no image

Canadian Field Artillery and the Boer War

Privacy Level: Public (Green)
Date: 1899 to 1901
Location: South Africamap
Surname/tag: Canadian_Militia
This page has been accessed 118 times.


Canadian Field Artillery

The Boer War is known outside of Canada as the Second Boer War, and also as the South African War both in Canada and abroad (though not in South African Africa where it is known to some as the Anglo-Boer War, or in Afrikaans as the Anglo-Boereoorlog or Tweede Vryheidsoorlog (Second War of Independence).

Beginning on 9 December 1899, British forces in South Africa had experienced the "Black Week", which prompted the British government to appeal for more troops. Two battalions of mounted rifles and three batteries of artillery were offered as a second contingent from Canada.

The Royal Canadian Field Artillery sent three batteries designated "C", "D" and "E" in early 1900, each battery with six 12-pounder field guns. Each battery consisted of three sections of two guns each, and was manned by a core of Permanent Force soldiers, with additional members from the Militia. The militia for "C" and "D" batteries came from Ontario and Winnipeg, while "E" battery had militia from Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia.

"D" and "E" Batteries arrived in Cape Town aboard the SS Laurentian in February 1900, and were soon sent north to form part of a column based at Victoria West under Colonel Sir Charles Parsons. In March and April they took part in an operation in the Kenhardt district, covering 700 miles (1,100 km) in six weeks, seeing little action, but much heavy rain.

On 29 May, "E" battery was part of another operation under Lieutenant-General Sir Charles Warren, when it was attacked at Faber's Put, when it halted to wait for supplies. That evening, 600 Boers surrounded the position and near dawn, the Boers poured fire into the mounted infantry lines, killing men and scattering scores of horses. The Boers were eventually driven off, though the battery had one man killed and eight wounded. In his subsequent despatch Warren particularly mentioned "E" Battery's Major Ogilvie and Captain Mackie. By the end of June "E" Battery had been split up into sections and was stationed along the Kimberley–Mafeking Railway.

In July 1900 "D" Battery moved to Pretoria to operate in the Transvaal in a column commanded by Colonel Ian Hamilton, and saw much action, with a section particularly distinguishing itself at the battle of Leliefontein, when 100 men of the Royal Canadian Dragoons and 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles, bolstered by a single Colt machine gun and the two 12-pounders of the battery, repelled an attack by 200 mounted Boers while covering the withdrawal of the main column. Three Victoria Crosses were won during the engagement.

"C" Battery arrived at Cape Town aboard the SS Columbian in March 1900, but within two weeks were re-embarked to sail to Beira, from where they travelled by train, cart, and forced march to join Lieutenant-Colonel Herbert Plumer's column 70 miles (110 km) south of Otse by mid-April to take part in the relief of Mafeking. On 17 May 1900 Relief of the Siege of Mafeking assisted by "C" battery Royal Canadian Field Artillery. Colonel Baden-Powell, the garrison commander at Mafeking, sent a telegram to the Canadian Government stating : Mafeking relieved today, and most grateful for invaluable assistance of Canadian Artillery, which made record march from Beira to help us. From the end of May the battery operated with Plumer's column in the Zeerust district until November, seeing action regularly. In Mafeking, there was a special honour for "C" Battery. That night, the reply to a sentry's challenge was “Canada.”.

The unit never operated as a whole, with the batteries, and sometimes even sections, operating independently, often for months at a time, and it was only reunited when it regrouped to return to Canada in June 1901.

Notable Members

John McCrae, the Canadian surgeon and poet who penned In Flanders Fields. He volunteered as a Lieutenant in the Canadian Field Artillery as a combat officer, rather than a medical officer.

Edward Morrison commanded the Canadian Field Artillery in the Great War. He was also a journalist and editor of the Ottawa Citizen and Hamilton Spectator.



  • Edward Morrison. 1901. "With the guns in South Africa".

This is an "orphaned" profile — there's no Profile Manager to watch over it. Please adopt this profile.

  • Login to request to the join the Trusted List so that you can edit and add images.
  • Public Comments: Login to post. (Best for messages specifically directed to those editing this profile. Limit 20 per day.)
  • Public Q&A: These will appear above and in the Genealogist-to-Genealogist (G2G) Forum. (Best for anything directed to the wider genealogy community.)

Leave a message for others who see this profile.
There are no comments yet.
Login to post a comment.