Wednesday, November 9, 2011
A Force To Be Noticed
Enthusiasm for the Act waned by 1858 because most Canadians were concerned about the economic depression. But it was revived in 1860 with a visit from the Prince of Wales, Edward VII of England.
Our leaders in Ottawa were reluctant to do this but eventually the Governor General Lord Lansdowne recruited a private force of 386 voyageurs who were placed under the command of Canadian Militia officers. (voyageurs were people who travelled in canoes and transported furs during the fur trade) The Nile Voyageurs, as they were known, served ably in the Sudan and became the first Canadian military force to serve abroad. 16 died during that campaign.
Canada was called again to assist the British during the Second Boer War - October 11, 1899 to May 31, 1902. The seating government, the Conservative Party, were anxious to help but this decision met with resistance from certain factions such as the French Canadians.
Initially Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier sent over 1,000 soldiers of the 2nd (Special Service) Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment of Infantry. Others were sent later including the privately raised Strathcona's Horse.
Although Canada missed the early parts of the war and the crushing defeats in Britain's Black Week- from December 10-17 British forces suffered three defeats by the Boer Republics- our fellow countrymen won much acclaim for leading the charge at the second Battle of Paardeberg, one of the first decisive victories of the war.
Three Canadians were awarded the Victoria Cross for protecting the rear of a retreating force during the Battle of Leliefontein on November 7, 1900.
Over 8,600 people volunteered to fight in the Second Boer War. Of those 7,400, including 12 female nurses, served in Africa. 224 died, 252 were wounded and several were served with the Victoria Cross.
Some thought it would be better to just send money to Britain to help them out, others felt we shouldn't help at all and then there were those who felt Canada should have its own navy. In 1910 the Canadian Naval Service was created and designated the Royal Canadian Navy in 1911.
We are recognized as an effective peacekeeping force having served in places such as Korea, Croatia, Kosovo and others. Sometimes Canada goes to observe and report and other times it is to enforce ceasefire terms. In either case our forces are subjected to danger, both physically and mentally.
Most people aren't in favour of war or fighting or killing but there are times when it is necessary. And I am thankful everyday for those men and women in the Canadian Forces that put themselves at risk so that I can be safe and live the life I want to. Aren't you?
Karen Magill, Second Boer War, Vancouver, peacekeepiing, Canadian Armed Forces, Royal Canadian Navy, History, Militia