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It is said that Canada became a nation at the Battle of Vimy Ridge in April 1917 during World War I when the Canadian Expeditionary Force took the German-held high ground amidst fierce fighting—an achievement that had eluded British and French forces in three years of fighting.
One such resident opined that “French Canadians had no reason to be other than loyal to England…England had dealt fairly with us and we should be unhesitatingly be loyal.” Another said “Every British subject, whether of French or any other extraction, should be willing to bear the responsibilities of Empire.” Of the first 1,000 volunteers to serve in South Africa in the 2nd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment of Infantry under the command of Colonel Otter, sixty-seven came from the Ottawa area.The men were paid off in Halifax with the government also providing them new winter clothes.A special train then carried the veterans westward, dropping off soldiers along the way. One man carried a little monkey on his shoulder while another had a parrot in a wooden box.Thrown into the mix was the discovery of gold in Boer territories, an influx of foreign, mostly British prospectors and miners (called uitlanders) who were denied political rights by Boer governments who feared being swamped by the incomers, rival British and Boer economic interests, British fears of German interference in southern Africa, and the ambitions of Cecil Rhodes, the premier of the Cape Colony from 1890 to 1896.The South African war began in October 1899 after talks between the British government and the Boer governments failed.It also overlooks the impact of an earlier war on Canadian national confidence.
That war was the South African War, also known as the Boer War.Thirty-one Ottawa veterans arrived home at 2.45pm on Saturday, 3 November 1900. Wilfred Campbell, who lived in Ottawa, penned a poem to welcome them.Titled Return of the Troops, the first verse went: Canadian heroes hailing home, War-worn and tempest smitten, Who circled leagues of rolling foam, To hold the earth for Britain.In the fighting, the British forces sustained more than 1,400 casualties, of which 348 men died.Thirty-one Canadian soldiers lost their lives in the battle, including two Ottawa men. Boer losses amounted 350 killed or wounded and 4,019 captured.They were joined by other South African veterans who had been invalided home earlier.