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The last surviving Royal Canadian Regiment veteran of the Battle of Paardeberg died 47 years ago

August 2018

Lieutenant Austin Chisholm was just a young private when Boer General Piet Cronjé surrendered with 4, 000 of his soldiers to British and Canadian troops at Paardeberg on 27 February 1900.

With Chisholm’s regiment, The Royal Canadian Regiment (RCR), facing down Cronjé’s troops from an elevated position a short 65 yards away, the surrender came 19 years to the day that British forces were defeated at Mojuba Hill in the First Boer War.

Under the command of Field Marshal Lord Roberts, the battle was the first time the victorious Canadian soldiers had fought in an overseas battle and was a turning point in the South African War.

It was also a major victory for the RCR, Canada’s senior infantry regiment and one of the oldest Regular Force regiments, having been founded on 21 December 1883.   Paardeberg would be just the third of many earned battle honours, with perpetuated battle honours dating back to the War of 1812.

To this day, 27 February is celebrated as Paardeberg Day by the RCR.

Chisholm volunteered for service in South Africa with The RCR in October 1899 and in addition to Paardeberg, fought in battles at Johannesburg, Driefontein and Cape Colony.

Returning to Canada with the regiment the following year, Chisholm was honoured with an invitation to attend the coronation of King Edward VII in 1902.

Chisholm was awarded the King Edward VII Coronation Medal, along with the Queen’s South Africa Medal with bars for Johannesburg, Driefontein, Paardeberg and Cape Colony.

Chisholm returned to civilian life but maintained his connections with the regiment. In 1967, Chisholm was further honoured with a lifetime honourary membership in the Sergeants’ Mess at Wolseley Barracks in London, Ontario, the historic Home Station of the regiment.

He died at Westminster Hospital in London, Ontario, on 18 August 1971 and was buried two days later in St. Peter’s Cemetery, with an RCR Honour Guard firing a final salute in tribute to a soldier who took part in Canada’s first battle victory in an overseas war.

Chisholm’s medals now reside in The RCR Museum at Wolseley Barracks.

Sources:  Sentinel magazine, February 1972.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

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