When the Second Anglo-Boer War erupted (1899–1902), Canada mobilized troops to join British forces in South Africa. Britain was at war with the Boer republics; newspapers throughout the Empire urged able-bodied men to serve in the imperial forces. A proud farming people descended from Dutch colonists, the Boer militiamen organised in mounted commandos and waged a fierce guerrilla war against Queen Victoria’s armies. Yet when the British suffered a series of defeats, renewed calls were made for recruits, and heightened patriotism inspired many to answer the call.
Donald Alexander Smith (1820–1914), 1st Baron Strathcona and Mount Royal, invited Sam Steele to command a cavalry unit being raised to fight in South Africa. Ever a man of determined action, Steele immediately accepted the commission. As commander of Lord Strathcona’s Horse, Steele’s experience recruiting, training, and leading men served him well; his reputation attracted many volunteers from the NWMP.
Steele and his regiment showed courage and ingenuity in their pursuit of the enemy; when the war concluded, Steele had become a national hero. For his extraordinary service, Steele was decorated by King Edward VII (1841–1910) and was made a Commander of the Bath and a Member of the Victoria Order. He was also persuaded to remain in South Africa to help organise the newly formed South African Constabulary.