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Thirty-one Ottawa veterans arrived home at 2.45pm on Saturday, 3 November 1900. Wilfred Campbell, who lived in Ottawa, penned a poem to welcome them.Titled Return of the Troops, the first verse went: Canadian heroes hailing home, War-worn and tempest smitten, Who circled leagues of rolling foam, To hold the earth for Britain.In the fighting, the British forces sustained more than 1,400 casualties, of which 348 men died.Thirty-one Canadian soldiers lost their lives in the battle, including two Ottawa men. Boer losses amounted 350 killed or wounded and 4,019 captured.
That war was the South African War, also known as the Boer War.The Ottawa volunteers cheered “Hobble, gobble, Razzle, dazzle, Sis boom bah, Ottawa, Ottawa, Rah. The Canadians distinguished themselves at the Battle of Paardeberg where after nine days of bloody fighting in late February 1900, British forces defeated a Boer army. The Boer general, Piet Cronjé, surrendered when his soldiers woke to find themselves facing Canadian rifles from nearly point blank range.In the dead of night, the Canadian troops had silently dug trenches on the high ground overlooking the Boer line.Boer soldiers invaded the British Natal and Cape Colonies and subsequently laid siege to ill-prepared British troops at Ladysmith, Mafeking, and Kimberly.The attacks galvanized pro-British sympathies throughout the Empire, whipped up by nationalistic newspapers.
The return of “D” Company was signalled by the ringing of the City Hall bell, a refrain that was taken up by church bells across the city.