Canada's Expeditionary Force

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The purpose of this paper is to examine Desmond Morton’s article, “Canada’s Expeditionary Force: The Canadian Continent in South Africa, 1899- 1900.” Mr Morton argues that the nation did not properly take on board the hard lessons learned during the Boer War which left Canada doomed to repeat the same mistakes in future conflicts. He discusses the evolution from a militia force to a structured field force fighting an imperial war and how this was repeated in subsequent wars. All of these challenging aspects, which affected Canada’s effort and contribution, included a “national government deeply and gravely divided” [1] a lack of military focus, and inadequate leadership and a definite lack of required training. Mr Morton argues that Canada’s South African contingent suffered from a lack of leadership. The only experienced leader in the force was Lieutenant Colonel William Otter and although he was at a ripe age of 57, he was none the less the most experienced leader at that time, who gained experience in the Fenian Raids of the 1860’s and the Northwest Campaign of 1885. It appears that all of his immediate subordinates were political appointees as opposed to them being chosen for their military experience and expertise. The officers’ chosen by Otter himself proved to be of little help in the preparation phase. Mr Morton also argues that a lack of training was clearly evident during combat operations. He discusses the Canadian contingent’s initial contact with the enemy in which Otter’s men rose up and joined the rush of another assaulting force resulting in 21 Canadian dead and 65 wounded[2] This assault was unplanned and occurred due to Otters’ men being undisciplined and seemingly untrained. Although it seems that the Canadian soldiers were successful in further operations, this success was attributed to the fact of the military companies having
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