Richard Ernest William Turner was born on 25 July 1871. His father of the same name had only been married a few years and had just opened up a wholesale grocery business with a partner the year before. It would over the years become a most successful concern and probably expanded into even handling lumber.
Son Richard attended a number of grammar schools and then went to Quebec City High School and graduated in 1889. Within 2 years he would be taken on in the family business. Years later he would be the sole owner.
His physical stamina might have been from athletics in earlier years and he was known to have become the Honorary Vice President of the Quebec Amateur Athletics Association by 1894. At that time a fellow Honorary Vice was the city Mayor and the Honorary President was none other than a former Premier.
When the 2nd Boer War started Major Richard Turner was quick to enlist in the regular army and joined the Royal Canadian Dragoons. In order to serve overseas, he was required, like so many others, to drop his rank. He in fact dropped two ranks and was again a full Lieutenant and soon off to South Africa. While in South Africa for about 9 months, the Dragoons would march some 2,740 kms, fight in at least 28 different battles, and have their initial numbers drop from 400 officers and men to just three officers and 83 other ranks.
On the 6th of May 1900 Lt Turner, only in South Africa for a matter of months, rode his horse as it swam across the Vet River near Pretoria. Accompanying him was a another Lt., by the name of Harold Borden who was a nephew of the then serving Canadian Minister of Militia. They and five others were in chase of about 30 Boers and were successful in driving them off. For this all were awarded for bravery. Turner's award of the Distinguished Service Cross, just one medal junior to the ranking Victoria Cross, was gazetted in London on 19 April 1901.
In early November Turner was able to rejoin his unit close by at a place called Leliefontein near the Komati River. A portion of his unit was placed in a position to protect the troops that were retreating as per orders from a higher command. But very soon over 200 Boers bent on capturing two Canadian 12 pounder guns that belonged to the Royal Canadian Field Artillery became the targets of the Boers. They wanted them bad!
One officer seeing this took some men and set up a counter-defensive to gain time while the 2nd officer tried to rescue the guns. In the first, the men set up an ambush but most of them were either killed, wounded or captured. But it gave the second group the time needed to save the artillery pieces. A dozen more men were in this unit and it was led by Lt Turner. He would be wounded in the left arm and very seriously in the neck but still managed to command his men till the guns were secured and safely moved away.
Turner would be hospitalized and by late 1901 would be invalided back to Canada. On arrival in Quebec he received a hero's welcome. On 16 April 1901 the London Gazette noted that a number of heroes need to be recognized for meritorious services performed. It then listed quite a few... including Lt Richard Turner. The following week the London Gazette published the announcement of his being awarded the Victoria Cross. Here it is...
I do not think that there have been very many VC's actually presented on Canadian soil. One at Montreal took place 108 years and one month earlier. In that event the first ever VC came into Canada. It can be read about by going here... http://www.canadianmedalofhonor.com/1/post/2013/01/the-first-victoria-cross-to-come-to-canada.html
Shown here wearing the ribbons of the VC and DSO, and with the rank of Lieutenant, Richard Turner would command his old unit in 1903, but by then it had ben renamed the 10th Hussars. From 1907 to 1912 he commanded the 3rd Eastern Township's Cavalry Brigade and in Oct of 1911 he was also appointed as the Honorable Aide de Camp for King George V.
In March of 1912 Colonel Turner left the regular forces and reverted back to service with the militia. But Richard was not ready to hang up the uniform just yet.
Much more to come tomorrow on this great Canadian hero that too few have ever heard of before.