When Sam Steele formally resigned from the Mounted Police in 1903, he ended a legendary 30-year career with the Police. After he returned to Canada in 1907 he assumed command of a military district, reconstituted Lord Strathcona’s Horse as a permanent cavalry regiment, and settled down to write his memoirs, which were published in 1915 as Forty Years in Canada: Reminiscences of the Great North-West.
He also found time to serve as president of the Canadian Club and Boy Scout Commissioner.
At the outbreak of war in 1914, he sought an expeditionary command, but the government hesitated because of his age. The public, astonished to see one of its favourite sons ignored, believed Steele was just the man to inspire troops and lift the spirits of the nation. As a result of this pressure, Steele was appointed Major-General in command of the Second Canadian Division, and embarked for England with 25,000 troops. Deemed too old for an active combat command in France, Steele, at the request of General Sir Herbert Kitchener (1850–1916), was appointed overall commander of the Southwestern District in England, including the Canadian training base at Shorncliffe, for which his administrative skills were so very well suited.
Appointed Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George on 1 January 1918, Steele relinquished his command two months later, and officially retired from military duty in July 1918. He succumbed to influenza at Putney, England, on 30 January 1919, and was buried in Winnipeg.