto, ON.
No. 10 Company at Winnipeg, MB.
No. 11 Company at Victoria, BC.
No. 12 Company at Regina, SK.
No. 13 Company at Calgary, AB.


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