Valentine Hitchcock’s military training began in the 1890’s when he joined the 5th Regiment Canadian Garrison Artillery in Victoria, BC. He had risen to Corporal by Feb. 10th 1898 when he formed part of the Honour Guard present for the opening of British Columbia’s new Parliament Buildings. Also present that day was a 22 year-old teacher and part-time Gunner named Arthur Currie. Whether Valentine cast a critical eye over this relatively new recruit is unknown but I like to think he may have done so.
The Jan. 25th 1900 issue of the British Colonist published a list of promotions resulting from a reorganization of the 5th CGA earlier that year. Valentine was appointed a Sergeant while Bombardier Currie was promoted to Corporal. Unbeknownst to either soldier was the fact that Valentine would rise in rank no further while Currie had only begun his impressive ascent. Corporal Currie was by 1913 Lieutenant-Colonel Currie, commander of the regiment, but by 1918 he was Lieutenant-General Sir Arthur W. Currie, commander of the famed Canadian Corps.
At the time of his promotion to Sergeant in 1900 Valentine was still a bookbinder by trade however it was also around this time that he became a member of the Victoria Fire Department. By 1902 he had become a hoseman on a Chemical wagon based out of the recently constructed No 4 Fire Hall at the corner of Edward and Catherine Streets in Vic West. Valentine’s career with the Fire Department spanned more than a decade and during that time he almost assuredly fought two of Victoria’s largest blazes, the 1907 Herald Street fire and the David Spencer building fire in 1910. The latter wiped out an entire city block, including the Williams Building that he had worked and lived in from 1892 to 1898. Valentine officially left the Fire Department in 1914 but by 1912 he had returned to his old profession when he joined the King’s Printer. He would remain a civil servant for the rest of his working life but his career, like thousands of others, was about to be disrupted by events in Europe.
When war broke out in August 1914 Valentine Hitchcock was approaching his 40th birthday, he was a civil servant and he had a dependent mother to support. It may have been one or more of these factors that contributed to his decision not to volunteer in 1914. I’ve been unable to confirm he was a member of the Active Militia but his attestation papers did state that he had served with both the 5th Regiment CGA and the 50th Gordon Highlanders. Since the 50th had only recently been formed (August 1913) it is likely he was a member of that regiment when war broke out. We will likely never know the real reasons behind the timing of his enlistment but his status as a civil servant and a series of government directives, issued as Orders in Council, could hold the key.
The first Order of Council was issued just ten days after the outbreak of war. It gave government department heads the right of recall however it also stated that a civil servant who was called up, or enlisted, would be entitled to his regular salary in addition to his military pay. That decision must have been controversial because on February 10th, 1915 a new Order in Council was issued:
“specifically cancelling the payment of a civil salary to civil servants who might in future enlist for service in the Canadian Expeditionary Force without the consent of the head of their Department, but allowed the privilege to those who might already have enlisted without first having obtained such consent. Civil servants whose salaries continued to be paid during military service would be restored to their civil positions on termination of such military service provided they remained qualified to discharge the duties appertaining to their positions”. 
Civil Servants could still enlist and receive both salaries if they had the consent of their Department head however this loophole was about to be closed. On November 1st, 1915 a third Order in Council was issued that:
“restricted power of the head of a department to grant leave of absence, with salary, to the cases of those civil servants whose positions would not require to be filled during their absence; in such cases civil salary would be subject to deduction of the amount received as military pay”
In no way do I wish to imply that Valentine joined up for monetary reasons, especially considering the many years he spent serving in the local militia. He undoubtedly bade farewell to many friends in 1914 and 1915, and with the call for volunteers growing more desperate he joined the 67th Battalion (Western Scots) on September 1st 1915, the day the battalion was officially mobilized. And taking no chances the 41-year old bookbinder claimed he was only 38.
In Part 3: the 67th Battalion (Western Scots) in Victoria and their voyage to England in April 1916.
1. Appendix 54 – Official History of the Canadian Forces in the Great War 1914-1919, General Series Vol. 1 (11MB pdf)
Gallery of additional images