Officers Training

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Officers Training

Ken Joyce
Ken Joyce

September 10th, 2008, 1:45 am #1

I have recently been confronted with a veterans recollection of an officer I wrote about in my book, Snow Plough and the Jupiter Deception. Lt. Col. Donald Williamson was the commanding officer of the 1st Cdn Special Service Bn. until he was relieved of his command in January 1944.

The statement accuses Williamson of not knowing how to read a map. Apparently in FSSF training, he got lost due to his map reading skills.

Don Williamson joined the Dufferin and Haldimand Rifles in 1929 and became a Company Commander. He attended an RMC Company Commanders Course. According to the numerous mentions in the D&HR WD, Don was well liked by his men and there appears to have been no incidents of the type he is accused of in the FSSF. His promotions are clearly due to merit and not because he was kissing butt or a relation to someone powerful in the unit.

My question is, how well trained were militia officers before the war and was map reading a skill required to become a Company Commander. One would think such a fundamental aspect of training would be required by a senior officer in a combat role.

In short, I find it hard to believe that Williamson could not read a map after 10 years of training before the war and then after successfully completing his Company Commanders course. I feel this is a personal vendetta against him and is not based on any truth. Anyway I thought I would ask guys on here more knowledgeable in the training undertaken by militia officers or during courses at RMC.
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A.J. Lockard
A.J. Lockard

September 10th, 2008, 1:54 am #2

Perhaps it would be better to examine what it is you think the Militia did in the ten years before World War II, and discuss your incredulity that an officer might emerge from that period unable to read a map.

How much research have you done on Militia training of these years?

Personal accounts of that era suggest that training was casual and haphazard at best, especially at the company level. Do you have reason to believe otherwise?
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Ed Storey
Ed Storey

September 10th, 2008, 9:40 am #3

I have recently been confronted with a veterans recollection of an officer I wrote about in my book, Snow Plough and the Jupiter Deception. Lt. Col. Donald Williamson was the commanding officer of the 1st Cdn Special Service Bn. until he was relieved of his command in January 1944.

The statement accuses Williamson of not knowing how to read a map. Apparently in FSSF training, he got lost due to his map reading skills.

Don Williamson joined the Dufferin and Haldimand Rifles in 1929 and became a Company Commander. He attended an RMC Company Commanders Course. According to the numerous mentions in the D&HR WD, Don was well liked by his men and there appears to have been no incidents of the type he is accused of in the FSSF. His promotions are clearly due to merit and not because he was kissing butt or a relation to someone powerful in the unit.

My question is, how well trained were militia officers before the war and was map reading a skill required to become a Company Commander. One would think such a fundamental aspect of training would be required by a senior officer in a combat role.

In short, I find it hard to believe that Williamson could not read a map after 10 years of training before the war and then after successfully completing his Company Commanders course. I feel this is a personal vendetta against him and is not based on any truth. Anyway I thought I would ask guys on here more knowledgeable in the training undertaken by militia officers or during courses at RMC.
As a rule of thumb and not to cause any undue problems, Officer's are generally kept away from using radios, vehicles and maps....

Perhaps even though well liked and for the most part a competent Officer, maybe the person in question could not use a map or it could be that during the incident in question he was having a bad day. People tend to remember the less flattering aspects of other people traits as they make better stories to relate to others, especially 60+ years latter.

Of course as mentioned earlier, a study of pre-WWII militia training may lead to some answers on how well prepared some people were prior to the war.
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Ed Storey
Ed Storey

September 10th, 2008, 9:42 am #4

I have recently been confronted with a veterans recollection of an officer I wrote about in my book, Snow Plough and the Jupiter Deception. Lt. Col. Donald Williamson was the commanding officer of the 1st Cdn Special Service Bn. until he was relieved of his command in January 1944.

The statement accuses Williamson of not knowing how to read a map. Apparently in FSSF training, he got lost due to his map reading skills.

Don Williamson joined the Dufferin and Haldimand Rifles in 1929 and became a Company Commander. He attended an RMC Company Commanders Course. According to the numerous mentions in the D&HR WD, Don was well liked by his men and there appears to have been no incidents of the type he is accused of in the FSSF. His promotions are clearly due to merit and not because he was kissing butt or a relation to someone powerful in the unit.

My question is, how well trained were militia officers before the war and was map reading a skill required to become a Company Commander. One would think such a fundamental aspect of training would be required by a senior officer in a combat role.

In short, I find it hard to believe that Williamson could not read a map after 10 years of training before the war and then after successfully completing his Company Commanders course. I feel this is a personal vendetta against him and is not based on any truth. Anyway I thought I would ask guys on here more knowledgeable in the training undertaken by militia officers or during courses at RMC.
Why was he releaved of his command? How much weight do you put on one Veteran's 60+ year recollections?
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Ken Joyce
Ken Joyce

September 10th, 2008, 2:14 pm #5

Perhaps it would be better to examine what it is you think the Militia did in the ten years before World War II, and discuss your incredulity that an officer might emerge from that period unable to read a map.

How much research have you done on Militia training of these years?

Personal accounts of that era suggest that training was casual and haphazard at best, especially at the company level. Do you have reason to believe otherwise?
Well I should have figured that this would be the typical response. Maybe the question should have been stated, was map reading part of the training sylabus of the militia and active forces from 1929-1942. Was it part of the RMC Company Commanders Course at the beginning of WW2. But then you get the typical, go and do the research crap. I have done research for questions posted on this forum before and there was no benefit in it to me other than helping those interested. I guess this is the payback you get. My question was posted in the off chance that someone familiar with training, or training sylabus/manuals etc. of that time could give me an answer. Too f-ing much to ask I suppose. Yes, I will do the research myself.

I am seriously begining to wonder what the hell this forum is about?

Thanks for the help!

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A.J. Lockard
A.J. Lockard

September 10th, 2008, 3:47 pm #6

I don't think you're demonstrating an understanding of what you've researched is what I am saying. Get out of the archives and manuals and stop looking at syllabus. Incidentally, have you ever served in a reserve unit? There is a disparity between what they are supposed to do and what they actually do, especially the further out into the sticks you get. I am sure that was even truer during the Great Depression, when many officers surrendered their pay to the officers mess, than it is today with a war going on and far more incentive to train hard. You make the classic mistake of looking at things through a modern lens. Don't.

Read some personal accounts, and realize the Militia was a social club in the 20s. It would not be hard for an officer to emerge completely unschooled in map and compass work, or for a brother officer to cover for him. Perhaps even through a course in RMC.

And don't get pissed off when you get an answer you don't want to hear.

Thanks for your patience.
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Mark W. Tonner
Mark W. Tonner

September 10th, 2008, 4:10 pm #7

I have recently been confronted with a veterans recollection of an officer I wrote about in my book, Snow Plough and the Jupiter Deception. Lt. Col. Donald Williamson was the commanding officer of the 1st Cdn Special Service Bn. until he was relieved of his command in January 1944.

The statement accuses Williamson of not knowing how to read a map. Apparently in FSSF training, he got lost due to his map reading skills.

Don Williamson joined the Dufferin and Haldimand Rifles in 1929 and became a Company Commander. He attended an RMC Company Commanders Course. According to the numerous mentions in the D&HR WD, Don was well liked by his men and there appears to have been no incidents of the type he is accused of in the FSSF. His promotions are clearly due to merit and not because he was kissing butt or a relation to someone powerful in the unit.

My question is, how well trained were militia officers before the war and was map reading a skill required to become a Company Commander. One would think such a fundamental aspect of training would be required by a senior officer in a combat role.

In short, I find it hard to believe that Williamson could not read a map after 10 years of training before the war and then after successfully completing his Company Commanders course. I feel this is a personal vendetta against him and is not based on any truth. Anyway I thought I would ask guys on here more knowledgeable in the training undertaken by militia officers or during courses at RMC.
Hi Ken;

The following may be of some help in understanding 'Officers Training', you'll notice that their is 'No' mention of map reading at all in the following 'SYLLABUS'.

SYLLABUS OF ACTIVITY FOR O.S.A.C. (Officers' Selection and Appraisal Centre)
23 APR 43
Based on a daily schedule of 8 periods of 45 minutes each. 44 periods in a week. Coy Parade to be held each morning, 0800-0815.
________________________
Squad Drill (5 periods)
1. Platoon broken down into squads of 4 or 5 and formed into a group.
2. Marching men in a controlled body from one spot to another.
3. Position man should assume in marching.
4. Moving men in a controlled body from one point to another.
5. Moving in line (small groups).
6. Moving in single file small groups.
7. A controlled squad changing direction.
8. Forming up a larger body (platoon).

During the conduct of this activity a candidate will be prompted to collapse or not insubordinately or walk off parade, or create some other diversion. Candidates reaction noted.

The object of this subject is to provide a vehicle to bring out self confidence, alertness, energy, team
work, military benring, power of expression, attitude towards work, administrative ability.

Arms Drill - 1. (included in above 5 periods)
Candidates to give a short talk on the necessity for and value of arms drill.
2. Teach how to fall in with a rifle.
3. Teaching simple rifle movements.
Situations - Candidate drops his rifle and damages it. Candidate loses self control and throws rifle on ground.
Candidate coming out of the ranks and engaging in conversation with the instructor.
A rifle is discharged on parade.
Candidates reaction noted.

These subjects are designed to bring out sense of responsibility, initiative, power of expression, common
sense, alertness.

Physical Training (5 periods) Conditioning, elementary tables of training to be used candidates to conduct under supervision. Platoon Commanders to observe for all characteristics.

Organized Sport (6 periods) Candidates to organize games of baseball, etc., as well games without apparatus. Platoon Commander to observe for administrative ability, teamwork, attitude to work,initiative.

Fieldcraft and Vis Training (6 periods) Schemes indoor on sandtable or cloth model or outside in selected areas to show the individual or section Stalk and quick decision exercises. Searching a cloth model or sandtable or landscape target or assortment of articles indoors, or a piece of ground outdoors and giving description.

Points to be brought out: Alertness, Energy, Power of expression Initiative, Common sense, sense of responsibility, teamwork.

Fundamental Training (4 periods) Kit inspection for condition of Kit, Barrack room Inspection daily by
a candidate. Points to be noted. Attitude to work, Military Bearing, Alertness, Sense of responsibility.

Verbal Messages (4 periods)
Candidates to be given a verbal description of a situation which later on, under stress, he has to repeat back. A situation is described and the, candidates will be required to write a short message describing the action.

Designed to bring out: Power of expression, alertness, common sense, energy, stamina.

Lecturettes (6 periods)
Candidates required to prepare and deliver a ten minute talk on assigned subjects. Also candidates to give impromptu 2 minutes talks on assigned subjects without previous preparations.

Designed to bring out alertness, initiative, energy, self-confidence, freedom from annoying characteristics, common sense, stability.

S.A.T. Rifle (3 periods)
Cleaning and examination General description, aiming. Candidates to organize and give description and instruction. As a preliminary to range work at a later date.

Designed to bring out, Administrative ability, power of expression, initiative, common sense,alertness.

Organized Working Parties (4 periods)
Cleaning up a designated area in barracks, moving barrack equipment, scrubbing a specified area, digging end filling holes, snow and ice removal. Digging weapon slits.

The purpose of this activity is to test the candidates under trying condition, for stability, stamina,
administrative ability, energy, teamwork, initiative, attitudc to work.

Spare (l period)

(W.D., A. 17 C.M.G T.C., Appx IV, 23 Apr 43)

Source: REPORT NO. 37 - HISTORICAL SECTION (G.S.) - ARMY HEADQUARTERS
Dated: 28 June 1950
Subject: The Policy Governing the Finding and Selection of Officers for the C.A.S.F. (later C.A.(A))

This Report can be viewed in full at: http://www.dnd.ca/dhh/collections/repor ... ahq037.pdf

In regards to officer training during the period of 1929-39 (for the Non-Permanent Active Militia at least), Musketry and Sports seemed to have been the 'preferred' subjects of most officers' messes during this period.

Cheers

Mark
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Clive M. Law - Service Publications
Clive M. Law - Service Publications

September 10th, 2008, 4:39 pm #8

....one should not make generalizations.
If one did one could generalize; that AJ Lockard doesn't know how to play nice with others; that Militia officers only knew how to socialize; that this forum isn't the friendly 'mess' atmosphere that it used to be.
However, far be it for me to make sweeping generalities.
For years, officers who graduated from RMC were at the forefront of establishing the cartography of Canada. They used surveying techniques and hand drawings to accomplish this. Both of these skills were taught at the Royal Military College, Kingston. Therefore, I find it hard to believe that officers were fundamentally incapable of basic map-reading. Fast forward to 1974 and a young Militia 2LT leading a section on a map-reading exercise pops out of the bush at the exact RV point required. There, he and his group were met by Militia LCol who asked why we hadn't followed a different route - at which point he traced a line along my map - a brown line which everyone knows indicates an elevation and not a path.
Ken, your unfortunate officer MAY have been cartographically-challenged but I don't think that this was the norm for militia officers of the 1920s-30s, any more than AJ Lockard's less-than-sensitive response is indicative of the standard of reply one can expect on this forum...generally speaking.
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Ken Joyce
Ken Joyce

September 10th, 2008, 4:40 pm #9

I don't think you're demonstrating an understanding of what you've researched is what I am saying. Get out of the archives and manuals and stop looking at syllabus. Incidentally, have you ever served in a reserve unit? There is a disparity between what they are supposed to do and what they actually do, especially the further out into the sticks you get. I am sure that was even truer during the Great Depression, when many officers surrendered their pay to the officers mess, than it is today with a war going on and far more incentive to train hard. You make the classic mistake of looking at things through a modern lens. Don't.

Read some personal accounts, and realize the Militia was a social club in the 20s. It would not be hard for an officer to emerge completely unschooled in map and compass work, or for a brother officer to cover for him. Perhaps even through a course in RMC.

And don't get pissed off when you get an answer you don't want to hear.

Thanks for your patience.
Mr. Lockyer

What you stated was not an answer but a criticism. It also shows how obtuse you are in lumping all officers of that time in one boat. I agree to a point that training on the whole was not up to wartime standards. However I have done enough research sir, to explain to you that Canada, overall, did have a well trained officer cadre before the war.

Very good evidence of this is in the recruiting that took place in the early 40's for special units such as the FSSF. Officers for units such as the FSSF and 1CPB came from units all across Canada and represent the state of training of these units both prior to the war and the years up to 1942.

These officers came from home defence units and units slated for overseas. The calibre of Canadian officer training is actually recorded very well in the US. In fact most attribute the high state of training of the FSSF and its combat readiness on the training provided by the Canadian Army and Officers, a large percentage previously militia Officers.

As I stated in my rebuff to your prejudice of Canadian officers trained from the period 1929-1942, all I wanted to know was whether map reading, compass use etc. was a integral part of training up till that time. I do not think it unusual to expect that rudimentary map reading and compass use was part of their training either in the 1930's or during the period between 1939-1942.

Yes, I was in the reserves. We conducted this training in depth. In my opinion, apart from physical fitness and weapons proficiency, navigation day and night is one of the supreme skills of the soldier.

If the performance of many of these officers in action in WW2 is anything to go by, many were well trained. They were the backbone of the same army that went overseas and helped win the war. I know many Canadian historians criticize the training of the Canadian army even up to D-Day. I find this simply rediculous. Yes, reinforcements were not as well trained,some hardly trained at all in the later years of the war, however when one looks at training conducted in the UK and even Canada between 1940-1944, it was innovative and produced some excellent results.

I also think Canadian assessment of these officers prior to active service was thorough enough taking into account that one cannot really predict their reactions to combat.

I agree with what Ed stated about having a bad day. This is possible. I can also see what you are saying about the militia of the 1930's. Yes, some units operated like a social club to a degree, however they still trained.

I dont get upset at respectful answers posted to perfectly understandable questions.
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Ken Joyce
Ken Joyce

September 10th, 2008, 4:49 pm #10

....one should not make generalizations.
If one did one could generalize; that AJ Lockard doesn't know how to play nice with others; that Militia officers only knew how to socialize; that this forum isn't the friendly 'mess' atmosphere that it used to be.
However, far be it for me to make sweeping generalities.
For years, officers who graduated from RMC were at the forefront of establishing the cartography of Canada. They used surveying techniques and hand drawings to accomplish this. Both of these skills were taught at the Royal Military College, Kingston. Therefore, I find it hard to believe that officers were fundamentally incapable of basic map-reading. Fast forward to 1974 and a young Militia 2LT leading a section on a map-reading exercise pops out of the bush at the exact RV point required. There, he and his group were met by Militia LCol who asked why we hadn't followed a different route - at which point he traced a line along my map - a brown line which everyone knows indicates an elevation and not a path.
Ken, your unfortunate officer MAY have been cartographically-challenged but I don't think that this was the norm for militia officers of the 1920s-30s, any more than AJ Lockard's less-than-sensitive response is indicative of the standard of reply one can expect on this forum...generally speaking.
Thanks guys. These are the kind of answers and opinions I am talking about. Thanks very much!

I guess I agree with Clive on this as Williamson completed the Company Commanders course at RMC and I also would have expected at least a basic map reading course. Since the war was on at that point, you would expect those at RMC to have the common sense to realize how important map reading was to a Company CO.

Thanks Mark for taking the time to post that info. It is interesting that map reading is not listed. I do recall reading about militia units being obsessed with sports and physical activity.

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