Google+ Badge BLACK SOCIAL HISTORY

Friday, 18 September 2015

BLACK SOCIAL HISTORY : BLACK CANADIAN IN UNIFORM PRE-FIRST WORLD WAR - FROM THE ERA OF LOYALIST WHO FOUGHT FOR THE BRITISH :

    BLACK     SOCIAL    HISTORY                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Pre-First World War


Victoria Rifles standing at attention
The tradition of military service by Black Canadians goes back long before Confederation. Indeed, many Black Canadians can trace their family roots to Loyalists who emigrated North in the 1780s after the American Revolutionary War. American slaves had been offered freedom and land if they agreed to fight in the British cause and thousands seized this opportunity to build a new life in British North America.
This tradition of military service did not end there, with some Black soldiers seeing action in the War of 1812, helping defend Upper Canada against American attacks. A number of volunteers were organized into the “Company of Coloured Men,” which played an important role in the Battle of Queenston Heights. Black militia members also fought in many other significant battles during the war, helping drive back the American forces. Black soldiers also played an important role in the Upper Canadian Rebellion (1837–1839). In all, approximately 1,000 Black militia men fighting in five companies helped put down the uprising, taking part in some of the most important incidents such as the Battle of Toronto.

Three soldiers in a German dugout captured during the Canadian advance east of Arras, France in October 1918.
Black volunteers also served with British forces farther away from home, including in the Royal Navy. Indeed, one such man, William Hall, would earn the Victoria Cross (the highest award for military valour) for his brave actions in India in 1857.
Black people in the West also forged their own military traditions. In the late 1850s, hundreds of Black settlers moved from California to Vancouver Island in pursuit of a better life. Approximately 50 of the new immigrants soon organized the Victoria Pioneer Rifle Corps, an all-Black volunteer force also known locally as the “African Rifles.” While the corps was disbanded by 1865 after only a few years of existence, it was the first officially-authorized militia unit in the West Coast colony.
While relatively few Black Canadians served in the military in the years immediately following Confederation, a few were part of the Canadian Contingent that went overseas during the South African War of 1899–1902. However, the First World War that erupted a decade and a half later would see a great change in how Black Canadians served.