The University of New Brunswick’s Canadian Officer Training Corps (COTC) program was officially formed for the first time in November of 1915. Inspired by the United Kingdom’s very successful program, the University Officers’ Training Corps (UOTC), the COTC’s original objective was to provide basic military training to university students in order to supply the active militia with educated officers. Until 1940, the COTC’s training actually qualified students for commissioned ranks in the military upon graduation. The initial areas of study under the COTC during this time included Squad Drill, Platoon Drill, Company Drill, and Extended Order Drill, as well as lectures covering topics such as Duty, Discipline, Parts of the Rifle/Care and Cleaning of Arms, Map-Reading, and Field Sketching. However, when Canada entered the Second World War, the focus of the COTC changed. All male students enrolled at UNB were required to join the COTC, the University Naval Division, and University Air Training Corps. Programs were also introduced as war efforts became increasingly demanding. The COTC began to prioritize providing active duty officers for the military, and training focused more on fighting and combat. This is what The Brunswickan had to say about the change to the COTC in 1944:
“University students always find something about which to grumble, but never has there been so widespread and so common a complaint as that about the Canadian Officers Training Corps. A visit with the students in any university reveals that this is the first thing they are ready to talk about.
“The Institute’s interest in this lies principally in the fact that engineering students from practically every university have brought their questions and complaints to its attention and have asked for assistance in exposing conditions which they claim are unfair, unreasonable, and wasteful of time and energy. The almost unanimous agreement among students of all universities indicates a state of affairs which requires thoughtful consideration by the proper officials. The opinion of members of the staff seems to support the complaints of the students.
“The complaints are these:
The work is very elementary, and the same programme is followed every year for four years. The student in his senior year invariably feels that six hours a week have been totally wasted. He has learned nothing that would be of value in the event of an invasion, or that is of use to him if subsequent to graduation he joins the Army…. No credit is given for all this drill when the student enlists in the Army. On the other hand, the Navy and Air Force allow their candidates reasonable credit for the work they do in the University Naval Division and University Air Training Corps. What is even more, since their programmes are much farther advanced than that of the Army, the boys maintain an interest in them and actually get some benefit from them. If the training of the C.O.T.C. is not worth anything to the Army, it is a mild statement to say there would seem to be something wrong with it.”
It is fascinating to see, looking back through the archives, that even then, The Bruns existed as an effective means through which students could express their frustrations about university programs and the politics of the time.