Canadians also served in imperial, irregular units, such as the Canadian Scouts and Brabant's Horse.
The war can be divided into 3 phases. Euphoria marked the start of hostilities and ended in Britain's "Black Week" of mid-Dec 1899. This first period, characterized by British blunders and defeats, startled Canadians as the more numerous Afrikaner soldiers, highly mobile and armed with modern weapons and the determination to defend their homeland, confounded the British. The second phase, Feb-Aug 1900, reversed the trend. During this period the British reorganized and reinforced, and under new leadership began their steady march to Bloemfontein and Pretoria, the capitals of the OFS and the SAR. After Paul Kruger, SAR president, fled to Europe 3 months following Pretoria's fall, the war continued another 2 years. But it had become dull, dirty guerrilla warfare, with the British resorting to blockhouses, farm burning and concentration camps to subdue the "bitter-enders."
Only the 1st and 2nd contingents, Lord Strathcona's Horse, the 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles and the Constabulary saw active service; the rest arrived around the Peace of Vereeniging, signed 31 May 1902. In battles at PAARDEBERG, Zand River, Mafeking, LELIEFONTEIN, Lydengurg, Hart's River and elsewhere, Canadian troops had distinguished themselves. Their tenacity, stamina and initiative seemed especially suited to the Afrikaners' unorthodox, guerrilla tactics. Four Canadians received the VICTORIA CROSS, 19 the Distinguished Service Order and 17 the Distinguished Conduct Medal; 117 were mentioned in dispatches, and Canada's senior nursing sister, Georgina POPE, was awarded the Royal Red Cross. During the final months of the war 40 Canadian teachers went to South Africa as part of Milner's reconstruction plans.
Canadians at home viewed their soldiers' martial success with pride and marked their victories by massive parades and demonstrations lasting several days. They insured the men's lives upon their enlistment, showered them with gifts upon their departure and during their service, and feted them upon their return. They formed a Patriotic Fund and a Canadian branch of the Soldiers' Wives' League to care for their dependants, and a Canadian South African Memorial Association to mark the graves of the 244 Canadian casualties, over half of them victims of diseases, principally enteric fever. After the war they erected monuments to the men who fought. The wounded, men such as the celebrated trooper L.W. Mulloy, who had been blinded, remained for years a living testimony to the war's human cost.
The success of Canada's soldiers and their criticism of British leadership and social values fed a new sense of Canadian self-confidence, which loosened rather than cemented the ties of empire. Many of Canada's young South African War veterans, such as R.E.W. TURNER, E.W.B. Morrison, A.C. MACDONNELL, E.H. Burstall and V.A.S. Williams, played a prominent part in WWI. The war also damaged relations between French and English Canadians. Once during the war the bitterness created by the conflict erupted into a 3-day riot in Montréal. Consequently, although the war undoubtedly sharpened English Canada's identity, it left distrust and resentment in its wake.
Author CARMAN MILLER
S. Evans, The Canadian Contingents and Canadian Imperialism (1901); Carman Miller, "Canada and the Boer War," Canada's Visual History, vol 24 (1978); Thomas Pakenham, The Boer War (1979).
Links to Other Sites
Mark Our Place
This virtual exhibit includes photographs and archival documents from the collections of the Archives and Research Library of the New Brunswick Museum. The images portray the theme of the many faces of war, from the South African War to the end of the Second World War.
The Canadian Letters and Images Project
This extensive collection of letters and photographs brings to light personal stories about wartime life at home and on the battlefield. Produced by Malaspina University College in British Columbia.
Sir Samuel Steele Collection
This site features highlights of an extraordinary collection of primary source material related to the life and times of Sir Samuel Steele. See digitized images of documents, journals, photos, personal correspondence, and much more. Click on "Related Resources" to view an online booklet about the legendary Canadian historical figure at the heart of this collection. From the University of Alberta Libraries.
Library and Archives Canada: Military and Peacekeeping
Check out the online exhibits about the history of Canadian military and peacekeeping operations featured at the website for Library and Archives Canada. View paintings by Canada's great war artists, gripping photographs of war on the frontlines, war diaries and stories, multimedia, and much more.
Canadian Military History Gateway
Search this website for authoritative information about Canadian military history. Provides links to websites for Canadian museums, libraries, archives, and other heritage organizations. Also features an online glossary of military terminology, educational resources and much more. From the Department of National Defence.
The Canadian Wartime Experience: The Documentary Legacy of Canada at War
This website examines the impact of wartime experiences on previous generations of Canadians. Peruse digitized images of ink-stained personal letters, official documents, news clippings, old photographs, and much more. Covers major military conflicts from the Red River Rebellion to the Vietnam War. Also offers learning activities that relate to primary source materials. From University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections.
National Inventory of Canadian Military Memorials
A searchable database of over 5,100 Canadian military memorials. Provides photographs, descriptions, and the wording displayed on plaques. Also a glossary of related terms. A website from the Directorate of History and Heritage.
Sir Samuel Hughes
A biography of Sir Samuel Hughes, teacher, militia officer, newspaper proprietor, and politician. Offers interesting details about government policies concerning Canada's involvement in the First World War. From the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.