The Boer Veteran

Lieutenant Colonel W.H. Moodie
9th Canadian Railway Troops

Then the agony began. There we lay in fatal range, many had been killed outright in the charge, and all who had not good cover were in fearful danger and the groans from different points all over the field told too plainly how they were picking off our men. Those of us who had good cover had to stick to it though it was fearful to be there and listen to the calls of the wounded for help.

(W.H. Moodie letter, 13 Dec 1899)

Born in Quebec City on 22 September 1871, Walter Hill Moodie was a British Columbia civil engineer and Boer War veteran. He volunteered with the Royal Canadian Regiment of Infantry and arrived to South Africa in December 1899. In letters home to Kelso, British Columbia he recounted his journey and remarked on his and comrades’ frustration “kicking our heels impatiently for our first engagement.” Two months later he experienced the full agony of modern warfare on Blood Sunday, 18 February 1900.

When initially confined to garrison duties, Moodie felt that Canadian troops were being denied the glory of battlefield service:

Suspicion is aroused that the sending of the Royal Canadian Regiment to South Africa is no more than a bare advertisement of Canada’s loyalty and the powers that be seem to be bent on protecting the dear boys to the utmost in order possibly to avoid the almost certain recriminations of those at home should any loss of life be fatal their walking advertisement. Many of the men in the Regt. would far rather remain in South Africa than return home with the doubtful glory of a “Cease-fire Medal”

Then Moodie witnessed his first real combat on 18 February 1900 at Paardeberg Drift. When ordered to charge into the Boer lines, he recalled, “The fire was terrific, the diabolical explosive bullets of the Boers snapping in the air all around us, their noise varied by the sharp ‘ping’ of the Mauser and the hiss of the dum-dum.” There were over 1,500 Imperial casualties including eighteen Canadian dead.

With his early enthusiasm chastened, Moodie explained, “We have all seen what war is now we have seen our dead and we feel that now the quarrel is certainly ours. We have one satisfaction however in knowing that that whatever else we run up against we are not likely to meet any thing worse than our Bateme de Feu.”

After only a few months active service, Moodie remarked, “We are all ready to go forward again at the word of command but we shall all be heartily glad when the war is over & our faces are turned homeward.” After the war, he remained in South Africa for railway work. He returned to British Columbia in 1908.

He enlisted as a major in the 1st Canadian Pioneers in November 1915 and went to France in March 1916. Almost immediately he was invalided when a horse fell on him. He would not rejoin the unit until August 1916.

In March 1917, the 1st Pioneers were re-designated the 9th Battalion, Canadian Railway Troops, with Moodie in command. For his important contribution to the war effort he was mentioned in dispatches and awarded the D.S.O.

He returned to Kelowna, British Columbia and died in 1955.

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