A Catalyst for Change: Canadian Military Reforms Following the Second Anglo-Boer War

The experience of the Second Anglo-Boer War, 1899-1902,was the chief catalyst for Canadian militia reform in the years leading up to the Great War. Throughout the conflict, Imperial troops endured hardships such as high casualties, inadequate medical care and shortages of water, rations and equipment. These problems highlighted a number of deficiencies within the British Army. Even before the war was over, the British War Office began to examine ways of correcting these shortcomings. As a result, many things changed after 1902 and the British Army underwent sweeping reforms. Canada, as well as the other Dominions, followed Britain's lead, affecting changes in five major areas. Canadian military and political leaders overhauled the Department of the Militia and Defense. They adopted British Imperial standard doctrine and training methods. They changed the structure of fighting formations in the Non-Permanent Active Militia (or Militia)and the Permanent Active Militia (or the Permanent Force).They re-invigorated individual and collective training. And they developed Canadian medical and support services. Analysis of each of the five change areas before, during and after the war, reveals that these reforms, which took place between 1902 and 1914 were directly related to the experience of war in the South African veldt.
Following Britain's lead, the Canadian Department of Militia and Defense underwent an extensive overhaul in the decade that followed the Second Anglo-Boer War. The conflict brought many of Britan's deficiencies into sharp relief, particularly those of the strategy-making machinery of government. The "task of fighting a campaign in South Africa brought the War Office up short… as it became apparent that, through neglect and misunderstanding, it had never formed the machinery necessary"to combat a modern, non-conventional, enemy like the Boers. Consequently, the British were forced to imp…