Today’s installment concludes The Boer War,
the name of our combined selection from Arthur Conan Doyle, James F.J. Archibald, and J. Castell Hopkins. The concluding installment, by J. Castell Hopkins from Canada; The Story of the Dominion, was published in 1901.
If you have journeyed through all of the installments of this series, just one more to go and you will have completed selections from the great works of eleven thousand words. Congratulations! For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
Previously in The Boer War.
Time: 1902 (ended)
Place: South Africa
The Hon. G. W. Ross, Prime Minister of Ontario, at a banquet given in Toronto, on December 21st, to Mr. J. G. H. Bergeron, M.P., of Montreal — a French Canadian who had ex pressed in fervent terms what he believed to be the loyalty of his people to the British crown — declared that: “It is not for us to say that one or two contingents should be sent to the Transvaal, but to say to Great Britain that all our money and all our men are at the disposal of the British empire. It is not for us to balance questions of parliamentary procedure when Britain’s interests are at stake, but to respond to the call that has been sent throughout the whole empire, and to show that in this western bulwark of the empire there are men as ready to stand by her as were her men at Waterloo. It is not for us to be pessimists, but to have undying faith in British power and steadily to maintain the integrity of her empire.”
The men dispatched from Canada numbered three thousand altogether. They saw much service and experienced much privation. The Royal Canadian Regiment, or portions of it, be sides the skirmish at Sunnyside, shared in the more important battles around Paardeberg and in the capture of Cronje. For their gallantry in this latter fight Lord Roberts eulogized them publicly, cables of congratulation came to Canada from the Queen and from Lord Wolseley, Mr. Chamberlain, and Sir Alfred Milner, and, as it were in an hour, Canada appeared to take its proper place in the defense system of the empire. These things do not really happen in such an instantaneous fashion, but, as the roar of explosion follows the making of the cannon, the manufacture of its powder and shot, and its loading in an effective manner, so the charge of the Royal Canadians at Paardeberg revealed to the world in a moment the existence of that unity of sentiment and imperial loyalty which had been developing for years in the backwoods and cities of Canada or in the bush and the civic centers of Australia.
The regiment took part in the famous march to Bloemfontein and in the further campaign toward Kroonstadt and Johannesburg into Pretoria. They were brigaded with the Gordons and other Highland regiments, and later were placed in the Nineteenth Brigade, under Major-General H. L. Smith- Dorrien, who, on July 16th, issued an order of historic interest in which he declared that: “The Nineteenth Brigade has achieved a record of which any infantry might be proud. Since the date it was formed, namely, the 12th of February, it has marched six hundred twenty miles, often on half rations and seldom on full. It has taken part in the capture of ten towns, fought in ten general actions and on twenty- seven other days. In one period of thirty days it fought on twenty-one of them and marched three hundred twenty- seven miles. The casualties have been between four and five hundred, and the defeats nil.” Meanwhile the Canadian Mounted Rifles had been attached to Sir Redvers Buller’s force and under the more immediate command of Major- General E. T. H. Hutton. They took part, and, later, the Strathconas, in the conflicts and incidents of the march from Natal to Pretoria and the North, and upon several occasions won distinguished mention from their commanders.
One of those incidents which brightened this war by its evidences of heroism was the holding of an advanced post at Horning Spruit by four men of D Squadron, Mounted Rifles, against about fifty Boers. Two of them were killed and two wounded, but the post was held. General Hutton, in afterward writing Lord Minto (on July 2, 1900); described the action as showing “gallantry and devotion to duty” of a high order, and said that the Northwest Mounted Police — to which these men had originally belonged — “have been repeatedly conspicuous in displaying the highest qualities required of a British soldier in the field.” The C Battery of the Royal Canadian Artillery had meantime been sent round by way of Beira and Portuguese territory, through Rhodesia, to join Colonel Plumer’s column in the relief of Mafeking. With a Queensland contingent they shared in the hardships of a long and difficult journey, and arrived at Mafeking, after a march of thirty- three miles, just in time to contribute materially to the rescue of its heroic little garrison. They had journeyed from Cape Town, by sea and land, more than three thousand miles, in thirty-three days — partly by ship, partly by marching, partly by mule- wagons, and partly by train.
Individual incidents of bravery were numerous in all the contingents; and the losses by death or wounds, and the suffering from enteric fever or other diseases, were very great. In September, 1900, when the struggle was drawing to a close, the Canadian casualties in killed, or who had died of wounds or disease, were one hundred twenty-three.
Such is the story of the share taken by Canada and Canadian troops in this eventful struggle. It was an important share, and was entirely out of proportion to the number of men sent to the front from the Dominion. To compare the three thousand Canadians in South Africa with the fifteen thousand volunteers contributed by Cape Colony, the five thousand given by little Natal, or the eight thousand sent from Australasia, indicates this fact. But the assertion of a new and great principle of imperial defense; the revolution effected in methods of war by the proved and superior mobility of colonial forces in the contest; the actual achievements of the men themselves in steadiness, discipline, and bravery, reveal ample reasons for considering the participation of Canada in this war as a great event of its history.
During the years 1900-1902 the South African struggle continued in varying phases of success and failure toward its in evitable end. Additional contingents went from Canada to the total number of seven thousand three hundred men, and individual Canadians achieved distinction. At the Hart’s River fight on March 31, 1902, Canadian bravery was specially marked, and every man in a small force, surrounded by many hundred Boers, was wounded or killed before being overpowered. Terms of peace were signed at Pretoria on May 31st following, and the rejoicings in Canada were marked by an enthusiasm tempered only with the memory of the two hundred twenty-four gallant Canadians who had lost their lives in the struggle.
This ends our selections on The Boer War by three of the most important authorities of this topic:
- The Great Boer War by Arthur Conan Doyle published in 1902.
- Blue Shirt and Khaki by James F.J. Archibald published in 1901.
- Canada; The Story of the Dominion by J. Castell Hopkins published in 1901.
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