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Boer War veteran remembered at Granum

robert emmits grave
A marker was placed in Granum Cemetery on the previously unmarked grave of Boer War veteran Robert John Emmit.

“At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them.”

That famous line from Lawrence Binyon’s poem For the Fallen is repeated every Nov. 11 during the Remembrance Day service.

Those words stand true this year at Granum, thanks to the efforts of the Last Post Fund and the Granum and District Historical Society.

The Last Post Fund located the unmarked grave of Robert John Emmit in the Granum Cemetery last summer and installed a grave marker noting his service in the Boer War.

The Granum and District Historical Society made a brass plaque that was installed on the Veterans Wall of Honour adjacent to the Granum Museum in time for Remembrance Day.

Mike Sherman of the Granum and District Historical Society said the Last Post Fund made contact in the spring.

“They informed us that there was a Boer War veteran buried in an unmarked grave in Granum,” Sherman said.

The Last Post Fund is dedicated in part to ensuring veterans’ graves are marked with a record of their service.

Robert John Emmit was born in Ireland around 1878 and in 1913 applied for a homestead at Granum at NW 15-10-20-4.

The Boer War was fought from Oct. 11, 1899 to May 31, 1902 between Great Britain and two Boer republics — the South African Republic and the Orange Free State.

Private Emmit and the 1st Battalion sailed on the Aurania and arrived at the Cape about Nov. 11, 1899 to join the 2nd Black Watch, 2nd Seaforths and 1st Argyl and Sutherland Highlanders to form the Highland Brigade.

In a battle at Magersfontein the Highland Light Infantry had two officers and 12 men killed and another seven officers and 73 men wounded.

The Highland Light Infantry then joined the brigade for the advance on Heilbron where they were engaged against very strong Boer forces and “took their share.”

The Highland Light Infantry earned praise for their “useful work” in a battle in the Brandwater basin where under the cover of night they gained possession of the highest peak of the hill on the east of the pass.

After forcing the Boers in that battle to surrender, the Highland Light Infantry was engaged in another battle at Witpoort where three men were killed and 40 wounded.

On Sept. 13 the Highland Brigade engaged the Boers on the south of Vet River, capturing seven prisoners, 31 wagons, oxen and supplies.

In October the brigade moved to the south of the Orange River Colony, where three men were killed, 18 wounded and the rest taken prisoner.

Boer war records indicate Robert Emmit served as a prisoner at Dewetsdorp from Nov. 23 to Dec. 4, 1900.

Emmit made his way to Canada after the war to work for Bob Herman for a number of years, eventually applying for a homestead.

The Claresholm Advertiser reported on June 4, 1915 that Emmit “has been in an unsettled state for some six months past.”

On May 25 Emmit walked to the Travis Brothers Ranch where he went to the stables and locked himself inside.

“When Dan McDonald went to feed the horses in the morning, he found the stable door barred on the inside,” The Advertiser reported. “He called out and the door was opened, but when McDonald went in he found (Emmit) with a loaded gun watching the manger, which he apparently thought was occupied by some imaginary enemy.”

McDonald returned to the ranch house to get the other occupants, and they were able to persuade Emmit to give up the gun.

Emmit was taken to the house where after a time appeared to regain his normal condition of mind.

The Advertiser reported that later in the day while the occupants of the house were busy Emmit obtained a bottle of gopher poison, which he swallowed and soon after fell dead.

“It is a sad story,” Mike Sherman said.

Long after the deadly battles of the Boer War, Private Robert John Emmit, plagued perhaps by the horrors he witnessed, joined the ranks of the fallen.

But thanks to the Last Post and the Granum and District Historical Society, he will be remembered for his service to his country.

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