Corps of Guides
Disbanded: 31 March 1929, absorbed
by Canadian Corps of Signals
Perpetuated by: Canadian
The Corps of
Guides was an administrative corps of the Militia and a
precursor of the Canadian Intelligence Corps.
1 Apr 1903:
Corps of Guides formed with headquarters at Ottawa.
31 Mar 1929:
Disbanded, with personnel absorbed by the Canadian Corps of
The corps provided intelligence services to the Non-Permanent Active
Lieutenant Colonel Victor B. Rivers carried out the necessary staff work
which led to the formation of The Corps of Guides, authorized by General
Order 61 of 1 April 1903. This Order directed that at each of the 12
Military Districts across Canada there would be a District Intelligence
Officer (DIO) whose duties included command of the Corps of Guides in
The Corps of Guides was a mounted corps; its officers, NCOs, and Men
were appointed individually to headquarters staffs of various commands
and Military Districts to carry out intelligence duties. Part of their
mandate was to provide detailed and accurate information on local areas
in the event of a war on Canadian soil.
By the end of 1903, the General Officer Commanding the Forces (Canada)
reported that "the formation of the Corps has been attended by the best
possible results. Canada is now being covered by a network of
Intelligence and capable men, who will be of great service to the
country in collecting information of a military character and in fitting
themselves to act as guides in their own districts to forces in the
field. I have much satisfaction in stating that there is much
competition among the best men in the country for admission into the
Corps of Guides. Nobody is admitted into the Corps unless he is a man
whose services are likely to be of real use to the country."
Training was done under the supervision of the Director of Intelligence.
Special courses stressed the organization of foreign armies, military
reconnaissance, and the staff duties of intelligence officers. Drill was
kept to a minimum. Although primarily made up of individual officers and
men, there was also an establishment for a 40-man mounted company
allocated to each district.
Each Military District was sub-divided into local Guide Areas. The head
of this organization was the Director General of Military Intelligence (DGMI),
under the control of the General Officer Commanding (GOC). The DGMI was
charged with the collection of information on the military resources of
Canada, the British Empire, and foreign countries.
The first DGMI was Brevet-Major William A.C. Denny, of the British Royal
Army Service Corps. His staff included Lieutenant Colonel Rivers as ISO
and two AISOs, Captain A.C. Caldwell and Captain W.B. Anderson
responsible respectively for the Information and Mapping Branches, three
lieutenants, a sergeant and two NCOs. All members of the Corps of Guides
serving directly in the Military Districts were part-time Militia
At the start of the First World War, this was the basic military
intelligence organization in place. Capt R.M. Collins, the Secretary of
the Australian Defence Department, who had recently visited Canada,
The Canadian Forces were run by a Militia Council, similarly constituted
to the Australian Military Board with the Minister as President and the
First Military Member. The Chief of the General Staff (CGS) had the
responsibility to ďadvise on questions of general military policy;
Intelligence, and preparation for war; as well as the education of staff
officers. Of particular interest was the fact that there were two
Intelligence Officers on the Canadian Staff, assisted by a Corps of
Guides element (consisting of 185 Militia officers) which had been
raised on 1 April 1903.
When the Great War broke out, the Corps was concentrated at Valcartier
as part of the general mobilization. It was felt, however, that it would
not be possible to employ the corps as a formed body or to carry out the
missions envisioned for it in peacetime. At this time, the Corps
numbered about 500 allaranks, but training had focused on mounted
operations and reconnaissance on horseback, a role that became
increasingely inappropriate as the Western Front devolved into trench
General Arthur W. Currie recorded:
"The Corps of
Guides was absorbed into existing Units and formations. Officers to
the number of about thirty were absorbed into Staff posts and
various regimental and special duties. Owing to their special
training in reconnaissance and scout duties generally, the officers
appointed to Staff duties were utilized essentially as Staff
Captains for Intelligence and General Staff Officers.
Non-Commissioned Officers and men were absorbed into cavalry, horse
artillery and various other Staff duties and, subsequently, into the
Cyclist Corps which later became the natural channel for the
absorption of the Guide personnel."
personnel that did serve with the Canadian Expeditionary Force performed
infantry, liaison and reconnaissance duties in one of the five cyclist
companies established - one per division. During the great advances of
1918, these personnel suffered many casualties as they attempted to keep
Canadian commanders in touch with rapidly changing circumstances on the
battlefield. Other officers and NCOs performed intelligence duties in
HQs in the Canadian Corps, from Corps down to Brigade level. A
Counter-espionage Section, known as Intelligence (b), was created in
1918 to counter the threat posed by enemy agents.
After the war, some organizational changes occurred. On 1 Oct 1919, a
Cable Censorship Section was established in the corps. The Director of
Military Operations and Intelligence (DMO&I), Col J. Sutherland-Brown,
had planned to convert The Corps of Guide units and to use the newly
created Cyclist companies as divisional Troops for security and
protection duties. Using the Cyclists for screen protection was the old
role of light cavalry units, however, and traditionally not a function
of the Corps. On 15 May 1920, all companies except the censorship
section were converted to cyclists.
With the lack of interest shown in the military by both the government
and the Canadian public, only a few companies were formed and training
was limited. No training had been authorized in 1920, and between 1922
and 1924 training was restricted to 50% of the establishment. In 1926,
the establishment strength of each company was changed to one Major, one
Captain, four Lieutenants, one Warrant Officer Class II, one Company
Quarter-Master Sergeant, one Sergeant (artificer), four Sergeants, eight
Corporals, one driver, two cooks, six batmen, and 88 Privates. Equipment
consisted of 2 horses, 117 bicycles, and 1 wagon. The horses, wagon, and
bicycles, had to be hired for the camp periods in the summer. These men
were organized similarly to that of wartime companies, with a
headquarters of 10 men, and four platoons of 27, for a total of 118 all
Junior officer training included normal military subjects, plus
instruction in such special-to-corps subjects as characteristics of
Cyclists, platoon drill with bicycles, Cyclists in reconnaissance,
employment of Cyclists for protection, tactical action of Cyclists,
map-reading and field sketching, employment of Cyclists with corps or
divisional troops, the role of the unit in war, and almost as an
afterthought, Intelligence in peace and war. Captains had to know these
subjects and, in addition, become proficient in dismounted action and
the employment of Cyclists in coast defence. Majors had to have a full
knowledge of Intelligence in peace and war. NCOs took a modified version
of the subalternís course.
In the 1920s, the role of the Cyclists and the methods used to fill it
had lost their appeal. Recruiting declined, and few companies were
really active. Among the active were the two in Toronto, through which
passed some 855 all ranks between 1912 and 1929. Small units cost a
great deal to administer for little apparent return. General Order 191,
1 Dec 1928, disbanded the Guides effective 31 Mar 1929. Personnel were
absorbed by the Canadian Corps of Signals.
The disbanding of the Guides meant that only a small staff was left in
Ottawa and in some of the military districts to carry out the
Intelligence functions in Canada. After the outbreak of the Second World
War, Canadian Intelligence Corps was formed, carrying on the traditions
of The Corps of Guides.
On the date of formation, 1 Apr 1903, one company was established in
each Military District:
No. 1 Company at St. Thomas, ON.
No. 2 Company at Toronto, ON.
No. 3 Company at Kingston, ON.
No. 4 Company at Montreal, PQ.
No. 5 Company at Lake Megantic, PQ.
No. 6 Company at New Glasgow, NS.
No. 7 Company at Woodstock, NB.
No. 8 Company at Toronto, ON.
No. 10 Company at Winnipeg, MB.
No. 11 Company at Victoria, BC.
No. 12 Company at Regina, SK.
No. 13 Company at Calgary, AB.