Topic: The RCR
South African War Anecdotes
The Three Musketeers
Canadian Army Journal, Vol 16, No 4, Fall 1962
Contributed by Dr. A.S. McCormick
It is June 1900, and the First Provisional Battalion is in Kroonstad, Orange Free State. It is composed of men who have been left behind because of illness or wounds. Eventually the battalion will catch up with the main body and the men will rejoin their regiments. No. 5 Company is composed of 17 members of The Royal Canadian Regiment under Corporal A.S. McCormick, 25 Gordon Highlanders under Corporal Buggins, and 40 Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry. It is an easy life: no drill, no duties - just be available for any call. Food is a tiresome repetition of the same old thing. So Lance-Corporal MacDonald of Halifax, N.S., Pte. Woodliffe of London, Ontario, and I decide to do something about it. At 10 p.m. with everyone else in bed, we set out on our expedition. We cross the dam over the Valch River and go to a supply depot on the far side of the town. We stop far enough from the depot not to be seen by the sentries. Woodliffe scouts around to see the layout. Then when the two sentries have met, turned about, and started back along the beat, he darts in and grabs a box and hurries to join McDonald and me. In the dark we make out the label "biscuits" - hardtack, the last thing anyone would select for a change of diet. "Blasted old biscuits," exclaims Woodliffe and he makes another raid. This time he brings a box with 12 two-pound tins of Bruce's Army and Navy rations a lovely stew. Now my Corporal's stripes do their part. The two men shoulder the boxes and I march them through the streets as a fatigue party. We pass two or three men in whose hearing I angrily say: "This is a fine time to send out a fatigue party!" We stop to rest. Through the darkness looms a figure with slow and measured tread. Looks like a police man, confound it. If it be a military policeman, he is about to see three men make a new world record for the mile. My heart is in my throat and if I cough, I am likely to spit it out. But we wait, the figure approaches, peers into each face and moves on. It is a Kaffir policeman. We breathe again. We continue the march. In camp, we open the boxes and divide the loot. A Gordon sticks his head out of his blanket tent, we beckon to him and when he approaches, hand him a tin. "J—-," he says and goes back to his tent. Happy over a brave deed carried out in the manner worthy of the best traditions of The Royal Canadian Regiment, we sleep like innocent babes. And as long as the food lasts we live happily. But in the long history of The RCR, no men were ever so frightened as we three when that policeman approached. Had our thievery been discovered, it would have been just too bad for the Three Musketeers.