The Donated Army
At the beginning of the war Canada had an army of only 3,110 men and a
weak navy. While Borden's government invested $50 million in a war appropriation,
it also depended on private money to sponsor and equip regiments across the country.
In fact, many of the regiments that fought in the Great War were funded from
the pockets of wealthy Canadian families and business magnates like the Olands,
Eatons and Gooderhams. For example, the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry,
which became famous for valour in WWI, was funded by Captain Hamilton Gault,
a Montreal businessman.
Rich men could fund machine gun batteries or donate their yachts to the navy.
The Christie company, the biscuit and cookie maker, paid enlisted employees full
Ordinary Canadians were called on, repeatedly, to help out as well. The Canadian
Patriotic Fund (CPF) was set up to support soldiers' families. Employees of many
large Canadian companies
encouraged to donate a day's wages to the CPF. By the end of the war, the fund
raised $47 million. There were frequent "tag days;" the YMCA raised
money for sports equipment; the Canadian Field Comforts Commission wanted money;
as did the Machine Gun Fund and the Canadian Aviation fund, which financed flying
lessons for would-be pilots.
The Khaki League and the IODE opened hospitals for injured returning soldiers.
And, across Canada volunteers rolled bandages, knit socks, packaged food parcels
and collected scrap metal. Soldiers’ wives were lectured on how to economize
at home and not make frivolous purchases. Boy Scouts ran messages and were vigilant
for spies and saboteurs. Even those who were never to see battle were doing their
best to "do their bit."