The troopship Sardinian arrived at Cape Town on November 29th and the Canadians met a splendid reception.
Continuing The Boer War,
with a selection from Canada; The Story of the Dominion by J. Castell Hopkins published in 1901. This selection is presented in 4 installments, each one 5 minutes long. 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 first contingent of one thousand men steamed down the St. Lawrence from Quebec on October 30th (1899). For weeks before this date little divisions of fifty or one hundred or one hundred twenty-five men had been leaving their respective local centers amid excitement such as Canada never had witnessed before. St. John and Halifax, on the Atlantic coast, were met by Victoria and Vancouver, on the shores of the Pacific, in a wild outburst of patriotic enthusiasm. Toronto and Winnipeg responded for the centre of the Dominion, and at the Quebec “send-off” there were delegations and individual representatives from all parts of the country. Every village that contributed a soldier to the contingent also added to the wave of popular feeling by marking his departure as an event of serious import, while patriotic funds of every kind were started and well maintained throughout the country. To quote the Hon. F. W. Borden, Minister of Militia and Defense: “This was the people’s movement, not that of any government or party; it emanated from the whole people of Canada, and it is being indorsed by them as shown by the words and deeds of the people at all points where the troops started from.” The Earl of Minto, as Governor-General, in bidding official farewell to the troops on the succeeding day, expressed the same idea, and added that “The people of Canada had shown that they had no inclination to discuss the quibbles of colonial responsibility. They had unmistakably asked that their loyal offers be made known, and rejoiced in their gracious acceptance. In so doing surely they had opened a new chapter in the history of our empire.”
The troopship Sardinian arrived at Cape Town on November 29th and the Canadians met a splendid reception. The Royal Canadian Regiment of Infantry, as the contingent was called, at once went up to De Aar, and later to Belmont, the scene of Lord Methuen’s gallant fight. A portion of the Canadian troops took part in a successful raid upon Sunnyside, where was an encampment of Boers. Several of the enemy were captured, but the incident was memorable chiefly as the first time in history when Canadians and Australians have fought side by side with British regular troops.
Meanwhile, public feeling in Canada seemed to favor the sending of further aid, and its feasibility was more than shown by the thousands who had volunteered for the first contingent besides those selected. But it was not until some of the earlier reverses of the war took place that the offer of a second contingent was pressed upon the home Government. On November 8th, however, it was declined, and a week later Mr. Chamberlain wrote the following expressive words to the Governor- General: “The great enthusiasm and the general eagerness to take an active part in the military expedition which has unfortunately been found necessary for the maintenance of British rights and interests in South Africa have afforded much gratification to her Majesty’s Government and the people of this country. The desire exhibited to share in the risks and burdens of empire has been welcomed not only as a proof of the stanch loyalty of the Dominion and of its sympathy with the policy pursued by her Majesty’s Government in South Africa, but also as an expression of that growing feeling of the unity and solidarity of the empire which has marked the relations of the mother-country with the colonies during recent years.”
On December 18th events in South Africa and the pressure of loyal proffers of aid from Australia and elsewhere induced the Imperial Government to change their minds, the second contingent from the Dominion was accepted, and once again the call to arms resounded throughout Canada. The first troops had been composed of infantry, the second were made up of artillery and cavalry. Eventually it was decided to send one thousand two hundred twenty men, together with horses, guns, and complete equipment, and they left for the Cape, in detachments, toward the end of January and in the beginning of February, 1900. A third force of four hundred mounted men was recruited in the latter month and sent to the seat of war fully equipped, and with all expenses paid, through the personal and patriotic generosity of Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, the Canadian High Commissioner in London. In addition to ” Strathcona’s Horse,” another independent force of one hundred twenty-five men was offered in similar fashion by the British Columbia Provincial Government and was accepted at London and Ottawa, though for local reasons of political change it never was dispatched; while a movement was begun to proffer an organized Dominion brigade of ten thousand men, if required.
Little wonder, therefore, when such a popular spirit was shown, and when the anxiety to enlist and the influence used to obtain a chance of going to the front were greater than men usually show to obtain places of permanent financial value, that Field Marshal Lord Roberts, shortly after his appointment to South Africa, should have cabled his expression of belief that “the action of Canada will always be a glorious page in the history of the sons of the empire. I look for great things from the men she has sent and is sending to the front.” Meantime, even the slightest opposition to the policy of aiding the empire had died out — in fact, its assertion would have been dangerous, or at least unpleasant, and when Parliament met, early in February, the Government announced its intention of asking a vote of two million dollars for expenses in the dispatch of the contingents and for the payment after their return, or to the heirs of those who were killed, of an addition to the ordinary wage of the British soldier.
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