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Appendix B

This webpage reproduces an appendix in
Esquimalt Naval Base

by
Frederick V. Longstaff

The Victoria Book & Stationery Company, Ltd.
Victoria, B. C. 1941

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
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Appendix D

 p153  Appendix "C"

Lake, Lieut.‑Gen. Sir Percy Henry Noel. The people of Canada owe the modernizing, in 1893, of the Defence Forces of Canada to Colonel P. H. N. Lake of the East Lancashire Regiment, as well as in 1904 the organization of the units and formations into a real Home Defence Army. This latter included the substitution of an Army Council for the Office of Commander-in‑Chief. During both these periods, Lake was the technical adviser of the Minister of Defence, who placed the greatest reliance on his judgment and advice.

The replacing by units of Canadian Permanent Militia of the Imperial garrisons of Halifax in 1905, and Esquimalt in 1906, was mainly made possible by the spade work of Colonel Lake.

When the Canadian Government substituted an Army Council for a Commander-in‑Chief, it left out a most important part of the necessary machinery, namely a "Selection Board" for promotion of senior officers, which would have eliminated all possible political or personal patronage. This board at the Imperial War Office consists of: President — the Chief of the Imperial General Staff; Members — Adjutant-General to the Forces, the G. O. C.‑in‑C. of the Aldershot Command, the G. O. C.‑in‑C. of the Eastern Command and the G. O. C.‑in‑C. of the Southern Command. Secretary — the Military Secretary to the Secretary of State.

Young Lake was born at Tenby, South Wales, in 1855. He was educated at Uppingham, and passed for the Army at the first competitive examination to be held after the abolition of the purchase system. On the 9th August, 1873, he was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the 59th Foot, now the 2nd Battalion, the East Lancashire Regiment. The Regiment took part in the Afghan War of 1878‑80, and during the campaign Lake was appointed Assistant Field Engineer with the Southern Afghanistan Field Force. He passed out of the Staff College in 1884 with "Honours," and was given his Captaincy on 1st October, 1883.

In 1885 Captain Lake saw service in Egypt on the Red Sea littoral on the Intelligence Staff, and was in the midst of the hot fighting at Hasheen and Tofrek and  p154 in the advance on Tamai. He then served at the War Office on Intelligence work under Lord Wolseley, who was the Adjutant-General.

In June, 1890, Captain Lake returned to regimental duty, but was soon appointed Secretary to Lord Wantage's Committee on Terms and Conditions of Service in the Army, a duty which brought him into contact with many of the Army Chiefs, including the Duke of Cambridge, then in his thirty-fifth year as Commander-in‑Chief, Wolseley, Buller, Evelyn Wood and others. Captain Lake was promoted Major on 1st July, 1891. On the 31st of August, 1892, he was appointed D. A. A. G. of the Dublin District under Lord Wolseley, and one year later was offered and accepted, with effect from 14th September, 1893, the newly created post of Quartermaster-General in Canada, with the temporary rank of Colonel.

Colonel Lake found the Militia had been long neglected and starved; for instance, the field artillery was armed with the 9‑pounder muzzle-loader, and the infantry was armed with worn‑out Sniders dating back to 1861, and equipment was antiquated and useless. The few small P. F. units were rendered incapable of properly fulfilling their functions, for want of sufficient opportunity to train themselves and through the comparatively enormous number of desertions and other military "crimes". The Non‑Permanent units, especially rural, were sometimes grotesquely low in strength; units trained only in alternate years for a few days, and both the cavalry and infantry regiments were a collection of individual units with no experience of working with other arms or in brigade formations. Major-General Ivor Herbert, the new General Officer Commanding, insistently urged the necessity of reform and among the measures which he carried through was the creation of the appointment of Quartermaster-General. An important camp for six weeks was held at Levis, near Quebec, at which were assembled some artillery, the scattered companies of the Royal Canadian Regiment of Infantry, and some Militia details, which involved considerable Quartermaster work and Colonel Lake's plans for the concentration were made a subject of special study by the officers who attended. This was probably one of the first examples of combined training for the Permanent Force, to provide a proper standard of professional practice for District Staffs and Officers and Non‑Commissioned Officers on Training Duties.

 p155  In the winter of 1896‑97, the Venezuelan difficulty drew attention to the grave deficiencies in arms and equipment, which still existed and accomplished what the urgings of the General Officer Commanding had failed to do. Colonel Lake was hurriedly despatched to England to purchase arms. He placed orders for 40,000 Lee Metford and Lee Enfield rifles, sufficient twelve pounder breech loading field guns for existing batteries and a small number of Maxim Automatic Machine Guns.

Early in 1898, the Dominion and Imperial Governments appointed a joint Commission to examine and report upon the defence of Canada, and Colonel Lake represented the Dominion. The submission of the committee's Report coincided with the expiry of Colonel Lake's appointment and much to the regret of the Minister and many members of the Militia, he proceeded to join his regiment in India. For his work in Canada, he was given the brevet of Lieut.‑Colonel from the 11th January, 1890, when he had 26 years' service. On the 13th of November, 1899, he was made substantive Lieut.‑Colonel.

On the outbreak of the South African War, Lieut.‑Colonel Lake was recalled from Army Headquarters in India to the War Office to take charge as A. Q. M. G. of the mobilization of the troops. In this work he was practically the confidential staff officer of the Commander-in‑Chief, Lord Wolseley, during the period of the war. He was awarded the C. B., and promoted to substantive Colonel on the 11th January, 1902. During this period Colonel Lake was freely consulted by Lord Strathcona and his Secretary, Mr. Colmer, about the organization of Strathcona's Horse. Colonel Lake was referred to for assistance and advice by Sir Frederick Borden, when the latter attended the 1902 Colonial Conference, with Sir Wilfred Laurier, and again when the Minister was in London, a year later conferring with the Committee of Imperial Defence on certain questions connected with the defence of Canada.

In 1904, on the 2nd of March, Colonel Lake was appointed Brigadier-General to Field Marshal Sir Evelyn Wood, of the Southern Command, in England. Developments were taking place in Canada, to which reference must now be made. From 1873, the Militia had been commanded by a General Officer Commanding, who was always an Imperial Officer. These generals had usually been good and earnest officers — much too earnest sometimes for the  p156 complacency of Ministers committed to a minimum of expenditure on defence — and some of them were brilliant soldiers, but they had the disadvantage of coming new to conditions in the Dominion and were compelled to decide or advise upon important questions without the assistance of any experienced, responsible body of professional opinion. Sir Frederick Borden's experience as Minister with past commanders — Generals Gascoigne, Hutton, O'Grady Haly and Dundonald — had not, except perhaps in respect to O'Grady, been entirely satisfactory, and though much had been accomplished between 1896 and 1904, especially in the direction of organizing departmental services, modernizing the Militia, and improving its efficiency by giving annual training to all units. Without doubt more would have been done and with less friction had there been greater confidence between the Minister and his principal military adviser.

The reorganization of the Home Forces by the season of an Army Council for the Commander-in‑Chief came at the moment that Sir Frederick Borden was engaged on a complete overhaul of the Militia Law and a revision of the powers and functions of the General Officer Commanding. He at once saw the advantage of a body such as the Army Council; he closely examined the organization, several times consulting Brigadier-General Lake in England how the system was working. The result was that Sir Frederick revised the Amendment to the Militia Act, and on the new law being passed a Militia Council was constituted from 17th November 1904. But no provision was made for the constitution of a Selection Board (for the promotion of Senior Officers) after the plan of the Imperial Army, which had been introduced by Lord Wolseley, when he was Adjutant-General under the Duke of Cambridge, 1885‑1890.

To introduce the new system at Headquarters in Ottawa, which was adjusted to meet the problems of Canadian Defence, Sir Frederick turned to his old friend Brigadier-General Lake, who was given six months' leave of absence and lent to Canada, from 1st November, 1904, but later was given an extension to the normal time of four years, and on 23rd March following, was promoted to Major-General.

In 1907, General Lake accompanied Sir Frederick to the Imperial Conference and also to the Defence Conference in 1909. The essence of the Conferences was  p157 contained in the agreement of the Dominions in the statement: "That each part of the Empire is willing to make its preparations on such lines as will enable it, should it so desire, to take its share in the general defence of the Empire;" and that as a corollary, "war organization, establishments, equipment, arms and methods of training should be assimilated throughout the Empire as far as local conditions will admit."

Although those conclusions were only formally arrived at in 1909, Canada had been working on the same line for some years, and General Lake was more closely concerned than any other man at Headquarters, with the more important measures which were taken to this end, namely, the production of matured land forces of Canada. Included amongst these measures were the expansion of the courses for Permanent and Non‑Permanent officers wishing to qualify for the staff; admission to the Staff College at Camberley; the interchange of officers with the other Dominions, India and Great Britain; agreement under which Permanent Corps officers sat for the same examinations for promotion as did the officers of the British Regular Army; the further development of the Departmental Corps and the formation of additional ones; the purchase of the training ground at Petawawa; the grouping of Military Districts in Eastern Canada into higher commands; the arming of the artillery with the 18‑pounder quick firer and the 60‑pounder quick firer and an increase in the number of 5 inch howitzers and 4.7 inch quick firers already under order; the organization of the cavalry and artillery into brigades; the more thorough training of the Militia, both Permanent and Non‑Permanent; the preparation of new establishment tables and the introduction of many new boats of regulations and manuals. The ultimate object was the provision of 100,000 officers and men immediately available in the first line of defence, with the necessary machinery for raising and organizing another 100,000 in the second or home defence line.

In 1906, the Imperial General Staff was organized by the British authorities and Major-General Lake was freely consulted by the War Office through Major-General D. Haig, then Director of Staff Duties, during the process. Lake was appointed a Major-General, General Staff, on the Imperial General Staff, which was limited to the C. I. G. Staff and a few other high staff officers in Great Britain,  p158 India and the Dominions. To Lake was given the job of taking the first steps in organization of a General Staff in Canada. He was made a Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George in 1905, and Knight Commander of the same Order in 1908.

When Sir Percy's term as Chief of the General Staff expired in 1908, he took over for two years the position of "Inspector General and Chief Military Adviser", with a seat on the Militia Council as a special case. Almost simultaneously he was offered the position of Quartermaster-General in India. The appointment carried more pay than his post in Canada, but he was interested in his work in the Dominion and preferred to carry it through to completion.

The new appointment of Major-General Sir P. H. N. Lake was very convenient as it enabled him to study at first hand the result which the reorganization had upon the efficiency of the Militia. But he continued to carry on his shoulders many other burdens, for as Sir John French stated in the Report of his inspection in 1910: "His advice and assistance have been sought and obtained in every department, and the result of his knowledge, skill, tact and patience is apparent everywhere. Sir P. Lake has only been able to devote a part of his great ability to the work of actual inspection and direction of the inspectors under him, and I believe there are few men who could, under the circumstances, have done anything like so much in the way of supervision. His hand and his direction are apparent in all the training work of the troops I have seen."

The advance made by the militia between 1904 and 1910, towards efficiency for war was immense. The standard which had been reached surprised Sir John French. General Lake would be the first to admit that without such able men to co‑operate with him as Colonel W. D. Otter, C. B., Colonel F. L. Lessard, C. B., and Colonel B. H. Vidal, his task would have been almost impossible, and credit must be given to his fellow members of the Militia Council and the officers administering the higher commands who worked so earnestly with him. The new spirit of progress extended to the last joined private and it was wonderful raw material that Lake and his brother officers were given to shape and temper.

 p159  After all this, it is true of Sir Percy that his was the planning brain and the steering hand. Wherever he went, he gained the confidence of officers and men by his manner and his clear ability. "Even the opinion of a junior subaltern on the occasion of a visit of inspection would be asked and weighed and General Lake would patiently explain what was being done, what it was hoped to do, why it was not yet possible to carry through, exactly what had been suggested, and how it was proposed to get over the difficulty."

Officially General Lake's connection with the Military ended on the 11th of November, 1910. The Minister, Sir F. W. Borden, marked the occasion with the issue of a Special General Order, in which he set out the character of the work done by the General and expressed on behalf of the Government its high appreciation of Sir Percy's able, earnest and self-sacrificing services in the interest of the Canadian Militia. His Excellency The Right Hon. The Earl Gray, G. C. M. G., G. C. V. O., P. C., the Governor-General endorsed the words of the Order and brought Sir Percy's services to the notice of the War Office.

After leaving Canada, Major-General Sir Percy Lake was given the command of the 7th (Meerut) Division in India, taking up the command on the 7th of February, 1911, and on the 19th of March was promoted Lieut.‑General. He was present at the King's Durbar at Delhi in December and on the 24th of February, 1912, succeeded Sir Douglas Haig in the post of Chief of the General Staff, the Commander-in‑Chief at that time being General Sir O'Moore Creagh, V. C., G. C. B. During his service in India, Sir Percy co‑operated with General Sir Robert Scallon in fighting to have the Indian Army kept prepared in every way for war and stood up against the Finance minister of the Viceroy's Executive Council (Sir William Meyer), who demanded great reductions. There was a long fight to have the Army kept up to war strength and well equipped for war. Even after the outbreak of the War in 1914, the Indian Government continued a parsimonious policy in military affairs. In regard to the Mesopotamian Campaign, it was Sir Percy alone in India, who had the courage and foresight to urge that the request of the Commander in Mesopotamia for a railway should be at least submitted to the Secretary of State, although it had been refused by the Finance Department and the refusal concurred in by the Viceroy.

 p160  In short, the Official History of the Mesopotamian Campaign is a vindication of Sir Percy's career as Chief of the General Staff in India and shows that he practically alone, of the government and military heads, foresaw and provided against, so far as he could, the disastrous outcome of the first attempt on Bagdad. In January, 1916, Sir Percy took over the command of the Mesopotamia Force, with Lieut.‑General Sir Fenton Aylmer, V. C., G. O. C., Tigris Corps, as the senior officer under him. At the end of August, 1916, Sir Percy was called back to England (being torpedoed on the way) to give evidence before the Mesopotamia Commission. On the 3rd of May, 1917, General Lake took an important office under the Ministry of Munitions and continued there until the end of the war.

In 1918 Sir Percy and Lady Lake visited his brother at Regina, where Sir Richard Lake was Lieut.‑Governor. Later they went to the Pacific Coast and visited Colonel and Mrs. Belson. Sir Percy retired from the Army on 29th November, 1919. After a few years of world travel, they came to Victoria in 1925 to settle, and made their home at 1004 Terrace Avenue. Sir Percy took on his shoulders the heavy burden of Dominion President of the newly formed Canadian Legion. He was a great supporter of the United Service Institution of Vancouver Island (formed in 1927); and also of the local Unit of the Victoria (and Vancouver Island) Company of the Canadian Corps of Commissioners (formed 1937). He died at Victoria on 16th November, 1940, in his eighty-sixth year.


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