#OnThisDay 1900 Sergeant Edward Holland VC, born in Ottawa to parents from Kildare, was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions in the Boer War.
“At the Battle of Leliefontein. The day before, a column of British troops had pushed Boer forces south, across the Komati River. But the British commander, Maj.-Gen. Horace Smith-Dorrien, knew the Boers would reinforce their numbers overnight, and so he planned to retreat 30 kilometres north to the British camp in Dublin, South Africa, first thing in the morning. A small contingent of Canadian soldiers from The Royal Canadian Dragoons, 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles and “D” Battery Canadian Field Artillery would act as a rearguard, protecting the British soldiers as they pulled back. Holland was a Dragoon.
The battle lasted hours, as Holland’s gunfire fended off the Boers to allow the Brits to retreat. His bravery also prevented the capture of two 12-pound artillery guns.
But when his gun jammed, he had to act fast. With the Boers only a few dozen metres away, Holland lifted the 16-kilogram machine gun from its carriage — it was so hot that he burned his hands — and managed to awkwardly mount a nearby horse and race off with the gun tucked under one arm.
“The Boers followed me for 700 yards, shooting at me,” he recalled, a couple of months after the battle.”