The Issues Crystallize

Canadians in Battle

Lord Strathcona’s Horse

Trooper, Strathcona’s Horse,  February 1900

Caption: Trooper, Strathcona’s Horse, February 1900

All the Canadians present in South Africa in the spring of 1900 were still far from representative of the total human effort Canada contributed to that war. Other units would go there, some of which were not raised by the Canadian government. At his own expense, Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, Canada's High Commissioner to London, recruited a regiment of mounted rifles comprising 537 officers and men in Manitoba, British Columbia and the Northwest Territories. Lord Strathcona's Horse would be placed under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel S.B. Steele of the Mounted Police. Strathcona himself paid to recruit, organize, equip and transport the men to South Africa. He also made up the difference between the British soldiers' pay assumed by Britain and the rate Canada paid its professionals. In South Africa the unit went as far as Mozambique to cut Boer communications extending to Delagoa Bay, though without success. It then joined Sir Redvers Buller's campaign in Natal. In a skirmish under heavy fire, Sergeant A.H.L. Richardson daringly risked exposure as he retraced his steps to bring out his wounded. This act of heroism earned him the Victoria Cross.

To adjust to the war of raids which typified the fighting in South Africa towards the second half of the year 1900, the British forces frequently relied on small groups of mounted men. Every time Britain requested the recruitment of mounted police to maintain peace in various areas of the country, Canada acquiesced. More than 1,000 men were thus recruited for a three-year term and organized into 12 platoons of South African police. Some of these recruits had been in earlier Canadian contingents and returned to service for Britain when their initial contracts expired. Upon recruitment, in any case, they were all in excellent physical condition and knew how to ride a horse.

Additional Images

Officer, Strathcona’s Horse, circa 1902