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Lt. John McCrae - Guelph, ON

Lt. EWB Morrison

Heros from the Royal Canadian Artillery

The General & the Poet: The Canadian Artillery was the pride of Militia Minister Frederick Borden. As events turned out, from its ranks came one of Canada's finest generals, and one of its best poets.

Lt. EWB Morrison wrote one of the best autobiographical books on the Anglo-Boer War, "With the Guns" which is still available in paperback. He illustrated it with his drawings. In fact, during World War I, his drawings were to inspire one of his fellow officers to write one of the world's greatest poems. Morrison also became editor of the Ottawa Citizen.

Below is the earliest photo we have of Morrison, with fellow officers of the Royal Canadian Artillery, aboard the ship taking them to South Africa. The women are nurses.

Morrison, is wearing the flat campaign hat. In the middle at the back, still clean shaven, is Lt. John McCrae from Guelph, Ontario. They were pals sharing a passion for the military as well as things literary.

One of the highlights of their stay in South Africa was a visit they made together to visit Rudyard Kipling, the leading writer of the English language in the British Empire, who was covering the Boer War as a war correspondent. They were inspired to write of their experiences in war, Morrison writing of the Artillery campaign, and McCrae compiling a dictionary of profanity used by Canadians at the front.

Left, Morrison mounted, with fresh meat for his men, to supplement the dry rations provided by the government.

His book is a fine compilation of writings he made from the front. His account of the sacking and burning of the town of Dullstroom is a moving story of Canadians caught having to do unspeakable things for duty's sake.

"No one who was there will ever forget that day's work. There were only women and children in the town.... We placed all our guns on the hill as the cavalry galloped through below. Amid the row of the cannonade and the rifle fire, the sacking of the place began. You could see the smoke rise from 50 miles away."

"I am glad to say my men were exempted from the work. It was our duty to cover with the guns the troops that did the burning.... We did not get anything like a fair share of the loot, but I don't think my men objected to that..."

But the Boers fought back. Below a rare photo of wounded Canadian artillerymen behind an ambulance after the Battle of Faber's Put, where the Canadian Artillery had its first battlefield death, Wm. Latimer from Granby, PQ.

Left, Latimer's statue set up by a grateful people in Granby, PQ, and left below his grave in Kimberley, South Africa.

Below is the place he died, the remote farm at Faber's Put and the stone kraal alongside which the Canadian guns were parked and in which the Canadian artillery horses were coralled during the night. The gunfire whistled over this site as the Canadians trained their guns on the Boers who attacked from the far left, trying to stampede the horses during the early dawn hours.

Morrison's guns were not at Faber's Put. His men were guarding the railway. Above, as he looked just after the war in front of his men at Petawawa in 1908.

Morrison's guns were at Leliefontein in Nov. 1900, covering the retreating British army as it returned from a burning expedition. The Boer attack was ferocious and Morrison's horses were completely done in trying to drag the heavy 12 pounders up the ridges while under heavy fire. He had to rest them frequently and then men and animals dragged with might and main to try to get to the top. It was then that Canadian Richard Turner, already having won a Distinguished Service Order for bravery at Coetzee's Drift galloped in. Though wounded in two places he rallied his men to hold off the Boers long enough for Morrison's guns to make their get-away. Then he and his men were overrun, all killed, wounded or captured.

Turner would win a Victoria Cross and Morrison the DSO, the Empire's second highest medal for bravery for their brave deeds on that day. (Details on Great Battles Page 3)

When Morrison next appears (below with cane) he is on the training field, probably just before WW I. Beside him is his Anglo-Boer War comrade-in-arms and Canada's most decorated hero of the Anglo-Boer War, Richard E. Turner VC, DSO.

During WW 1 both would become Generals in the Canadian Army playing major roles in the Canadian war effort.

Both would be knighted for their services to Canada and the Empire.

In 1915 (left) Morrison stands in front of the Canadians in a street in Devizes, France (no 1). Behind his right side (no 2) is a fellow veteran artillery officer from the Boer War, John McCrae, below with dog.

But the barbarity of this war had changed McCrae, now switching from compilations of profanity to poetry with deeper meaning.

The General & the Poet: Morrison was now head of the Royal Canadian Artillery; his friend McCrae was devoting his services as a doctor to saving lives. As in the Boer War they were serving together; and as before, Morrison was still sketching.

Below is Morrison's sketch which John McCrae looked at one day after a terrible day of casualties and was inspired to write a poem, that down through the ages, has been learned by heart by countless hundreds of millions of school children around the world, perhaps the most famous war poem of all time "IN FLANDERS FIELDS."

Above, Morrison sits with cane between two junior officers who would rise to become famous generals in another world war. With crossed arms, is Andrew McNaughton, and on the far right, the future Lord Alan Brooke, Churchill's right hand during WW 2.

Major-General, Sir Edward Whipple Bancroft Morrison, honoured by a grateful nation for long and valuable service to his country, would die in 1925. His writings are major features of our program "The Great Anglo-Boer War: the Canadian Experience."

With Grateful Thanks for
Supplementary Information and Pictures to:

Clive Prothero-Brooks, Curator, RCA Museum, Shilo, MB

Adjuc Normand ROBERGE MMM CD, of Hull, PQ

c Goldi Productions Ltd. 1996 & 2000