This Week in History
Lord Strathcona's Horse Sailed for the South African War
For the week of Monday March 12, 2001
On March 17, 1900, the Lord Strathcona's Horse Regiment set sail from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to fight in the South African War (Boer War). This was Canada's first overseas war and when it was over communities across the country commemorated the deeds of the ordinary soldier.
In January 1900, Sir Donald A. Smith, Lord Strathcona, Canada's high commissioner to Britain, offered to finance a private mounted regiment at his own expense. Laurier agreed. More than 500 recruits formed the regiment, coming mainly from the North West Mounted Police and western Canada.
By the end of the war, 8300 Canadians had been mobilized. Most were young men captivated by the thought of adventure in a far-off land. Also included were medical personnel, among them the first corps of female nurses. Together with the British forces they won the war, bringing all of South Africa into the Empire.
Many Canadians celebrated these military accomplishments. Local communities honoured soldiers by raising money to support their men in the field and their dependants at home. In the aftermath of this war, the first of the 20th century to impact communities across the country, they financed monuments to honour the ordinary soldier. This broke the long tradition of honouring only the achievements of particular regiments or individual military leaders. In fact, a greater number of monuments were erected to the South African War than to any previous conflict involving Canadians. One of the most memorable examples was erected in Montréal. This tradition of commemorating the ordinary soldier reached its fullest expression in the First World War and continues to this day.
Sir Donald A. Smith, Lord Strathcona, is commemorated as a person of national historic significance in Montréal, Quebec.
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