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Paardeberg Day 2017

Old Sweat

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Just a few lines to all my friends in The RCR. Best wishes on the eve of the 117th anniversary of the victory at Paardeberg that laid the foundation of our military reputation and, more important, changed the course of the Second Anglo-Boer War in few bloody, confused hours. And let's not forget Private Richard Thompson. After all, even if his scarf did not have the significance others later attributed to it, he was a helluva soldier and a very brave man.

Ubique and Pro Patria

BAR

p.s. This does not mean I will stop making chicken references whenever the opportunity arises.
 

CombatDoc

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Old Sweat said:
p.s. This does not mean I will stop making chicken references whenever the opportunity arises.
p.p.s. ...nor will I refrain from running references WRT poultry!  Congrats, my RCR colleagues.
 

Chispa

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Old Sweat said:
Just a few lines to all my friends in The RCR. Best wishes on the eve of the 117th anniversary of the victory at Paardeberg that laid the foundation of our military reputation and, more important, changed the course of the Second Anglo-Boer War in few bloody, confused hours. And let's not forget Private Richard Thompson. After all, even if his scarf did not have the significance others later attributed to it, he was a helluva soldier and a very brave man.

Ubique and Pro Patria

BAR

p.s. This does not mean I will stop making chicken references whenever the opportunity arises.


In my time the chicken story derived from CEF FC 14th Batt., styled at that time as ‘1st Royal Montreal Battalion’ during the FWW, owing a chicken was their mascot, did the RCR ever have same? I question if factual, just like the Ladies from Hell, first printed in the New York Times during the 1916 Cdn., recruitment campaign in the USA… referring to the P&D of The Gordon Highlanders.

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9F0CE2DB133BE03ABC4952DFB166838C609EDE&legacy=true


2nd SS Batt RCRI the so called armed mob, disorganised, etc., and the refusal of orders that was cleansed by Otter’s report as…the incident… 

Lt.-Col. Otter” “It was here that we first met the 1st Gordon Highlanders, with whom we were to be subsequently so closely and pleasantly connected. This battalion had reached Cape Town on the same day as ourselves, and preceded us up the country. On reaching Orange River, we found it lying there, and as troops were urgently needed by Lord Methuen, who was at Modder River, it became, I understand, a question as to whether we should be pushed on, or detained, and allow the Gordons to proceed. The question was decided in favour of the Gordons, who took over our train, and through this became engaged in Magersfontein on December 11, when they lost somewhat heavily. This incident was, I think, greatly to the advantage of the Royal Canadians, as they were not at that time so well prepared to go into action as they ultimately became couple of days, but during that time earned some little credit for the smart and effectual manner in which we built a long platform at Orange river we only remain a at the railway station.”


Following is the marching out state:—
Authorized establishment …. 1,019.
Troops embarked, 2nd (S.S.) Battalion R.C.R.:
Total officers: 41.
Warrant officers and staff sergeants 10
other ranks 988 = Total 1,039.
Excess 20.

Attached for instructional purposes:
Lt.-Colonels 2
Majors 2
Captains 6
Lieutenant 1

Attached for passage-
Nurses 4
Special correspondents 4
Y. M.C.A. representative … 1
Lt.-Col. S. Hughes 1
Capt. Todd, Royal Dublin Fusiliers. . . 1
Grand Total on board the S.S. Sardinian …..1,061

Total Rank and File during the War: 44 Officers, 1,106 NCO,’s and men, = 1150.

Excluding, 5 other ranks, transferred to 1st Batt. CMR, and 1 officer to RCFA.



2nd Special Service Battalion, Canadian Infantry–parade...Thomas A. Edison, Inc. ; producer, James White. Duration: 3:12 at 16 fps. Filmed October 30, 1899, in Quebec, Canada.

SUMMARY
From Edison films catalog: This picture shows the Canadian troops departing from Quebec for the war in the Transvaal. The scene opens with the soldiers clad in campaign uniform, marching under the triumphal arch, cheered by thousands of spectators who are waving English flags.

NOTES
Copyright: Thomas A. Edison; 7Nov1899; 72831.
Link as fallows:- memory.loc.gov/ammem/edhtml/edac.html

Scroll down to War (TOP)
–Boer War
2nd Special Service Battalion, Canadian Infantry–Parade Click and you’ll be linked.
The Footage can be downloaded for free.


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Old Sweat

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Chispa said:
2nd SS Batt RCRI the so called armed mob, disorganised, etc., and the refusal of orders that was cleansed by Otter’s report as…the incident… 

Lt.-Col. Otter” “It was here that we first met the 1st Gordon Highlanders, with whom we were to be subsequently so closely and pleasantly connected. This battalion had reached Cape Town on the same day as ourselves, and preceded us up the country. On reaching Orange River, we found it lying there, and as troops were urgently needed by Lord Methuen, who was at Modder River, it became, I understand, a question as to whether we should be pushed on, or detained, and allow the Gordons to proceed. The question was decided in favour of the Gordons, who took over our train, and through this became engaged in Magersfontein on December 11, when they lost somewhat heavily. This incident was, I think, greatly to the advantage of the Royal Canadians, as they were not at that time so well prepared to go into action as they ultimately became couple of days, but during that time earned some little credit for the smart and effectual manner in which we built a long platform at Orange river we only remain a at the railway station.”

There is a legend that Otter refused an order to proceed to the front and the 1st Gordons were sent instead. I give very little credence to this as:

a. The 1st Battalion, Gordon Highlanders were considered by many to be the best battalion in the British Army;

b. The Canadian Battalion was newly formed and required some training; and

c. The brigade that was to be reinforced was the 3rd Highland Brigade.

Which battalion do you think the brigade commander, and everybody else in the chain of command, would pick? Which battalion would you have picked if you were in his place?
 

Chispa

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Old Sweat said:
There is a legend that Otter refused an order to proceed to the front and the 1st Gordons were sent instead. I give very little credence to this as:

a. The 1st Battalion, Gordon Highlanders were considered by many to be the best battalion in the British Army;

b. The Canadian Battalion was newly formed and required some training; and

c. The brigade that was to be reinforced was the 3rd Highland Brigade.

Which battalion do you think the brigade commander, and everybody else in the chain of command, would pick? Which battalion would you have picked if you were in his place?

As for me...Well it wouldn't of matter nor would've underestimated the Boer fighting spirit...many were just, labours, farmers. Believe the answer would be obvious, although from my understanding it wasn’t Otter that refused the direct order. Action taken by officers and NCOs, would’ve called for an immediate court-martial, firing squad to settle this outrageous insubordination, as behaviour lacking leadership and military discipline. The left-half consisting of E through H Coys were steadfast on their decision not too entrain when orders were given, prompting Major S.-in-C., L. Buchan to advise Otter.

Stanley McKeown Brown, “With The Royal Canadians” 1900, p.103-104. This act undoubtedly saved a great many Canadian lives. The RCR could not possibly have been ready for battle. There had been no opportunities to train either as a battalion or as companies since the unit had mustered. With the exception of the small handful of officers and NCOs who were Permanent Force, the large majority of personnel were civilian volunteers or non-permanent militiamen with little or no military background. It would have been short sighted in the extreme to send such novices against the crafty Boer without first giving them a chance to absorb the new tactics and battlecraft required in this war...He makes a valid point.

What’s Lt.-Col. Brian A. Reid, Our Little Army in the Field, 1996, narrative on the incident?

S.P. Page 93, A. 1900. Statement sheet for First, Second Contingent, Strathcona’s Horse’, and some numbers thrown in for the Constabulary, all ranks. The other Regiments and the Constabulary with corrections on Numbers, for the A 1900 p. 93 Statement sheet, etc., only appear in 1903 Sessional Paper…Was not printed in 1902, owing gov., staff were late sending to printer and only appears in 1903.

• 2nd SS Bn RCRI establishment: 41 officers, NCO and men 978.
• Excess: 20, NCOs and men.
• Reinforcements: 4 officers, 106 NCOs and men.
• Special enlistment in South Africa: 7 NCOs and men.
• = 45 officers and 1,111 other ranks= 1156 all ranks.
5 Other ranks, transferred to 1st Bn., CMR and 1 officer to RCFA
• = 44 Officers 1,106 all ranks, grand total= 1150.


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Old Sweat

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What’s Lt.-Col. Brian A. Reid, Our Little Army in the Field, 1996, narrative on the incident?

I am a few thousand kms away from home so I can't consult the book, but I recall the first person narratives and the battalion's "war diary" I consulted when drafting my passage on the incident made no mention of any such refusal of orders. A book by a war correspondent did suggest Otter refused the order, but I can't recall if the journalist was present at the time. I suggest the members of the battalion, thoroughly indoctrinated in the militia myth, would have jumped at the chance to see action.

If in doubt, go for the simplest and most logical choice, which was the Brits went for the best military solution.

Incidentally this is not the only case in the Boer War of rumour gaining the strength of dogma by repetition. The Strathconas were believed to have executed Boer prisoners for luring British troops into an ambush by using a white flag in 15 August 1900 in the Transvaal. There are many second hand reports by people who weren't there but heard of it, and Breaker Morant tried to use it at his court-martial. A number of years ago, when Sam Steele's papers were opened, many historians hoped to find confirmation. I was the lone man out, because I had written the South African Military History Society for information.

No one in South Africa had every heard of the incident. Furthermore, examination of the Boer casualty records, which were very detailed, found there had no Boer fatal casualties that day, not only in the area, but anywhere in South Africa. 
 

Chispa

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Old Sweat said:
What’s Lt.-Col. Brian A. Reid, Our Little Army in the Field, 1996, narrative on the incident?

I am a few thousand kms away from home so I can't consult the book, but I recall the first person narratives and the battalion's "war diary" I consulted when drafting my passage on the incident made no mention of any such refusal of orders. A book by a war correspondent did suggest Otter refused the order, but I can't recall if the journalist was present at the time. I suggest the members of the battalion, thoroughly indoctrinated in the militia myth, would have jumped at the chance to see action.

If in doubt, go for the simplest and most logical choice, which was the Brits went for the best military solution.

Incidentally this is not the only case in the Boer War of rumour gaining the strength of dogma by repetition. The Strathconas were believed to have executed Boer prisoners for luring British troops into an ambush by using a white flag in 15 August 1900 in the Transvaal. There are many second hand reports by people who weren't there but heard of it, and Breaker Morant tried to use it at his court-martial. A number of years ago, when Sam Steele's papers were opened, many historians hoped to find confirmation. I was the lone man out, because I had written the South African Military History Society for information.

No one in South Africa had every heard of the incident. Furthermore, examination of the Boer casualty records, which were very detailed, found there had no Boer fatal casualties that day, not only in the area, but anywhere in South Africa.

Hi, well…hope you’re having fun in the sun…Fri., night -30 Sat. ca -25 with WC. I fully understand, without notes, etc., although clear first you gotten wind on my narrative concerning the incident at Orange River Station. Found the below, on old notes 45-47?

Lt. –Col. Reid, p. 48: — By 09 December The Royal Canadian Regiment was at Belmont, a small town on the Western Railroad, 560 miles north of Cape Town and 30 miles south of the Modder River. At this time the Modder River marked the demarcation between British and Boer spheres of control in this particular theatre of operation. For the next two months the Canadians would garrison Belmont, man defences and carry out patrols and outpost duty. More importantly, the Battalion was undergoing training in new tactics. Standing shoulder to shoulder and firing in volleys was abandoned. Skirmishing, moving forward in short rushes and firing from the prone, were all adopted and practiced.

Otter 1901: — At Orange river we only remained a couple of days, but during that time earned some little credit for the smart and effectual manner in which we built a long platform at the railway station. At 8 a.m. on December 9, the Headquarters and Right Half Battalion moved by rail some 40 miles to Belmont, followed the next day by the Left Half Battalion, where we relieved the Royal Munster Fusiliers, who proceeded higher up the line, and we then found ourselves relegated to the line of communication, Orange river-Modder river, under Colonel Miles, C.B., and later on Major General Wood, R.E. We were now enabled to settle down under canvas and devote some time to drill, although the duties of outposts, &c., were very heavy. We found at Belmont a…..

First informed by the SP’s on SSAW CDN accounts throughout time been subjected too 2nd Batt. SS RCRI, mainstream narratives with differences…left DeAar detrained at Orange River Station, met 1st GH, “question was decided in favour of the Gordons, who took over our train.” Taken into consideration, overwhelming losses in the Battles of Colenso and Stomberg, while evidence suggests slightly longer for Britannia too re-supply, send ample drafts, Artillery. Therefore my observations…the interpretation of Otter’s official 26th Jan., 1901 Report A, incidents were, whitewashed, embellished, omitted, vague on why; they had official orders too move forward. Noted…Otter 11 January, 1900, the incidents are forthcoming, not counting his personal critical critics on the Battlion, as the years fallowed…“Disembarked 30th, Nov. 7 a.m. marched to Green Point Cammon, and encamped that evening orders were issued. On the morning of December 1, tents were struck, and preparations made for marching out from Green Point Common. At noon the Battalion paraded with forty officers, 933 N.C.O’s and men in light marching order”…no mention on what occurred with 1 Off., and 65 OR’s.

In NAC, William Otter Papers, Lieutenant-Colonel Vidal (for Chief Staff Officer) to Otter 11 January 1900…covered in Hubly, p. 38: — As Otter’s Papers, 11 January 1900, Provides and explanation why only 40 officers and 933men paraded that day… On 30 November 1899 the Battalion landed at Cape Town and was at once ordered upcountry where they would have the opportunity to train and acclimatize while protecting British lines of communication. A small rear party under a subaltern was left behind in Cape Town to secure excess baggage that would not be used on campaign. As well, when the main body proceeded north by train on 01 December, 33 soldiers were temporarily left behind when, after a night out on the town, they were AWOL or simply too drunk to move. Soldiers will be soldiers.

Obvious question unaware of the above…couldn’t 2nd Batt., RCRI catch the next train, considering Lord Methuen urgency, at Modder river, in dire need of supplies, artillery power and as many men as he could muster. While at Cape Town within over 24hrs the battalion was hastily ordered forward. The British drafts, capable of drill, discipline, with or without battle experience, as long as they were fallowing orders willing too fight, all that was required. I’ll check…British drafts sent were mainly green, as for the Regiments reputation, doesn’t stop arrogance, ignorance or bullets…look at the aftermath of Magersfontein, 11th December, aka Black Week’ 10-17. With an overwhelming horrific slaughter, using GW, the highly decorated British Highland Bridge, included the Black Watch were humiliated…Boer kicked Tommy Atkins lovely derrière on those dates. The snippet on the “incident,” refusal of orders by half left flank, wrote long time ago similar to the below…

Stanley McKeown Brown, With The Royal Canadians (Toronto: The Publishers Syndicate, 1900), pp.103-104…On 07 December the Canadians were temporarily located at Orange River Station some 55 miles south of the Modder River. Here a fierce and fateful debate took place as to whether The Royal Canadian Regiment or the 1st Battalion The Gordon Highlanders would be sent north to join Lord Methuen's command with a major battle looming. The RCR had received minimal training and as yet were anything but a cohesive unit. Major Buchan now refused point blank to take the left half of the battalion, E, F, G, and H Companies northwards when ordered out by Lieutenant-Colonel Otter. This was insubordination pure and simple, but, it was inspired insubordination. The Gordons, a regular British battalion, went instead and were decimated along with the Highland Brigade four days later at the Battle of Magersfontein.......This act undoubtedly saved a great many Canadian lives. The RCR could not possibly have been ready for battle. There had been no opportunities to train either as a battalion or as companies since the unit had mustered. With the exception of the small handful of officers and NCOs who were Permanent Force, the large majority of personnel were civilian volunteers or non-permanent militiamen with little or no military background. It would have been short sighted in the extreme to send such novices against the crafty Boer without first giving them a chance to absorb the new tactics and battlecraft required in this war.

a022223.jpg

The death-trap at Magersfontein. 1899-1901.


It’s a crying shame she’s not mentioned in Canada’s Big Book, her father and brother are, considering the footing, foundation, of FWW CEF and CF Nursing Services.

Canadian Forces in South Africa Report B. Jan 17th, 1901. p.63. — Later in the same day we received orders to proceed to Wynberg for duty in the large base hospital there called No. 1 General. We found our services were greatly needed here, the wounded from Graspan and Belmont, etc, having been brought down recently, and the number of sisters very small. I might here add that the total number of sisters sent from home at this early date was 40, while a year later, including ourselves and other colonials, we numbered 1,000.

At No. 1 General, we nursed in huts, finding the work at times very heavy, oftentimes having our dinner between 9 and 10 p.m. We received our first convoy of wounded a few days after the battles of Magersfontein and Modeler River, when our beds were filled with the men of the Highland Brigade who suffered so severely at the former place. We remained at Wynberg for nearly a month……. We found ‘Tommy Atkins’ a very good patient and a tine fellow, always grateful, generally cheerful, bearing loss of limb, loss of health and many minor discomforts with a fortitude that satisfied our best ideas of British pluck, while his consideration for the presence of  ‘the Sister’ was at times quite touching……

• I have the honour to be, sir, your obedient servant, GEORGINA FANE POPE, Supt. 1st Contingent of Canadian Nursing Sisters to South Africa. Colonel J. L. H. Neilson, G.G.H S., Director General Medical Services, Ottawa, Canada. 35a—3.

The wounded overwhelmed the aide stations and base hospitals, Canadian Nursing Sister Lt. Georgina Fane Pope, head nurse accounts: — “At Wynberg we found our services greatly needed, the wounded from Graspan and Belmont having recently been brought down in large numbers. A few days after our arrival a large convoy brought in the wounded from the battle at Magersfontein and Modder River, when all my empty beds were filled with men of the Highland Brigade, which suffered so severely in the engagements. The arrival of this convoy was a most pitiful sight, many of the men being stretcher cases, shot through thigh, foot or spine. What struck one most was the wonderful pluck of these poor fellows, who had jolted over the rough veldt terrain in ambulances and then endured the long train journey, also the utter self righteousness of everyone else, surgeons, sisters, and orderlies, all of whom worked on regardless of time or hunger until everyone was as comfortable as they could be made. Tommy made the least of all his woes. A drink first, then after his wounds had been attended to, ‘a bit of tobacco’ for a smoke, and a piece of paper to  ‘send a line so they won’t be scared at home,’ were invariably the first requirements.”


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Chispa

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While countless playing it safe, claimed it was 1000 Strong which sailed to Cape Town, others state 1019; the latter asked a British SAW site many moons ago, on why they claimed it was 1039? Replied read Captain Chambers and Reid, see wiki...while my main source has always been the SP’s. In disclosure, tried for years, which proved fruitless, even strongly advised they should read the above mentioned authors, and make the corrections… Col. Chambers was aware while Reid's account first I heard

Now…who was your source on 2nd Batt, SS RCRI 1039 steamed towards Cape Town?

Observation…“The sanitary arrangements were particularly bad.” SAW CDN FC steamed in a cattle transport vessel, if called the “Sardine” owing packed tight…What about the cow stench? 

While the 1019, previous authors cutting and pasting, using a Montreal paper account of the day, or reading the SP 35a, unbeknown too them, what’s on page 30, might have corrections, changes on p. 70:

The 1000 derives from…
On October 13, His Excellency the Governor General sent the following reply to Mr. Chamberlain:—
“Much pleasure in telling you that my Government offers 1,000 infantry on organization
proposed in your telegram of October 3.”
And on October 16, His Excellency received an acknowledgment in the following
words:—
“Her Majesty’s Government have received with much pleasure your telegram of
October 13, conveying Canada’s generous offer of 1,000 troops, which they gratefully
accept.’’
On October 14, His Excellency approved the following report of the Privy Council
“The Committee of the Privy Council have had under consideration a despatch,
dated October 3, 1899, from the Right Honourable Mr. Chamberlain. JOHN J. McGEE,
Clerk of the Privy Council.


A Copy of this Minute of Council was transmitted by His Excellency to Mr. Chamberlain, who on November 15, acknowledged the receipt as follows:—
“ My Lord:
“ I received from you on the 2nd instant a copy of an Approved Minute of the
Dominion Privy Council, dated 14th October, 1899, in which your Ministers authorized the equipment and despatch of 1,000 volunteers for service with the Imperial troops in
South Africa.”
“The great enthusiasm and the general eagerness to take an active part in a military expedition, which has unfortunately been found necessary for the maintenance of British rights and interests in South Africa, have afforded much gratification to Her Majesty’s Government and the people of this country. The desire thus exhibited to share in the risks and burdens of Empire has been welcomed, not only as a proof of the staunch loyalty of the Dominion, and of its sympathy with the policy pursued by Her Majesty’s Government in South Africa, but also as an expression of that growing feeling of the unity and solidarity of the Empire which has marked the relations of the Mother Country with the colonies during recent years. The thanks of Her Majesty’s Government are specially due to your Ministers for the cordial manner in which they have undertaken and carried through the work of organizing and equipping the Canadian Contingent.”

Mr. Chamberlain’s despatch of October 3, required that the troops should embark for Cape Town not later than October 31. The decision to send troops was reached on the evening of October 13, thus leaving only 18 days to organize, equip and move the force to point of embarkation.

Major General E. T. H. Hutton, C. B., who was then in Command of the Militia, was in British Columbia, and, in the absence of Colonel the Honourable M. Aylmer, Adjutant General, who was in England, the work of organizing the contingent devolved upon Colonel Hubert Foster, Quarter Master General, the senior officer at Head Quarters.

RECRUITING.
On October 14, orders were issued to all concerned notifying them that the enrolment of 1,000 men in 8 Companies of Infantry had been authorized, and stating the conditions under which men would be accepted.

The following places were decided upon as recruiting centres, viz.:
• In British Columbia—Victoria and Vancouver.
• Manitoba—Winnipeg.
• Ontario—London, Toronto, Ottawa and Kingston.
• Quebec—Montreal and Quebec.
• New Brunswick—St. John.
• Nova Scotia — Halifax.
• Prince Edward Island—Charlottetown.
The men were all enrolled as privates. The agreement they were required to sign was as follows:— Oath to be taken in the Presence of the Attesting Officer…


APPENDIX A7. p.56: 2 SS Batt. RCRI Nominal Roll of NCO,’s and men DOD & KIA, total 29.
APPENDIX A8. p.57-58: RCR, Officers, NCO,’s and men KIA, and DOW, total 39.
APPENDIX A9. p.59: RCR, List of Wounded, total 123.
• Invalided back to Canada: 8 officers, 352, NCO,’s and men.
• Total dead for RCR, 68 while in South Africa.
• Appointed to commissions in Imperial Army; 2 Rank, and 7 file.
• Non joined the Constabulary or Howard’s Scouts.
• Discharged to join or to remain in SA: 4 Ranks, and 13 file.
• On command in SA (sick, on leave and duty); 3 Ranks, and 15 file.
• Returned home once time expired; 25 Rank, and 653 file.
• Severally Wounded; 1 Rank, and 39 file.
• Slightly Wounded; 4 Rank, and 69 file.
• Total Wounded; 5 Rank, and 108 file.




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Old Sweat

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Before dropping the subject until next year, I would like to add a final reason why I would find it unlikely that Otter would readily agree to, or even less likely, to an order to move part or all of his battalion forward. He was a veteran of the Battle of Ridgeway in June 1866 when a force of Irish-American Civil War veterans drove two Canadian militia battalion largely composed of poorly trained volunteers, many of whom had never fired their muskets before this day, from the field in a panic-stricken rout. Forget the story about forming square and the rest that you will see in most publications as the reason. That was concocted at the time to divert attention from the sheer incompetence of the British and Canadian civil and military authorities in preparing for the incursion. Otter learned a lesson that day about the folly of committing under-trained and poorly prepared troops into battle, and would have resisted any such move very, very strongly. Oh yes, and Buchan hated his guts and was known for his disloyal and insubordinate behaviour.

Back to Ridgeway, only three authors since 1900 were able to research and analyze the primary source material to come up with what happened. The Fenians lured the Canadians into a trap by pretending to give way, and then launched a counter-stroke that overwhelmed the Canadians. Of the three authors, I was one, the second was David Owen, an ex-member of the RHC and the Airborne Regiment, and the third was Doctor Peter Vronsky, whose PhD thesis formed the basis for his book on the battle. 
 
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