- Sam Hughes
:"This article is about the Canadian Minister of Militia and Defence. For the
ophecleideplayer, see Sam Hughes (musician). For the Web Entrepreneur, see Sam Hughes (Entrepreneur). For Samuel Hughes the volunteer in the Irish Republican Army see ."Sir Samuel Hughes, KCB, PC ( January 8, 1853– August 23, 1921) was the Canadian Minister of Militia and Defenceduring World War I. He was notable for being the last Liberal-Conservativecabinet minister, until he was dismissed from his cabinet post.
Hughes was born
January 8 1853, at Solina near Bowmanville in what was then Canada West. He was educated in Durham County and later attended the Toronto Normal School and the University of Toronto. In 1866 he joined the Canadian militia's 45th (West Durham) Battalion of Infantry and fought against the Fenian raids in the 1860s and 1870s. He was a teacher from 1875 to 1885, when he moved his family to Lindsay, where he had bought "The Victoria Warder", the local newspaper. He was the paper's publisher from 1885 to 1897.
MP and Boer War Service
He was elected to Parliament in 1892, and fought in the
Second Boer Warin 1899 after helping to convince Sir Wilfrid Laurierto send Canadian troops. Hughes would continually campaign, unsuccessfully, to be awarded a Victoria Crossfor actions that he had supposedly taken in the fighting. Hughes published most of his own accounts of the war. Hughes often said that when he left, the British commander was "sobbing like a child." In fact, Hughes was dismissed from Boer War service in the summer of 1900 for military indiscipline, and sent back to Canada. [ [http://www.trentu.ca/admin/library/archives/83-1014.htm Hughes, Sam ] ] Letters in which Hughes charged the British military with incompetence had been published in Canada and South Africa. Hughes had also flagrantly disobeyed orders in a key operation by granting favourable terms to an enemy force which surrendered to him. Although Hughes had proved a competent, and sometimes exceptional, front-line officer, boastfulness and impatience told strongly against him. [ [http://www.civilization.ca/cwm/boer/samhugues_e.html WarMuseum.ca - South African War - Lieutenant-Colonel Sam Hughes ] ]
Hughes was appointed Minister of Militia after the election of
Robert Laird Bordenin 1911, with the aim of creating a distinct Canadian army within the British Empire, to be used in case of war. He wrote a letter to the Governor General, Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, about his longtime demand for the Victoria Cross. Connaught privately recommended that Borden get rid of him.
First World War
He encouraged recruitment of
volunteerswhen the First World Warbroke out in 1914, and he constructed a training camp in Valcartier, Quebec. He oversaw the training of the soldiers, and within three weeks they were ready to depart, Hughes delivering a lengthy, patriotic speech on horseback first.
Hughes was an Orangeman prone to anti-Catholic sentiments, who was not well liked among
French Canadians. Hughes increased tensions by sending Anglocentrics to recruit French Canadians, and by forcing French volunteers to speak English in training.
His historical reputation was sullied further by poor decisions on procurements for the force. For instance, Hughes insisted on equipping Canadian soldiers with the Canadian-made
Ross rifle, the rifle Hughes preferred for target shooting. The Ross proved to be an unsuitable weapon in trench warfareconditions, because when fired slowly it was prone to malfunction, often endangering the soldiers. The rifle also became easily jammed with mud and its bayonetfell off easily. Canadian soldiers often took British Lee-Enfieldrifles from fallen British soldiers. Hughes and Sir Charles Ross, the inventor of the rifle, remained loyal to their weapon, but Borden authorized its replacement by the Lee-Enfield rifle. 1,453 Canadian soldiers promptly disposed of the Ross Rifle.
An additional controversial decision was the purchase of the
MacAdam Shield Shovel, a device which Hughes patented under his secretary's name, purported to act as both a spade (for digging trenches) and a shield against bullets. In fact, the shield-shovel was too heavy for use as a digging tool, and it was incapable of stopping bullets. All purchased units were quickly discarded upon arrival in Britain.
His personal prejudices also included General
Arthur Currie, whom Hughes already disliked. Currie had been an old friend of Hughes' son Garnet, but felt Garnet was not a capable soldier. When Currie took command of the army, he would not allow Garnet to serve under him, much to the ire of Hughes. Currie was considered a war hero, however, and Hughes's calls for Currie's removal were ignored.
Hughes also erred in creating a committee in
Londonto give orders to the Canadian Army overseas, something that could legally be done only by the Cabinet in Ottawa. Borden created a London branch of the Cabinet to overcome this problem, but left Hughes out of it, prompting Hughes to voice his opposition in a highly publicized letter to the Prime Minister. Many of Hughes' friends (to whom he gave military titles) became wealthy through the war effort: horses that had been refused for the Boer War, shoes with cardboard soles, and other shoddy equipment were sent with Canadian soldiers. Borden dismissed him from his post on November 9, 1916. He was replaced by Albert Edward Kemp.
Hughes remained in government as a minor figure, and died in 1921. His cottage in Eagle Lake, Ontario (located in
Haliburton County) has been made into a year-round resort and spa named Sir Sam's Inn, and there is a ski resort near by also been named Sir Sams.
knightedas a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath, on August 24, 1915.
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