Sam Hughes, Canada’s Controversial Minister of Defence

 Major gen. Sir Sam Hughes

Major gen. Sir Sam Hughes

Canadian Major gen. Sir Sam Hughes is shown visiting wounded soldiers at a Red Cross Hospital in England during World War 1.

Sir Sam Hughes (January 8, 1853 – August 23, 1921) was Canada’s Minister of Militia and Defence during the Great War, serving from October 10, 1911 until his resignation on October 12, 1916.

Hughes was a controversial figure, especially because of his vitriolic Anti Catholic sentiments, shameless self promotion and probably exaggerated stories of his bravery during the Boer War, in which he had served. Hughes relentlessly lobbied to be granted a Victoria Cross, the highest military commendation in the British Empire. In fact, Hughes had been dismissed from his command for disobeying orders after granting unduly favourable terms to an enemy force which had surrendered to him. Hughes charged the British high command with incompetence for this action.

During the war, Hughes was in charge of setting up training and recruitment of Canadian forces, but the process was often chaotic and plagued by supply problems. He was particularly criticized for insisting that the Canadian forces be equipped with equipment manufactured in Canada, which resulted in the soldiers receiving inadequate equipment and supplies which were often unsuitable in quality. For example, Hughes favoured the Canadian made Ross rifle which often jammed instead of the more reliable Lee-Enfield rifle.

Due to these difficulties, Hughes was eventually relieved of his spending and purchacing powers and a short time afterwards he resigned.

 

 

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