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New Brunswick has a proud military tradition. The growth of active and loyal militia units during the 19th century can be traced, in part, to the seed planted by an influx of Royal Provincial soldiers at the end of the American Revolutionary War. At the turn of the twentieth century, these militia units responded to a call for help from Britain in its war with the South African Boer settlers. And so, men from the 73rd Northumberland Regiment and the 12th (Newcastle) Field Battery and the 8th Princess Louise's New Brunswick Hussars joined other militiamen from across the young Dominion in the country's first overseas war. This was a significant step, a step toward nationhood and the first taken in which Canadian territory was not immediately threatened.

Over 8,000 Canadians served in the Boer War, not a large number when thinking of the conflicts yet to come but important nonetheless. New Brunswickers enlisted with enthusiasm, regularly filling their quotas and supplementing other contingents which experienced a shortage of recruits. The first contingents which sailed to South Africa in late 1899 or early 1900 saw most of the active service at the sharp end and suffered most of the 111 casualties, including disease and accident. Units with New Brunswick men such as the Second Special Service Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment and the Royal Canadian Dragoons saw fierce action at Paardeberg and Leliefontain in 1900. Later sailings were restricted to surrender and guard duties as the conflict wound down in 1901-02. Over 560 had joined the colours by the end of the war, a figure quite out of proportion to the size of the province in the young and growing country.

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