2nd Regiment, Canadian Mounted Rifles (Boer War)

Privacy Level: Public (Green)
Date: 1899 to 1902
Location: South Africamap
Surnames/tags: Canadian_Army South_Africa Boer_War
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2nd Regiment, Canadian Mounted Rifles

The 2nd CMR had been built around the North West Mounted Police by its' commissioner. It was a unit of 'picked police, ex-police and cowboys' to fight in South Africa, later re-badged after arrival in country at the Canadian Mounted Rifles. The battalion distinguished itself and earned a reputation for aggressive scouting. It was one of two horse-mounted infantry raised for the second contingent, numbered 371 men, divided into two squadrons and a headquarters staff.

To confuse unit designation, another battalion of Canadian Mounted Rifles was raised and badged as the 2nd Battalion, or 2nd Regiment, Canadian Mounted Rifles. The earlier CMR was thereafter known as the 1st CMR, again, not to be confused with the 2nd contingent unit raised in Canada and later known as the Royal Canadian Dragoons in South Africa. The later 2nd Battalion, Canadian Mounted Rifles, was paid for by the British and raised in Jan 1902. It would serve briefly in South Africa, participating in a number of major drives that resulted in the destruction of the Boer forces in the western Transvaal. While its tour of operations had not been long, the 2nd Regiment, Canadian Mounted Rifles had proven to be a worthy successor to the units of the first and second contingents.

In early 1901, the Canadian government offered to raise a third contingent for service in South Africa, but the British replied that there was no need. In November 1901, however, the British government requested a four-squadron regiment of mounted rifles. In a departure from previous practice, the unit was recruited as an integral part of the British Army, though retaining its Canadian identity. Moreover, while the Canadian Department of Militia and Defence would equip and train the unit, the British would pay its costs. The response from the public was so enthusiastic that Ottawa, realizing there was surplus space on the troopships, offered to raise another two squadrons.

Appointed to command the new unit was Lieutenant-Colonel T.D.B. Evans, who had earlier earned a reputation as the best Canadian leader of mounted troops while in command of the Canadian Mounted Rifles in the second contingent. The majority of the officers and at least a quarter of the men had previously served in South Africa.

In April 1902, the British requested a fourth contingent of 2,000 men from Canada. The 3rd, 4th, 5th & 6th Regiments, Canadian Mounted Rifles arrived in South Africa after the war had ended, however, and returned to Canada in July 1902 at which time they disbanded.


Recruiting was conducted at the following stations, commencing December 9:—

- In British Columbia: Victoria, Vancouver, Revelstoke, Rossland, Nelson and Fort Steele.
- In North-west Territories: Edmonton, Calgary, Pincher Creek, MacLecd, Lethbride, Maple Creek, Regina, Moosomin, and Prince Albert.
- In Manitoba: Virden, Brandon, Portage la Prairie and Winnipeg.
- In Ontario: London, Guelph, Hamilton, Toronto, Peterboro, Ottawa and Kingston.
- In Quebec: Montreal. Quebec and St. John's.
- In New Brunswick: Fredericton and St. John.
- In Nova Scotia: Halifax.
- In Prince Edward Island: Charlottetown.

RECRUITING FOR TWO ADDITIONAL SQUADRONS, On December 10, Mr. Chamberlain telegraphed that the transports Manhattan and Victorian were proceeding to Halifax to convey the troops to South Africa. As these two transports had accommodation for 52 officers, 950 non-commissioned officers and men, and 1,096 horses, two additional squadrons were offered, and on December 14, the offer was accepted, and such extra horses as the two transports could carry were at the same time authorized. This necessitated the re-opening of the recruiting stations. Orders were accordingly issued, on December 16, to recommence recruiting on December 23, at the following stations:—

- In British Columbia.—Vancouver, Kamloops, Rossland, Nelson and Cranbrook.
- In North-west Territories.—MacLeod, Calgary and Moosomin.
- In Manitoba.—Virden, Brandon, Portage la Prairie, and Winnipeg.
- In Ontario —London, Hamilton, Toronto, Peterboro, Ottawa and Kingston.
- In Quebec.—Montreal.
- In New Brunswick.—Moncton and St. John.
- In Nova Scotia.—Halifax and Kentville.
- In Prince Edward Island.—Charlottetown.


From the Officer Commanding, 2nd Regiment Canadan Mounted Rifles, to the Adjutant General Head-Quarters, Ottawa.

SS. Winifredian, July 16, 1902. Sir I have the honour to submit herewith my report in connection with the organization and service of the 2nd Regiment Canadian Mounted Rifles.

Organization.—When the organization was complete the officers were distributed as follows :—

- Lt. Colonel, Commanding:—Lt. Col. T. D. B. Evans, C.B.
- Major, 2nd in Command:—Major W. H. Merritt.
- Major:—Major G.W. Cameron, D.S.O.
- Adjutant:—Captain F. Church.
- Intelligence Officer:—Lieut. T. H. Callaghan.
- Quarter- Master:—Lieut. J. Graham.
- Assistant Quarter-Master:—Lieut. W. Rodden. A. D. Reford,
- Medical Officers:—Surgeon-Major J. A. Devine. H. R. Duff.
- Veterinary Officers:— Vet. Capt. R. Riddell. Vet. Lieut. A. E. James.
- Transport Officer:—Capt. T. R. Snider.
- Acting Paymaster:—Lieut. R. H. Moir.
- "A" Squadron:—Capt. R. G. E. Leckie. Lieut. C. R. Tryon. H.F.W. Fish Wick. G.B. Mackay. E. B. Allan.
- "B" Squadron:—Capt. J. E. Leckie, D.S.O. Lieut. J. C. Richards. G. H. Kirkpatrick. H. Hiam. J. W. Allan.
- "C" Squadron:—Capt. J. D. Moodie. Lieut. H. S. Douglas. S. J. A. Demers, W. J. Loudon. C. P. B. Simpson.
- "D" Squadron:—Capt. J. F. Macdonald. Lieut. F. H. Dixon. R. F. Markham. H. G. Brunton. H. J. Lambkin.
- "E" Squadron:—Capt. J. H. Elmsley. Lieut. W. R. Marshall. Bruce Carruthers. A. H. Gault. E. P. Clarkson
- "F" Squadran:—Capt. P. E. Thacker. Lieut. R. H. Ryan. A. F. Ashmead. G.W.M. Farrell. J. D. Graham.


The few weeks at Halifax previous to embarkation were fully utilized in organizing the interior economy of the regiment, drill, and carrying out a complete course of musketry. For the latter the greatest credit is due to Lieut. Clark, Sergt. Instructor in Musketry Moore, and Colour-Sergt. Webb. Lieut. Clark overcame numerous obstacles in arranging for this course in mid-winter, and he and his assistants displayed great energy and ability in conducting it to a successful issue.Lieut.-Col. Smyth, Officer Commanding Ordnance Department, also showed great interest in the regiment by constructing two floating targets for use on the ship.

The Voyage

The left wing and one troop right wing, with 513 horses, sailed on troopship Manhattan on January 14; and headquarters and right wing, with 486 horses and 10th Canadian Field Hospital, A.M.C., on troopship Victorian on January 28, arriving at Durban on February 18 and 25, respectively. The care of horses, drill and Morris tube exercise occupied the time of the troops on board. On the Manhattan an epidemic of measles broke out without serious results. On board the Victorian, in addition to an epidemic of measles, a case of small-pox developed; this in course of time was followed by three new cases. The regimental Medical Officers and their staffs on both ships made excellent arrangements to meet the emergencies, and on the Victorian the 10th Field Hospital rendered great assistance. Fortunately the type of both diseases was very light and all cases recovered. *

The arrangements for men and horses on both ships were very satisfactory. The loss of horses on the Manhattan was 9, and on the Victorian 22, or a total of 31 out of 1,006 horses.

South Africa

When the unit finally sailed from Canada in January 1902 it was a six-squadron regiment of 901 officers and men. Together with the 10th Canadian Field Hospital, it formed the third Canadian contingent.

After Arrival

On arrival at Durban—the Manhattan on February 18 and the Victorian on February 25—both wings at once entrained for Newcastle. As the heat was intense and the floors of the box cars were of iron and very slippery, this two days journey by train did serious injury to the condition of the horses after a long sea voyage, and several died en route. At Newcastle the two wings of the regiment occupied separate camps, as the head quarters and right wing were isolated on account of small-pox. Fortunately no new cases developed. During its stay in Newcastle the left wing furnished a squadron to occupy Botha's Pass while a drive was in progress, and also performed convoy duty. The ring wing, although isolated for quarantine purposes, occupied a very advanced post which they strongly entrenched, and the importance of which called for heavy Outpost Duties. On March 1, the Commander-in-Chief, Lord Kitchener, inspected the regiment and found everything satisfactory. Lieut.-General Lyttleton inspected the regiment on March 6, and Major-General Walter Kitchener on March 10.

On the 14th, orders were received to proceed by route march to Volksrust, and thence by rail to Klerksdorp. After an interesting march of two days, past Majuba Hill and though Langs Nek to Volksrust, and two days by rail, the regiment arrived at Klerksdorp and was at once attached to Colonel Cookson's Column, in General Walter Kitchener's Division. Three days later it was engaged in the active operations under General Walter Kitchener just commenced in the Western Transvaal, and took a prominent part in all the chief events connected with these operations, including:—

  1. The night ride of 45 miles to Witpoort Ridge, followed by the Drive at daybreak next morning; the regiment covering 85 miles ia 23 hours.
  2. The operations ending with the battle of Boschbult, near Harts River, on March 31.
  3. The Drive commencing April 10, culminating with the attack of the Boers on General Kekewich's Column and their defeat with heavy losses.
  4. The Drive from Driekuil to Klerksdorp on April 14 and 15.
  5. The operations between April 23 and May 2, west of Klerksdorp, in which a large amount of the standing crops of the enemy were taken or destroyed.
  6. The Drive commencing May 5, and ending May 23, to Vryburg, in Cape Colony, and return, resulting in large captures of prisoners and stock. In all the above successful operations (which proved to be the closing events of the war) the regiment took a very active part, and all ranks showed great energy in carrying out, both in spirit and in the letter, all orders entrusted to them. Extracts from my Staff Diary, giving particulars of chief events, are appended to this report.

The regiment lay at Klerksdorp awaiting orders from May 23 until June 16, when it was ordered to march to Krugersdorp. This march (105 miles) was performed in three days, and after a two days' halt at Krugersdorp, further orders were received to march to Elandsfontein, which was done on June 22. On the 23rd, orders were received to entrain at once for Durban en route to Canada. As a considerable number of men desired to take their discharges to remain in South Africa, and as the Regimental Paymaster was on his way from Cape Town with the Pay Lists, it was endeavoured to secure a couple of days in order to get the regimental accounts arranged before entraining. During its stay at Klerksdorp subsequent to the declaration of peace, no official information could be secured with regard to the future disposition of the regiment.

The additional days could not be arranged for and the regiment, with the 10th Field Hospital, entrained for Durban on June 24, arriving there on the 27th, and embarking and sailing per ss. Winijredian on the same date. The Regimental Paymaster and the Pay Officials from Cape Town did not overtake the regiment, and I drew at Durban sufficient cash to pay off the regiment. Ninety-three N.C. Officers and men took their discharges to settle in South Africa.

Summary of Actions

After a number of weeks training at Newcastle in Natal, the unit was ready for action and moved by rail to Klerksdorp, southwest of Johannesburg. By this time, the nature of the war had changed dramatically. The Boer forces were reduced in numbers to less than 25,000 in the field. The countryside had been largely cleared of inhabitants, who had been confined in concentration camps. Moreover, the free movement of the mounted Boer commandos was greatly restricted by long lines of blockhouses, linked by barbed wire, that snaked across the veldt and followed railways and river lines. The British had 150,000 men in the field, with nearly half manning the blockhouse lines and garrisoning towns. The bulk of the remainder were mounted, pursuing Boers across the veldt. There were still gaps in the network of blockhouses, including the arid western Transvaal, where the British sent the regiment.

The mounted rifles participated in a number of major drives that resulted in the destruction of at least twenty percent of the Boer forces in the western Transvaal, most of these being captured. It was not all one sided, however. On 31 March the unit fought as part of an outnumbered British force at the Battle of Harts River, or Boschbult. Casualties were heavy, including 13 Canadians killed, 40 wounded, and seven missing. With the exception of the first engagement at Paardeberg on 18 February 1900, Harts River was the bloodiest day of the war for Canada.

The unit participated in a number of other drives to round up Boers before the war ended on 31 May 1902.

The Voyage Home

It returned to Canada at the end of June. While its tour of operations had not been long, the 2nd Regiment, Canadian Mounted Rifles had proven to be a worthy successor to the units of the first and second contingents.

The arrangements on the ss. Winifredian were only fairly satisfactory, the chief favourable feature being that there was ample room for all ranks. The cooking arrangements for the N.C. Officers and men were at first not satisfactory, but improved after the first week. Coal was being moved from one hatch to another during the first fortnight, which resulted in discomfort and dirt over a portion of the ship. The canteen and officers' mess supplies were very limited in variety and amount, and the prices higher than charged on previous voyages. The above deficiencies were attributed by the ship's officers to the fact that sufficient time was not allowed them at Durban to make the necessary arrangements. The large amount of deck room available for all ranks, however, to some extent offset the deficiencies above referred to. The health of the troops on board was excellent and the hospital arrangements very complete.


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