Most people are unaware of the military history of the Canadian people. The readers of this magazine will, however, be far more knowledgeable than most on this topic. And yet I think there are many campaigns and military units in Canadian history that will be a surprise even to them. Let's see.
From its very founding in the early seventeenth century New France needed protection from the British, the American colonists, and their Iroquois allies. New France (Quebec), like all French colonies, came under the control of the French Navy and so most of the time the majority of the soldiers were raised by them and termed ‘Compagnies Franches de la Marine’. The men were always from France but very soon in New France all of their officers were Canadian-born. Recruitment was on the basis that the men would, upon the end of their service, remain and settle in Canada. In their off-duty time, the men worked in the local community and soon became veritable Canadians. They also worked and fought alongside the allied indigenous warriors and became feared guerilla fighters, helping eventually to inflict defeats on George Washington and later General Braddock. There was, in effect, the first Canadian military. Most of the fighting occurred in forests and along rivers and lakes, but when General Wolfe's troops arrived in 1759 the fighting also took place among settled farms and villages. To help scout and patrol the New France Cavalry Corps was raised with a strength of around two hundred men. Both these and the local militia sets were done by Bill Skinner of the Scottish Toy Soldier Company, who would do custom sets for any time period but who really loved the eighteenth century.
From the end of the American Revolution in 1783, there was always the fear of invasion from Britain's former North American Colonies. It was decidedly cheaper to raise units in the remaining colonies and incorporate them into the regular British Army than to dispatch units from Britain. One of these units was the New Brunswick Regiment. The set shown is from castings made by Giles Brown of Dorset Miniatures. Their uniform was so far from what one thinks of British uniforms of the 1790s that they had to be included in this article. (Any castings or conversions shown in this article were done by the author.)
In 1812 for a variety of reasons, the United States declared war on Britain. The only way to hurt Britain was to invade Canada, which it did repeatedly. Most of these took place in Upper Canada (now Ontario) but in 1813 the Americans invaded Lower Canada (now Quebec) to try and capture Montreal. On 26 October at Chateauguay, the invading army was soundly defeated by a force of some 1,500 Quebec militia (some in uniform, some in civilian clothes) and indigenous warriors under command of Colonel De Salaberry. The figures in the photo are a series of single figures from Britains and Scott Dummitt Presents showing the variety of Canadians who served at the battle. Raised around Montreal but seeing hard service in Upper Canada was the Canadian Light Dragoons. I had wanted to do this regiment for a while, but I couldn’t find the Tarleton helmets they wore in any list of castings. Once again I contacted Giles Brown who replied that, while these were not in his catalog, he could certainly produce those heads for me.
The War of 1812 had only heightened the fears of another American invasion and forts were built and improved. No invasion came for fifty years but soldiers still had to man those forts. There was no glory for those men but as the saying goes, ‘They also serve who stand and wait.’ Raised for this service in 1840 was the Royal Canadian Rifle Regiment. It was part of the regular British Army, with all soldiers having at least fifteen years of good service and nearing the end of their enlistment. They were promised a preferential choice of free farmland at the time of retirement. As old soldiers with good records they were unlikely to be rowdy and fitted in well with the community, thus tying the fort and the garrison to the community. This set was produced by 'Queen Victoria’, a local Toronto maker.
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
John Jenkins Designs
An iconic World War II fighter aircraft and a heavyweight from the annals of military history are among the latest new releases from John Jenkins Designs (JJD).
Guy Elliott looks at the largely unknown military history of his native land.
A leading manufacturer since 1893, Britains needs little introduction to even the most casual of toy soldier collectors. Under the leadership of Ken Osen, the company is still going strong, expanding its existing product lines and seeking opportunities to introduce even more exciting new ranges.
Thomas Gunn Miniatures
Reviews of new metal figures to arrive in the hobby by George Philips
The Last Sake
Eduardo Fernandez paints a large-scale bust.
The World of Model Soldiers, Part 1
Colin Luxford takes a tour of the world in miniature, starting with Europe and Asia.
King & Country
Reviews of new metal figures to arrive in the hobby by George Philips.
Hougoumont North Gate diorama
Dressing the Kiddies
Keith Nairn-Munro presents the second part of his study of the uniforms and history of the Scots Guards up to the Great War.
A Family Enterprise
George Phillips speaks to Abram Simon about the past, present and future of New Zealand-based Fleurbaix Toy Soldiers.
AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH Michelle Valberg
Light & Motion Master of Light, and Canadian Geographic Photographer-in-Residence
CANADA OKS RETURN OF BOEING 737 MAX AIRCRAFT
The Boeing 737 Max can return to Canadian airspace beginning this week, officials said, concluding nearly two years of government review after the aircraft was involved in two deadly crashes that saw the planes grounded worldwide.
Fire and Ice
Find alpine bliss halfway through this snowshoe beneath an active volcano on Artist Point Trail in Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Washington.
How a Philanthropic Darling Became Political Scandal
A Canadian development charity courted celebrities, enlisted legions of schoolchildren to raise funds, and built a new, commerce-fueled model of philanthropy. Then a Covid relief deal got people asking who was benefiting most
Handloading Harder, Denser Shot
The Evolution of Tungsten Shot
Junco family tree
Meet the many variations of this beloved snowbird and popular wintertime visitor.
Cannabis Not to Blame For Workplace Injuries
In the recent United States election cycle, we saw even more states adopt cannabis as a legally accepted recreational substance. See our article and infographic on Page 16.
THERE'S GOT TO BE A BETTER WAY
The U.S. could adopt a few easy reforms—and a few tough ones—to take the drama out of its democracy
CANADA'S FORGOTTEN CAPITAL
Beneath the streets of Old Montreal, the rubble of a short-lived Parliament building offers a glimpse into a young country’s growing pains
KITTYHAWK JUNGLE RESCUE
P-40 GETS A NEW LEASE ON LIFE