Sir Sam Steele: His importance to Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians)
by 2Lt Wawrzyn
11 December 2009
Sir Sam Steele is an important figure in our regimental history. He not only built our regiment, but trained them into a competent fighting force that, under his command, earned a place in history for our regiment's participation in the Boer War. Furthermore, many of his qualities exemplify a standard of which all Strathcona officers wish to achieve.
Steele accepted an offer from Sir Donald Smith, the Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, to command a privately-raised regiment to be sent to fight in South Africa. He first drew from his contacts as a member of the NWMP and created an effective officer and senior NCO corps to lead the regiment. "As soon as they were assembled, Steele began a rigorous training program. On the journey across the Atlantic, he organized [activities] every day, thus preventing the deterioration of morale that plagued other Canadian units."(1) His strict training regimen created an effective mounted fighting force in little over half of a year, an impressive feat by any measure.
As the commander of the Strathcona's in South Africa, Steele led the regiment to success through Canada's first war as an independent country. The members of the Strathcona's created a reputation as, "...quintessential western Canadian frontiersmen, fearless, versatile rough riders from the Plains, 'comparable to a Boer commando'..."(2) When leading the Strathcona's, Steele developed a reputation as a great leader where "...in January 1901, Steele’s leadership had attracted the attention of Major-General Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell, who offered him a divisional command in the South African Constabulary he was organizing."(3)
The attributes that made Steele a great leader set the standard for all future Strathcona officers. Forged in the rough lands of Western Canada, Steele "...was intelligent in a non-reflective way...his devotion to duty, imperial zeal, honesty, and an element of self-centredness tend to dominate."(4) Furthermore, "Sergeant-Major Steele [of the NWMP] left Winnipeg armed with the information gathered from six months of systematically interviewing everyone he could find who knew anything about the North-West Territories. Throughout his career Steele would approach each new challenge with the same professional thoroughness."(5) These traits, while cloaked in different meanings, are all characteristics that Strathcona officers aspire to: hard work, enthusiasm in your work, being honest, and that fine line between confidence and arrogance.
1 Macleod, Roderick C. "Sir Sam Steele." Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online. Web. 01 Dec. 2009. .
2 Miller, Carman. "THE CRUCIBLE OF WAR: CANADIAN AND BRITISH TROOPS DURING THE BOER WAR." THE BOER WAR: ARMY, NATION, AND EMPIRE: 2-2. THE BOER WAR: ARMY, NATION, AND EMPIRE. Web. 1 Dec. 2009. .
3 Macleod, Roderick C. "Sir Sam Steele." Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online. Web. 01 Dec. 2009. .
4 Macleod, Roderick C. "Sir Sam Steele." Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online. Web. 01 Dec. 2009. .
5 Macleod, Roderick C. "Sir Sam Steele." Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online. Web. 01 Dec. 2009. .