NWORA Remembrance Vol.4 - NE99

NE99

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Forget-me-not 58 B y mid-19th Century the Militia in Upper Canada (Canada West) formed the backbone and central matrix around which all the levers of social and political power clustered. The town of Coburg, 70 miles east of Toronto and 100 miles west of Kingston, the main settlement in Northumberland County with a population of 6,000 by 1869, was no exception. The citizens were either the descendants of United Empire Loyalists or of more recent immigrants from Britain. They were naturally staunch supporters of the Crown and The British Empire. The pillars of society were the High Anglican Church, the Conservative Party – then called the "Liberal-Conservatives," the Masonic Lodge, the Dominion of Canada Rifle Association and the Volunteer Active Militia. As of 1866 the town boasted of an infantry battalion (The 40th Northumberland battalion of Infantry); cavalry, The 3rd Provisional Regiment of Cavalry; and a medium artillery battery – The Garrison Battery of Artillery at Coburg ("The Coburg Company of Garrison Artillery," 1 Jan 1893); ("Coburg Company of Garrison Artillery C.A." 28 Dec. 1895). By 11 October 1899 and the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer (South-African) War, little had changed. There was no shortage of volunteers of men with similar loyalist back- grounds from all over Canada. Four young men from the Coburg Battery felt impelled to join the first overseas contingent together shortly after the commencement of hostilities and thus became members of D (Ottawa and Kingston) Coy 2nd (Special Service) Battalion The Royal Canadian Regiment (RCR): They were 7459 Pvt Bolster, H.G.; 7461 Pvt Bull, E.W.; 7478 Pvt Cockburn, GG.; 7557 Pvt Turpin, T.J. On his return home a year later Private Bolster penned a memoire that he sent to a local newspaper. It read: My Experience in South Africa: "I enlisted in Kingston on the 21st of October , nearly a year ago, and you all remember what a good send-off the four of us had, and it didn't take us very long in Quebec until we were fully equipped and ready to embark for the Cape, which we did on the 20th [30th?], hardly ten days after we enlisted, and old Quebec did give us a grand send-off. Two days later we left the shores of Canada behind us. Three days we were in very rough weather, and a good many – including myself- were seasick. One man from Ottawa died; but after that we had fine weather, and I for one enjoyed the long trip of 30 days. On the 12th of November we reached Cape St. Vincent, where we were signalled to proceed full steam for Cape Town. When we arrived in the warm waters, we had shower baths every morning , by having someone turn the hose on us, and I think everyone enjoyed it very much here. We could see great schools of flying fish; sharks and porpoises were often seen. We had something to do most of the time, drilling and getting into shape in general. We passed very few ships, but we got one to take our mail, which we were all very anxious to send home. When crossing the Equator, the ship's guns were fired, but I sure didn't see any line. I guess they must have just imagined there was one. We sight- ed Cape Town on Sunday 28 Nov at 10:00, but did not land till the next day. Cape Town is a grand sight from the sea. Table Mountain standing back of the town with th clouds resting on it, and in front of it hundreds of ships of all kinds make indeed a pretty picture, and I can safely say we were all glad to see it as we were getting a bit tired of the sea. I will never forget our march through Cape Town; the streets were crowded with black and white, in fact people of every nationality in the world, yelling and shouting, and then to see the peculiar, flat low-roofed buildings; but of course they have some fine modern buildings as well, The Royal Canadians at a station stop on their way to De Aar, a route and mode of transport that was to become familiar to other Canadian units. (James Mason Collection, NA PA 181416) A Coburg Lad in South Africa By Terence Cottrell BA(Hons), MA, JD.

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