Most Canadians were proud to be part of the British Empire. Over 7,000 volunteered to fight in the South African War 1899–1902), popularly known as the Boer War, and over 260 died. In 1900, Canadians took part in the battles of Paardeberg (“Horse Mountain”) and Lillefontein, victories that strengthened national pride in Canada.
When Germany attacked Belgium and France in 1914 and Britain declared war, Ottawa formed the Canadian Expeditionary Force (later the Canadian Corps). More than 600,000 Canadians served in the war, most of them volunteers, out of a total population of eight million.
On the battlefield, the Canadians proved to be tough, innovative soldiers. Canada shared in the tragedy and triumph of the Western Front. The Canadian Corps captured Vimy Ridge in April 1917, with 10,000 killed or wounded, securing the Canadians’ reputation for valour as the “shock troops of the British Empire.” One Canadian officer said: “It was Canada from the Atlantic to the Pacific on parade… In those few minutes I witnessed the birth of a nation.” April 9 is celebrated as Vimy Day."