With the Royal Canadian Regiment in South Africa

“Just a Few High Spots”

The Connecting File, Volume XV, No. 1; February 1936
By Lieutenant Colonel R. K. Barker, V.D.
Toronto, October 12th, 1935
From the Regimental Website of the Royal Canadian Regiment

When recruiting in October, 1899, at the various company depots was completed and the 2nd (Special Service) Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, mobilized at Quebec, the Queen’s Own Rifles was found to have supplied, from past and present members, Lt.-Col. W. D. Otter, Commanding; the Second in Command, Major Lawrence Buchan; the Officer Commanding “C” Company, Captain R. K. Barker; a large number of N.C.O.’s and men throughout the Battalion; the whole of No.1 Section of “C” Company and a portion of No.3 Section; a very large representation in a unit recruited from all the provinces of Canada.

On October 31st the old S.S. Sardinian sailed from Quebec conveying the first combatant unit ever to leave Canada to take part in a war of the Empire. The voyage out was uneventful, but decidedly uncomfortable through over-crowding and the unsuitable, hurried equipping of the ship. On November 30th the Regiment reached Cape Town Harbor, simultaneously with the 1st Battalion, Gordon Highlanders, with which unit we were soon to be brigaded.

Unfortunately, one death occurred at sea, a member of the Montreal Company, but, beyond some minor ills, the health of the Battalion was excellent.

On the morning after arrival the Regiment entrained “for the front” and was sent north and west to reinforce Methuen’s Army on the railway line of communication at the Modder River. Our journey ended at Belmont, where we were held in reserve and where we remained in hard training for some ten weeks.

The monotony was pleasantly interrupted for “C” Company and the Machine Gun Section in late December, and at a time when a series of reverses to General Buller’s Army in the east and north and to Lord Methuen’s forces at Magersfontein had adversely affected the morale of the Army.

Colonel Pilcher (Bedfordshire Regiment) arrived at Belmont to assemble a small flying column to move to the relief of Douglas, a small town to the west of Belmont infested by rebel Cape Colony Boers.

One company of Canadians and the Machine Gun Section were called for, and “C” Company was selected, as it was, at that time, more advanced in training than the other companies.

On December 31st the column moved in early morning, “C” Company being conveyed in waggons for the first day’s journey. Early New Year’s morning the column was split, in the hope of surrounding the Boer force, reported to be at Sunnyside Kopje, some few miles out from Douglas. Major De Rougemont, O.C., “P” Battery, R.H.A., commanded our lot, consisting of one section of the Battery, some twenty Munster Fusiliers as mounted scouts, “C” Company and M.G. Section and two companies of the Cornwall Regiment, the latter held back as a support for either half of the column.

We came in sight of the enemy at about 11 a.m. encamped at the foot of the Kopje, and, for once, we saw them first! The first shot by the Battery landed fairly in the Boer’s camp, entirely unexpectedly, and those who could get to their horses decamped in a hurry, while the rest took to the hill and opened desultory fire, under which the right half of “C” Company moved forward some three hundred yards to a low-lying ridge, affording very fair cover, and commenced well directed independent fire at 900 yards. They were soon joined by the Machine Guns and No.3 Section, which had been left in support while No. 4 Section remained with the Battery. Colonel Pilcher, who had gone with the other column, arrived upon the scene just as we closed in on the enemy, who surrendered only when we commended the ascent of the hill with fixed bayonets.

We took forty-six prisoners, several mounted, and later found that twelve others had been killed.

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