Thematic Guides - South African War

This guide is intended to provide researchers with an introduction to government records held by Library and Archives Canada on Canadian participation in the South African War. It contains references from various military fonds, as well as some additional references to other archival material and government publications.


The South African War, 1899-1902, is a key event in the military history of Canada. In October 1899, the tensions between Dutch South Africans, known as Boers, and British South Africans erupted into open warfare. The government of Canada eventually responded to the crisis by recruiting, equipping and transporting two contingents of volunteers to serve with the British forces in South Africa. The British War Office paid all other costs, including pay and return transport. Later contingents were financed completely by the British War Office, with the exception of one recruited and paid for by Lord Strathcona.

The South African war marked the first occasion that Canada dispatched troops to an overseas war. On 3 October 1899, the British government suggested that Canada could provide several 125-man units for service in South Africa. Recruiting began on 14 October and Units were raised across Canada in order to obtain national representation. The first battalion arrived in South Africa in November 1899 and participated in nine important battles.

More than seven thousand soldiers and 12 Nursing Sisters served in South Africa. The Canadian participation in the South African War set the precedent for further involvement in the two world wars, the Korean War and dozens of peacekeeping missions.

Records from the Department of Militia and Defence

Deputy Minister's Office


  • RG 9, IIA1, Docket 20142, Canadian Scouts, South African War.
  • RG 9, IIA1, D.M., d/8 October 1900, D.M. - # 19778, 20271 Casualties, SA)South African Constabularies Organization.
  • RG 9, IIA1, D.M.'s Papers, # A1528 John Stewart, formation of a mounted force in Southern Alberta.

Records of active service

  • RG 9 IIA3, vol. 16-18, Special Service Force to South Africa, Pay and allowances.
  • RG 9 IIA3, vol. 19, Paylists of personnel discharged at Québec City.
  • RG 9 IIA3, vol. 20-24, Applications and offers of service, 1899-1902.
  • RG 9 IIA3, vol. 25-26, Cables and correspondence relating to casualties.
  • RG 9 IIA3, vol. 26, Nominal rolls of men admitted to hospital in South Africa.
  • RG 9 IIA3, vol. 26-27, Correspondence relating to units.
  • RG 9 IIA3, vol. 27, Proceedings of boards to assess the value of horses offered to the Special Service Contingent, 1899-1900.
  • RG 9 IIA3, vol. 27, Correspondence relating to gratuities, medals and medical services.
  • RG 9 IIA3, vol. 28-30, 35, Nominal rolls of units.
  • RG 9 IIA3, vol. 30-32, Orders.
  • RG 9 IIA3, vol. 32-34, Reports and diaries.

Medal Registers

RG 9 II A5, vol. 13-15, reel C-1863, Registers of Canadian recipients of the Queen's South Africa Medal.

Adjutant General's Office and Headquarters


  • RG 9 IIB1, Vol. 220, AG Docket # 93706, South Africa, Return of Troops.
  • RG 9 IIB1, Vol. 210, AG docket # 88132, Simonski, Montreal Herald correspondent, charged with not submitting material to Press Censor in South Africa.
  • RG 9, IIB1, Vol. 222, AG docket # 94930, South African Constabulary.
  • RG 9, IIB1, Vol. 239, List of those who had previous service in Canadian Contingents.
  • RG 9, IIB1, Vol. 234, AG Docket 1277/01, Casualty lists (fatalities), arranged by Unit. Includes SAC and CDN Scouts. Memorial, Capetown Cathedral.
  • RG 9, B1, Vol. 255, AG Docket 246/01, Canadian casualties for memorials (d/1902).
  • RG 9, IIB1, Vol. 260, AG Docket 1174/02, Report by Canadian Red Cross.
  • RG 9, IIB1, Vol. 263, AG Docket 1840/02, War diary 10th Canadian Field Hospital.
  • RG 9, IIB1, Vol. 235, AG docket 1379/01, List of Canadian Scouts returning to Canada (d/July 1901).
  • RG 9, IIB1, Vol. 244, AG Docket 3806/01, Canadian Scouts (Major A.L. Howard) d/1901, Nominal Roll.
  • RG 9, IIB1, Docket 3806/01, Canadian Scouts, South African War.
  • RG 9, IIB1, Vol. 252, AG Docket 5574/01, Names of those who remained after contingents returned. Includes reason for remaining.
  • RG 9, IIB1, Vol. 261, AG Docket 1564/02, WD, 2nd CMR (January-May, 1902).
  • RG 9, IIB1, AG Docket 94561, Docket 94930 Lide No. 20270, 19338, Constabularies Organization.
  • RG 9, IIB1, AG Docket-5574-01, d/12 November 1901, G.W.B.-5-6-87), Roll of Officers N.C.O.'s and men remaining in South Africa.

Accounts and pay branch

Nominal rolls and paylists

  • RG 9 II F7, vol. 10-11, South African Contingents, 1899-1902.

Records from the Department of National Defence

  • RG 24, Vol. 6562, Nominal Rolls.
  • RG 24, Vol. 6309, files HQ 63-15-15, Date and conditions of enlistment.
  • RG 24, Vol. 5910, files HQ 49-1-2, Pension regulations.
  • RG 24, acc. 584, vol. 408, file 63-1-33, Number of officers, non-commissioned officers and men who served in the South African War.
  • RG 24, vol. 369, file HQ-54-2-2, Copy of War Office letter of 6th Instant re Family Bibles lost by the Boers during war in South Africa, 1903-1905.
  • RG 24, vol. 6309, file HQ-63-16-4, Nursing Sisters in Boer War, 1909.
  • RG 24, vol. 369, file HQ-54-2-1, Information from O.C. S.S. Contingents for compilation of the Official History of the War, 1903.
  • RG 24, vol. 369, file HQ-54-2-3, Calling upon Captain F.J. Dixon, R.O. as to whether it is his intention to write an official history of the South African War, 1903-1904.
  • RG 24, vol. 369, file HQ-54-2-4, Offers for active service in South Africa, 1906.
  • RG 24, vol. 369, file HQ54-2-5, Enquiry as to the Troops that occupied Ladysmith S.A. during the siege of 1899-1900.
  • RG 24, vol. 369, file HQ54-2-7, List of engagements in South African War of 1899-1902 for which Clasps were awarded, 1910.

Records from the Department of Veteran's Affairs

The following records are indexed in our South African War, 1899-1902 - Service Files, Medals and Land Applications database.

  • RG 38 A1a, vols. 1-116, reel T-2060 to T-2090, Personnel Service Files, South African War, 1899-1902.

These records consist of service files of participants in the South African War and applications for land grants by these veterans.

  • RG 38 IB, vols. 117-136, Land Grants, South African War, 1899-1902.

The land grants files consist of applications by individual veteran's under the Volunteer Bounty Act, which authorized the granting of land to all volunteers residents of Canada who had served with the British Forces in South Africa.

  • RG 38 A2a, vols. 412-418, Personnel files, South African War, 1902-1906.

These records consist of personnel files relating to veterans of the South African War.

Government publications

Department of Militia and Defence, Sessional Paper #35a. Canadian Forces in South Africa 1899-1902. 97 p.

Department of Militia and Defence. Canadian Forces in South Africa 1899-1900. 215 p.

Department of Militia and Defence. Supplementary Report, Organization, Equipment, Despatch and Service of the Canadian Contingent During the War in South Africa, 1899-1900. Queen's Printer, 1901.

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