Canada & The South African War, 1899-1902

Canadian South African War Insigna
Canadian War Museum
1 Vimy Place
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0M8
Tel. (819) 776-8600
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Canadian Personalities

Major Arthur L. (“Gat”) Howard (1846-1901)

Commanding Officer, Canadian Scouts

Boer War Picture, Major Arthur L. (“Gat”) Howard, machine gun officer with the Royal Canadian Dragoons in South Africa, February  December 1900; founder and Commanding Officer of the Canadian Scouts, December 1900  February 1901. CWM 85064 Artist Unknown
Major Arthur L. (“Gat”) Howard, machine gun officer with the Royal Canadian Dragoons in South Africa, February December 1900; founder and Commanding Officer of the Canadian Scouts, December 1900 February 1901.

An American by birth, and an officer in the Connecticut National Guard, Howard was sent north by the Colt Firearms Company to operate a Gatling gun that the company had loaned to the Canadian militia for use in the Northwest Campaign of 1885. A colourful and charismatic character, he soon became something of a hero of that campaign, and was given his nickname "Gat" by the popular press. He stayed in Canada, and became quite wealthy as a major shareholder in the Dominion Cartridge Factory. Howard offered to provide a battery of four machine guns at his own expense for service in the South African War. The Department of Militia and Defence refused his offer, although Howard accepted the position of machine gun officer in the 1st Canadian Mounted Rifles (later called the Royal Canadian Dragoons).

Howard, in his mid-fifties, was an aggressive, fearless leader who fought the Boers at close quarters. On one occasion he only escaped capture at the last moment by detaching the machine gun from its carriage and carrying it away.

Instead of returning home with his unit in December 1900, Howard organized the Canadian Scouts and took command of the unit. He was killed in action on 17 February 1901. Major Howard's impressive military exploits were among the most dramatic in the history of Canada's participation in the South African War.