Characters > Historical

Sam Hughes
Minister of Militia and Defence

Photo of Sam Hughes, Minister of Militia and Defence

“There is only one feeling as to Sam, that he is crazy,” wrote Sir George Foster, deputy prime minister in his diary. Hughes himself admitted that ”my character is unique, my ways are unique.”

Although you see very little of him in my novel, various characters do talk about him with some trepidation and a bit of fear. For example:


He was indeed unique and he had very little fear. When the war broke out Hughes scrapped the mobilization plan that had been prepared by the British professionals on the Canadian general staff and created his own. When Lord Kitchener tried to break up the CEF, Hughes refused. He insisted that since Canada was paying the bills it should control its own forces in everything except for the top commanders and the overall war strategy.

However, Hughes came under constant fire for:

Hughes was born in 1853 in the Ontario county of Durham. At age 17, as a member of the 45th West Durham Battalion of Infantry, he took part in defending against last of the Fenian raids. He taught school in eastern Ontario then in Toronto. When he was 30 he moved to Lindsay, the hearth of the Loyal Orange Lodge. He bought the local paper the Warder, which he used to promote his views.

He was first elected as Conservative member of Parliament for Victoria North in 1891.

When the Boer War broke out he had planned to raise troops for duty in South Africa. The plan was thwarted by Army Headquarters in Ottawa. He still managed to get to South Africa and join the British Army fighting the Boers. He proved to be a competent front-line soldier, but his disdain for “inept” British officers and lack of discipline resulted in his dismissal. 

When he returned home he re-entered politics, but it didn’t prevent him from waging an endless campaign for a Victoria Cross which he felt the British army had denied him. 

Borden appointed him Minister of Militia and Defence when the Conservatives swept the 1911 election.

Sources and further reading


HUGHES, The Hon. Sir Samuel, P.C. - Parliamentarian File - Federal Experience

HUGHES, Sir SAMUEL - Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online - South African War - Lieutenant-Colonel Sam Hughes

Colonel Sam Hughes - Forging the Weapon


Haycock, R.G. Sam Hughes: The Public Career of a Controversial Canadian, 1885–1916. Waterloo, Ontario, 1986.

Allen, Ralph. Ordeal by Fire, Canada 1910-1945. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1961.