( Originally Published 1924 )
IN THE year 1897 Her Most Gracious Majesty, Queen Victoria, completed sixty years of her glorious reign, and representative people were called to London from the Dominions, India, and the colonies and dependencies of the Empire to celebrate this great.
A Canadian military contingent was formed, carefully hand picked by the government of the day, and in due course reached London. My name did not appear on the list, nor did that of Colonel Sam Hughes. We, however, proceeded to London, and having friends in the War Office and at Court we were appointed to the Staff and rode in the procession of Colonial and Indian officers headed by F. M. Lord Roberts, V.C.
London looked its best on that June day, decorated as it was with millions of flags, Venetian masts and masses of artificial flowers. It was a beautiful sunny day and all London and the provinces were in the streets, which were lined with troops and police. I shall never forget the wonderful spectacle presented by Piccadilly and St. James' Street. Attached to Venetian masts were wreaths of artificial roses and leaves stretched across the roadway. The procession passed slowly through several miles of gaily decorated streets and finally arrived at St. Paul's Cathedral. A large open space was lined with regiments of the Guards and on the steps of the Cathedral stood hundreds of clergy and choristers in white surplices, In front were Life Guards and massed bands. The singing was wonderful, it thrilled one, and when "God save the Queen" was sung by the vast audience, one could hardly control one's emotion. The dear little old lady sat in her carriage and looked so small, but full of dignity.
Next to the Queen the person who attracted most attention was Lord Roberts. He rode Volonel, his veteran little Arab horse, with much grace, and was cheered to the echo wherever he appeared. At last it was over this the most wonderful day in my life.
Her Majesty gave a luncheon to the Colonial officers in St. George's Hall, Windsor Castle, a few days later. It was a great sight. At a long table sat several hundred officers in full uniform. We ate off silver plate and were waited on by footmen in scarlet coats, with epaulettes, silk knee breeches and stockings. I had the honor of sitting two places to the left of Lord Roberts. Little did I think that I would soon serve under him and be brought in close contact with him, in the South African War. The Queen had a great objection to tobacco and even did not like to see it smoked. So when we retired after lunch we were guided to a sunken garden out of sight of Her Majesty's private apartments, where we indulged in the consumption of the noxious weed.
A review of the Colonial troops was held in Windsor Home Park the same afternoon and the staff was drawn up in line close to Her Majesty's carriage. After the march past the troops advanced in line close up to the Queen. During the hour that was occupied by the manoeuvers I stood only a few feet from the Royal carriage and had the opportunity, therefore, of observing the Queen closely. She appeared to he in good health, but naturally looked old. Her face was full and little wrinkled. Her complexion was rosy, but she was very shortsighted, wearing heavy concave glasses. All the details, about what should be done, were directed by Princess Beatrice.
The reception given to the visiting Colonial troops was of an enthusiastic and generous character. "Nothing was too good for the Colonials." They were admitted free to all the theatres. Sir Henry Irving gave an afternoon performance of "The Bells" and a "Tale of Waterloo" and in connection therewith a free bar. Eight hundred and fifty Colonial troops were present and it was interesting to watch Chinamen, Negroes from Jamaica, Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, and South Africans lined up ten deep before the bar waiting for drinks. The best of good humor prevailed. There was no color line.
In the evening Sir Henry entertained the officers to a dinner on the stage of the Lyceum Theatre, where we had the privilege of meeting all that was most distinguished in art, literature and drama in London. Among the guests were Mme. Sarah Bernhardt, the two Terrys, Jerome K. Jerome, Anthony Hope and Conan Doyle.
The Canadian contingent compared most favorably with those from other parts of the Empire in drill, discipline and appearance. It is remarkable that in the whole force, gathered from all parts of the world, not a single arrest was made for military or civil offences. The greatest credit is due to Colonel (afterwards Major-General, Sir Ivor, Bart., K.C.B.) Herbert for the way in which he managed the motley gathering of soldiers of all arms and colors. Colonel James Mason (late 10th Royal Grenadiers) was in command of the infantry and acquitted himself with great credit. I naturally took an interest in the medical arrangements. During the procession every seventy-five yards there was a stretcher with bearers of the St. John Ambulance Association or the Royal Army Medical Corps, and at every 150 yards a medical officer. More than a thousand cases of minor accidents and illness occurred and were treated during the day.
The military review at Aldershot was a grand spectacle. The arrangements for taking the visitors to and from the parade-ground and for their refreshment were perfect.
The naval review was a stupendous sight. Imagine five lines of ships of all classes, each line seven miles long! It was almost unbelievable and impressed the onlooker with the naval might of England as no amount of reading could do. The thunder of the royal salute shook the earth and the sea.
It must be remembered that the Diamond jubilee was not merely a demonstration of the military and naval power of the Empire. it was a reweaving of the more or less loose threads of the political and commercial web and woof of the Empire. At the invitation of the Imperial Government representatives of government and commerce came from all parts of the Empire to consult, to confer, to devise methods of mutual defence and support, to divert trade into Empire channels and to draw closer together the bonds, which, intangible and light as air, bind us to the throne and the mother country. The Queen was the keystone of the arch of the Empire whose base rested on Canada and Australia and whose stones were composed of the units of the lesser states within the Imperial Commonwealth. The Empire is in essence a monarchical democracy with an hereditary president, a system which has proved enduring in the stress and storm of war, the greatest of all tests, for it means financial sacrifices, personal loss and suffering. People love best that for which they suffer most. What yet needs to be done is to evolve a system of Imperial and intercolonial reciprocity which will make us independent of outside nations, and a system of directed emigration from the congested centres of the Old Land to the sparsely peopled Dominions beyond the seas. I have faith that in time these Imperial germs will fructify. It will mean a perpetual British Empire which is the mainstay of freedom and civilization throughout the world. The English-speaking race is the dominant factor in the world's peace and will continue its leadership because of the principles which underlie liberty, of which it is the chief exponent, and because of its fecundity, ingenuity and enterprise.
We sailed for home with hearts warmed with an invigorated and enhanced love of England and the Empire and our ears ringing with the inspiring words of Kipling's "Recessional."