GENERAL ARTICLES

Canada’s Fighting Forces

FREDERICK EDWARDS March 15 1940
GENERAL ARTICLES

Canada’s Fighting Forces

FREDERICK EDWARDS March 15 1940

Canada’s Fighting Forces

PART 6: PAY AND RECORDS

FREDERICK EDWARDS

A STAFF OFFICER said: “There is more to

modern army organization than the average citizen knows anything about.”

It is forbidden to quote even staff officers directly by name. This gentleman, a veteran of the 1914-18 fracas, with better than half a dozen medal ribbons sewn across the left breast of his tunic, is an engineer in civil life. He happens to possess a special genius for organization, and he has also the gift of concise and articulate expression. Expanding his theme, he made clear a number of important points in modern army organization that we had not previously considered of any particular consequence. The essential essence of his words may be presented thusly:

Every war is different from every preceding war, and this war is different from the last war in which Canada was a belligerent, just as civil life in 1940 is different from civil life in 1914. Not only is the actual process of fighting different, because of the development of aircraft, the use of new types of gas and chemicals, and the tremendous increase in mechanical equipment and similar obvious changes, but methods of organization and administration are different. In some respects they have been simplified. In others they have, of necessity, become more complex. We, as a nation at war, have learned a lot about organization from the mistakes we made last time.

What the public sees, and what the public is most directly interested in, is the combatant soldier, and that is, perhaps, as it should be; but the efficient functioning of noncombatant units is of vital importance to the successful conduct of modern war, because unless they function efficiently the soldier is unhappy and worried. He becomes discontented, and a discontented soldier cannot be a good soldier. His mind is not on his work. “Go and look at the Pay Corps,” the staff officer said. “Look at Records, and the rest of the clerical services. The men who handle those duties rarely appear in public parades, and that is all right, too. Without them, though, and without a lot of hard

work, and good work, in those departments, the whole army would bog down in a morass of confusion, distrust and uncertainty. You cannot do a proper job of writing about the Canadian Active Service Forces, and leave these services out of the picture.”

Royal Canadian Army Pay Corps

YY7E WENT first to look at the Pay Corps. Another W staff officer, authorized to speak for the Royal Canadian Army Pay Corps, supplied us with an entirely new conception of the unit to which he belongs, the job it does, and its attitude toward that job, as well as of the problems and resixmsibilities that enter into the proper performance of that job.

In tw'o separate sessions he gave us something like three hours of his valuable time, then backed that up with a written statement of the aims, procedures and obligations inherent in the duties of the R.C.A.P.C., especially in times of war.

About the only direct contact the soldier has with the Pay Corps is through his regimental or unit paymaster on the first and fifteenth of each month, when he steps up briskly on pay parade and pockets whatever money is due him. At other times he may find it necessary to carrygrievances or requests for readjustments to his unit paymaster for consideration. It follows that the general public hears little about the R.C.A.P.C. except when some soldier has a complaint which, rightly or wrongly, he thinks has been unfairly dealt with. If he allows his feelings to get the better of his judgment, he may speak of his troubles in loud tones and in divers places.

When this happens, that same general public, naturally in sympathy with the soldier, and often completely ignorant of the regulations governing the duties of the Pay Corps—governing them within rigid boundaries, too— takes sides automatically with the man. It is something like teeth. As long as your dental equipment is in perfect

condition you never think about your teeth; but when one of them begins to ache your whole body knows it. A very small percentage of soldiers who think they have been unjustly treated will ring the welkin with tales of their wrongs. You never hear of the majority who have nothing much to grumble about.

Our Royal Canadian Army Pay Corps spokesman pointed this out in a few crisp sentences, accepting such cited mishaps philosophically as inevitable, and all a part of the day’s work. For one thing, the dissatisfaction might be entirely unwarranted, since the regulations are strict about what a paymaster may and may not do in the matter of a soldier’s pay. Or it might result from some carelessness on the part of the man himself, in regard to some detail of information that he has failed to supply, or has stated inaccurately.

Officers and men of the Pay Corps, he said, are intelligent people, specially trained in army pay accounting, and they know their jobs; but over and above this, he insisted, they have, as a Corps, and as a unit of the Canadian Active Service Forces, a strong sense of their responsibility toward their comrades, and they are imbued with the milk of human kindness. They want the soldier to have every cent of the money that is rightfully due him. They want him to get his money on time and without fuss. A point to remember, though, is that they cannot do things that the regulations strictly forbid them to do.

Again, this officer reminded us, the Royal Canadian Army Pay Corps has a double duty to perform. The wages paid the soldiers come out of the taxpayers’ pockets. So, while one half of the Pay Corps’ job is to see that the soldier gets his rights, the other half is to see that the public funds are protected against loss through carelessness or conniving. The R.C.A.P.C. is not permitted, for example, to act as a sort of governmental debt-collecting agency; or as a domestic relations court; or as a banking institution

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Canada's Fighting Forces

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The Royal Canadian Army Pay Corps is a Permanent Force establishment functioning in peacetime as well as in war. In peace, only a skeleton establishment is maintained. In the first three months of this war it was necessary to increase the officer personnel of the R.C.A.P.C. by three times its peace strength, and the noncommissioned officers and men by four times. The present strength is approximately fifty officers and two hundred and sixty other ranks.

For enlistment in the Pay Corps the minimum educational standard required is junior matriculation. It was a surprise to learn that no special training in accountancy is demanded before enlistment. The men have to be accurate and rapid typists, and if they are qualified stenographers, so much the better. The necessary training nf military accounting is provided subsequently, together with instruction with regard to army procedure, interpretation of regulations, etc., governing a soldier’s pay. All recruits are also given a fair amount of infantry training to enable them to take their places in the ranks when required.

Army pay is the responsibility of the Adjutant-General of the Department of National Defense. Next in authority to the Adjutant-General is the Director of Pay Services, with headquarters in Ottawa. In each Military District there is a district paymaster, an officer of the R.G.A.P.C. responsible to the Director of Pay Services, and in each Air Command there is stationed a detachment of the R.C.A.P.C. for whose duties the Director of Pay Services is responsible directly to the Chief of Air Staff, Royal Canadian Air Force.

Rates of Pay and Allowances

DISTRICT paymasters in the Canadian Active Service Forces are required to co-ordinate and control the operations of the regimental and unit paymasters, who are officers of their respective units, not members of the Royal Canadian Army Pay Corps. It is the job of the district paymasters to see to it that regimental pay lists are correctly prepared and properly rendered. The money to meet the pay lists on the first and fifteenth is advanced by the Treasury to the regimental paymasters, through the district paymasters, who supply the different units with the funds needed to meet the demands of the pay parade. The soldier is paid in cash. The rest of the transaction is carried through by cheque. The responsibility on the shoulders of a district paymaster is heavy, especially in districts where large numbers of troops are in training in several camps. Every payment made must be supported by corresponding vouchers, and every cent of the money has to be accurately and promptly accounted for, or somebody is up for office—in other words, on the mat. All accounts and vouchers are scrutinized by the Royal Canadian Army Pay Corps.

Rates of pay and allowances, and the rules governing assigned pay and the distribution of dependents’ allowances, were made law by an Order in Council under the comprehensive title of: ‘‘The

Financial Regulations and Instructions for the Canadian Active Service Forces.” This is the paymaster’s code, and he cannot exceed its limitations. Much of the grousing about pay and allowances has arisen, we were told, from a misunderstanding of the regulations controlling the payments of dependents’ allowances and assigned pay.

There seems to be a generally accepted belief that this matter of dependents’ allowances is entirely in the hands of (a) the regimental paymaster, or (b) the district paymaster, or (c) the Director of Pay Services. Nothing could be farther

from the facts. These officers are responsible only for collection of the claims from the soldier, and the forwarding of them to the Dependents Allowance Board, set up within the Department of National Defense for the purpose of reviewing all claims and adjudicating upon them in accordance with the provisions of the regulations governing this very important matter, after which, if in order, they are passed to the Department of the Treasury in Ottawa for payment. Where dependents’ allowances are claimed on behalf of wives and children, they are put into effect immediately and reviewed by the board later. But—and here’s where a lot of the trouble has arisen—in the case of dependents’ allowance claims made for persons other than wives and children, the board’s investigation must be complete and satisfactory before the Treasury Branch has any authority to issue a cent of money on such an account.

There is one document—M.F.M.5— that every officer and enlisted man must complete, requiring minute details of his family life prior to joining up. It contains seventeen questions printed on two sides of a foolscap-size sheet, and its title is: ‘‘Particulars of Family of an Officer or Soldier of the Canadian Field Force.” Instructions at the head of the paper state that all questions must be completed.

This is an examination that probes deeply. Following the customary details as to name, regimental number, unit, and the rest of it, the investigation gets down to brass tacks. Here are some of the questions:

(6) If married, have you been regularly supporting your wife? If not—state reasons.

(9) If separation allowance is claimed in respect of children—state whether you have been regularly supporting them.

(10) I lave you a common-law wife—whom you have been regularly supporting and publicly representing .as your wife?

(12) If your father is a widower and is totally incapacitated from earning a living—are you his sole support?

(13) If sole support of father who is a widower—state what amount per month you have given him prior to joining C.A.S.F.

Also state reason he has no other means of supjxjrt.

(15) If your mother is a widow, are you her sole support?

(16) If sole support of widowed mother— state what amount per month you have given her prior to joining C.A.S.F?

Also state reason why she has no other means of support.

So searching a catechism has been considered necessary by the authorities, in order to avoid future difficulties arising from misunderstandings. Many such came out of the last war; but it can be readily understood that in a mistaken effort to do something for an aged father or a widowed mother, or a common-law wife, a soldier might touch up one or two details. If so, he'll have nothing but his trouble for his pains Trained investigators from the Dependents’ Allowance Board will check every statement he makes on M.F.M.5, and if it is found that he has erred in any important item, there’ll be only delay, further enquiry, and general discomfort all round.

The paymaster is not to be blamed, in all fairness. With every will in the world to see things from the enlisted man’s point of view, there is nothing he can do about it. His hands are tied.

It has been found difficult to make some of the men understand why they

cannot assign part of their pay and obtain dependents’ allowances for relatives other than wives, children, mothers and fathers. They cannot, because the dependents’ allowance is exactly what its name implies —an allowance extra to pay, made only to dependents. In other cases, men have wished to assign part of their pay to outside agencies; to complete time-payment contracts, pay off outstanding loans, and the like. They cannot, for the reason that the Pay Corps is not to be made a debt-collecting agency.

A soldier may assign pay to cover the amount of a monthly insurance premium, or assignments for other specific purposes such as loans made under the Dominion Housing Act, Canadian Government Annuities and other Government projects to which the soldier is committed, but only if the total assigned remains within the limit of the maximum monthly amount permitted. That is, he cannot assign the maximum amount to his wife, and assign the insurance premium in addition. Any other arrangements he may make to settle old debts must remain a matter between the dependent to whom pay assignment has been made, and the man’s creditors. The Pay Corps cannot touch it.

When a C.A.S.F. soldier goes overseas, he finds a detachment of the Royal Canadian Army Pay Corps waiting for him in England, ready to pick up the thread of his pay record where it was dropped in Canada; but come first or fifteenth of the month, he’ll report for no pay parade on board ship. Instead he is paid a fiat sum of five dollars for pocket money while in transport. The Pay Corps was in England with the necessary machinery set up and functioning when the first contingent of the C.A.S.F. arrived. The same plan, we were told, will be carried through when the men go to France.

The Records Office

FROM the headquarters of the Royal Canadian Army Pay Corps to the Records Office in Ottawa is a walk of about four blocks, but the two establishments are practically interlocking, and orderlies pass between them in so continuous a stream every day that they might be mistaken for a company marching in single file.

An item that is the main business of the Records Office, is something the soldier himself seldom, if ever, sees after his enlistment. Yet from the viewpoint of the military authorities it is one of his most important [X)Ssessions. That is the soldier’s personal file. Again, learning from the experience of the last war, the Records Office has at one and the same time simplified its processes and made them more thorough. There are only four basic documents in the enlisted man’s personal file in this war, but together they constitute a case history as complete as the most exacting social worker could desire. Between the day of his enlistment and the day he quits the C.A.S.F., every last detail of every little thing that happens to him is a matter of official record, resting in his personal file.

The maintaining and checking of this exhaustive documentation is a responsibility divided three ways. Between the District Records Officer, the Orderly Room of the man’s own unit, and the Officer in Charge of Records at Ottawa.

Most of the required documents are made out in triplicate. The original goes into the files at Ottawa. The first copy is sent overseas with the man when he sails, and is held in the Overseas Records Office in England. The third copy stays with his unit.

Of all the soldier’s documents the most important is his attestation paper. In the last war this was a single sheet. Medical records were made out on separate documents. This time the attestation paper is a four-sheet affair, with details of the man, his next-of-kin, trade, previous military experience, declaration, oath of allegiance, and the certificate of the attesting officer

on the first page. Special military, business or professional, trade or civil, technical or language qualifications are entered on the second page, together with a record of his educational status and space for rejxirts on his promotions, reductions, transfers and casualties, below it.

The third and fourth sheets are given over to his medical history, and a very thorough job they do of it. The recruit is asked if he has ever suffered from any one of seventeen different ailments, ranging from rheumatism and tuberculosis to flat feet and “have you ever worn glasses?’’ Next comes his record of a medical examination by a board of three doctors, with their comments on the accuracy or otherwise of the answers given to those seventeen questions, the man’s classification by physical category—the examiners must explain their action in the case of any recruit accepted in a category lower than A—and, finally, space for records of vaccinations, inoculations, medical boards and reclassifications of category.

Page four is left blank, but ruled into nineteen spaces to accommodate entries dealing with the soldier’s hospitalization in the case of sickness or injury. The foursheet attestation paper greatly simplifies the documentation job, reduces risks of loss of documents leading to delays, and at the same time provides the authorities with a great deal more information about the man than was available in the last war.

Second in importance on the document list is M.F.M.5, already described. This is made out in duplicate. One copy is sent to the Officer in Charge of Records, Ottawa; the second is retained by the paymaster of the man’s unit and accompanies the man throughout his service, being always in the custody of the paymaster of the unit with which for the time being the man is serving.

The Service and Casualty Form is planned to show on a single document everything that happens to the soldier during his C.A.S.F. career. The details identifying the man, and his qualifications, are carried on the front. On the back are thirty-seven ruled spaces to take care of the narrative of his military service. This document must cover, according to the printed instructions, a record of all “promotions, (acting, temporary, local or substantive) appointments, transfers, postings, attachments, etc., forfeiture of pay, wounds, accidents, admissions to and discharge from hospital, casualty clearing stations, etc., date of disembarkation and embarkation from a theatre of war (including furlough, etc.).’’

So, on a single sheet of paper, eight inches by eleven, is recorded the complete history of a military career. It is further simplified by making the same form fit commissioned officers and other ranks.

Finally, there’s the man’s conduct sheet, upon which his sins and wickednesses must be recorded. It would seem that the authorities have complete confidence in the good behavior of their troops, for this is the smallest of all the basic documents, and the simplest.

Those documents form the nucleus of every soldier’s personal file, and there is a separate file for every man in uniform. Other correspondence concerning the officer or the enlisted man goes into the file as occasion arises, and in some cases the dossier grows to bulky proportions as time goes on. District Records Offices have their own files dealing with district affairs, but the original documents of the soldier, in every instance, are held and checked at Ottawa headquarters.

Corps of Military Staff Clerks

Obviously an enormous amount of detailed clerical work is involved in the maintenance and checking of the tens of thousands of personal files now accumulating at Ottawa. This job is handled by a Permanent Force unit that few civilians know exists—the Corps of Military Staff Clerks. Like the Pay Corps, the C.M.S.C.

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greatly increases its strength in wartime.

Trained office workers, stenographers and typists make up the personnel of the Corps. The Chief Records Officer is a C.M.S.C. Major, and all District Records Officers wear the quill pens crossed through a circle, the distinguishing badge of the unit.

At Ottawa headquarters the Records staff is concerned not only with the new files that are being created for this war, but with those of the last war and of the South African War as well. In fact, so far, the hundred and twenty clerks are still mainly occupied with matters arising from the war of 1914-18, or with the records of soldiers who are again in the Army after seeing service with the C.E.F. In February the proportion of files handled daily was about two C.E.F. files to one C.A.S.F.

Ottawa Records Office files occupy 45,000 square feet of floor space, and the cabinets are stacked in tiers eight drawers high, so that in order to reach the topmost cases clerks have to climb ladders. Altogether there are around 620,000 sets of individual documents, including X-ray negatives. For C.E.F, files alone, 1,574 cabinets are required, and there still remain seven stacks of four cabinets each containing South African War files.

Space is a pressing problem with the Records Office right now. The law states that no soldier’s file may be destroyed until fifty years after the end of the war in which he has served. The South African records therefore must be carried until 1952, and the Great War files until 1968. Meanwhile room must be found for the documents dealing exclusively with C.A.S.F. affairs.

Other complications enter into the Records job. There’s always duplication of names. In the C.E.F. files at Ottawa are

I, 500 personal files of soldiers named

J. Smith, and almost as many J. A. MacDonalds, McDonalds, or Macdonalds. Soldiers who are vague about their middle names, or about the exact spelling of any one of their names, are an ever-present source of worry to the Records staff, which is constantly being called upon to state whether so-and-so served in France, and if so, when and where, or to produce evidence in support or denial of claims for pensions, medals, service buttons and similar post-war accessories. Nevertheless the Records Officer with whom we talked said confidently: “Give us any soldier’s name and regimental number and we’ll produce his file for you inside ten minutes —if you have authority to see it.” We spoke of this to the Pay Corps officer. I le said: “They will, too.”

It begins to be plain that, as our staff officer said in the beginning, there is more to modern warfare than the average citizen knows about. When the troops of the C A.S.F. go to France, other auxiliary services must be set up. There will be a hiring service at field headquarters responsible for billeting the men comfortably; field {X)st offices have to be arranged for, military canteens organized, and civilian canteens supervised. In cases of emergency, labor battalions will be called upon to supply extra men for trench digging and similar unskilled work; and meanwhile the services supplied by Ordnance, Transport, Medical and Dental units—dealt with in a previous article— must function smoothly.

More than ever it becomes evident that war is no longer merely a matter of men, guns and munitions. Behind those there is a vast and intricate auxiliary organization vitally necessary to the ultimate success of any military campaign.

Modern war is also Big Business.

The seventh article in this series will appear in an early issue.