Canada & The South African War, 1899-1902

Canadian South African War Insigna
Canadian War Museum
1 Vimy Place
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0M8
Tel. (819) 776-8600
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The Canadian Scouts

Boer War Photo, The Canadian Scouts, a unit of irregular mounted infantry formed by Major Arthur L. (
The Canadian Scouts, a unit of irregular mounted infantry formed by Major Arthur L. ("Gat") Howard in December 1900 that initially included a large number of veterans from the first two Canadian contingents.

The Canadian Scouts, raised in South Africa in December 1900 and January 1901, was the brainchild of Lieutenant Arthur L. "Gat" Howard, the machine gun officer of the Royal Canadian Dragoons. No doubt reflecting Howard's enthusiasm for the weapon, the Canadian Scouts' armament included six Colt machine guns, a larger number than normal. Howard commanded the unit with the rank of major. Most of the other officers had served as non-commissioned officers in the second Canadian contingent, among them the former commanders of the scout sections of the Royal Canadian Dragoons and the Canadian Mounted Rifles. Howard must have done a good job of marketing the Canadian reputation as scouts, for the British agreed to pay a premium for their service of two shillings a day above the customary rate.

After Howard was killed in action on 17 February 1901, at the age of 55, the unit continued as a corps of scouts, but it evolved into an irregular mounted corps of four squadrons, a machine gun battery, a troop of Black South African scouts, and a transport column, in all about 475 men. By this stage, however, most of the men in its ranks were not Canadians, but included men from throughout the British Empire. Known for disdaining standard military discipline, the Canadian Scouts gained a reputation as a group of hard-riding, implacable, and death-defying soldiers. They saw plenty of action and suffered a large number of casualties. While not officially a Canadian unit, the Scouts never fully lost their Canadian character, and certainly did nothing to diminish the impressive reputation earned by more conventional Canadian units.