Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Fraser Auld leads the march around the Worthington Square. (Photo by Patricia Leboeuf, Petawawa Post)
A replica 12-pounder howitzer like the one used at Leliefontein was marched past the crowd. (Photo by Patricia Leboeuf, Petawawa Post)
Closing the ceremony was the roll past of RCD transport including horses like those used in the Boer Wars to the current Tactical Armored Patrol Vehicles. (Photo by Patricia Leboeuf, Petawawa Post)
Three Victoria Crosses were won during the Battle of Leliefontein and they were marched through the ranks during the Nov. 4 parade. (Photo by Patricia Leboeuf, Petawawa Post)
Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Fraser Auld leads the march past around Worthington Square. (Photo by Patricia Leboeuf, Petawawa Post)
Royal Canadian Dragoons mark 117 years since the Battle of Leliefontein
By Patricia Leboeuf
Posted on Thursday, November 9, 2017
Celebrating the 117th anniversary of the Battle of Leliefontein was a homecoming for The Royal Canadian Dragoons (RCD).
Former and current Dragoons came from near and far to mingle with their contemporaries during this annual parade. Family, friends, dignitaries and supporters joined them on Nov. 4 at Worthington Parade Square.
It is an annual celebration of the valour and courage shown by members of the unit more than a century ago, and an opportunity for personnel to remember the events that forever marked the unit’s history. “I think Leliefontein is the perfect time to remember,” said Colonel of the Regiment and Reviewing Officer Major-General Matt Macdonald. “In my mind, we draw inspiration from what they did. It makes us strong and it makes us proud and it gives us a reason to come together.”
The Battle of Leliefontein on November 7, 1900 was an engagement between British/Canadian and Boer forces during the Second Boer War.
Along with the Canadian Field Artillery, the RCD was ordered to cover the British troop’s withdrawal and found themselves completely surrounded by the enemy. They knew they could not let their guns fall into the wrong hands and acted quickly and decisively to save the guns.
The outstanding bravery of these men allowed them to not only protect the outpost they were guarding, but to halt the advancing Boers.
Their bravery resulted in the awarding of the Victoria Cross - the highest military decoration for extraordinary valour and devotion to duty while facing a hostile force - to Sergeant Edward James Gibson Holland, Lieutenant Richard Ernest William Turner and Lieutenant Hampden Zane Churchill Cockburn.
The RCD is the only single unit to have three soldiers win the Victoria Cross in a single day.
These prestigious medals were on display during the parade, marched through the ranks so that all the soldiers could get a glimpse. “We have the three Victoria Crosses here with us every time we do this parade so that the current serving soldiers can actually see the tangible results of that battle,” said RCD Commander Lieutenant Colonel Fraser Auld.
Descendants of Turner and Holland also attended the event as their ancestors’ actions have earned them a place in the Regimental family. “We’ve kept a pretty good connection with not just our VC recipients’ (families) but frankly everybody who has served with the regiment,” said LCol Auld. “We take it ... seriously, whether they’ve retired and moved on to other things or not.”
This was best illustrated by the fact that about a dozen former Commanders and Regimental Sergeant Majors attended the parade, as well as many more former unit personnel of all ranks.
Maj-Gen Macdonald made sure to mention and personally thank as many of them as possible for their contributions over the years. It was his last Leliefontein parade as Colonel of the Regiment, and he reminisced about the past as well as speculated on the future of the unit. “I trust this regiment and the young soldiers, NCO and officers will figure it out,” he said. “If you do what our forefathers did and think about your responsibilities as troopers, NSO and officers, I have no doubt that you will do a magnificent job.”
As well as the traditional inspection, the 160-strong parade, march past, and the trooping of the Regiment’s Guidon, the parade was also an opportunity to present awards and accolades to the most worthy of Dragoons.