The Migration of British Ex-Servicemen to Canada and the Role of the Naval and Military Emigration League. 1899-1914


  • Kent Fedorowich


Efforts to settle British ex-servicemen in Canada prior to 1914 formed a significant precedent for the large-scale, state-supported empire soldier settlement schemes after World War I. Initially designed to bolster colonial defence and sustain the British connection, these schemes possessed an important social dimension; land was a useful method of rewarding ex-servicemen for years of devoted and faithful service. Public concern for the welfare of Britain's soldiery continued to grow throughout the nineteenth century, fuelled in part by the military shortcomings exposed during the Crimean War of 1854-1856 and the second Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902. As the government grappled with the problems of military efficiency and administration, subsequent investigations revealed the immense problems many servicemen faced when they returned to civilian life. As military reform and imperial defence became increasingly important political issues, the plight of the British ex-servicemen and army pensioners attracted the attention of a growing number of philanthropists and social reformers. Indeed, many of the debates which emerged on post-World War I soldier settlement, migration and post-service employment had been clearly rehearsed. Nowhere is this more undoubtedly demonstrated than in the attempts by the Naval and Military Emigration League (NMEL) to involve the British and Canadian governments in the migration to Canada of British ex-servicemen prior to 1914.