The Story of the Newtonville Cenotaph and William P.K. Milligan


This is the story of my great great grandfather William Peter Kenneth Milligan.  He was born in 1859 in Newtonville.  He was 5 feet, 9 ½ inches tall, with a fair complexion, blue eyes, and brown hair.  He was the son of William SR. Milligan, and his wife Margaret McKenzie of Inverness, Scotland. William SR. was one of four brothers and one sister that immigrated from Dun Fries Scotland, in 1840. The family settled in Newtonville, Welcome, Canton, and the Port Hope area.

            William Jr had one sister, Maggie Milligan, who married George Malcolm of Shiloh.  William married Margaret Harvey Robertson of Lindsay. They had two children, Margaret Lorraine and William, (known as Willy). Margaret, (who went by Lorraine) was never married, and lived in Toronto and Lindsay, where she died in 1963.  Willy married Mamie Taylor of Minden.  They had two daughters, Audrey Bernice, (who went by Bernice) and Jean.  Jean married Royal Hall from Bowmanville.  Bernice never married.  Jean and Roy had one daughter, Charlene.  Charlene married Roland Bowman of Enfield.  They had three sons Joshua, Brent, & Graydon.

            William P.K. grew up farming on the homestead in Newtonville, and in 1884 found an interest in the military.  He was 26 at the time.  He joined a local militia, The Durham Field Battery.  He spent 10 years with that unit.  He then transferred to The 48thHighland Division and spent 2 years with that regiment.  By this point, he had attained the rank of Sergeant.  He also developed an interest in sharp shooting competitively.  He was a national champion, winning many medals and trophies.  His shooting team also won the national championship in 1894.

            After The 48th, William transferred to The 46thDurham regiment. There, in June 1896 he attained the rank of Lieutenant.  Then on the 1stof January 1898, he attained the rank of Captain.

            By this time, the war in South Africa between the Local Boer population and the British Empire had erupted.  On October 9 1899, the Boer Republics, Transvaal, and the Orange Free State gave a 48 hour ultimatum to Britain, to pull out of South Africa.  The Boers felt that the British were squeezing them out of their land and stealing the wealth of their gold and diamonds, which belonged to the Boer People.  The British ignored this threat and the Boer Republics declared war on Britain, and the Boer war had started.

            Since the Canadian contingent for service in South Africa was a volunteer service, The 46thDurham Regiment that William was with at the time, was not going to participate.  William decided to resign from The 46th, and re-enlist with the 2ndCanadian Mounted Rifles, out of Peterborough. When William resigned, he also lost his rank as Captain, and had to start over as a private.  He did possess a First Class certificate in Short Class, and a Second Class certificate in Special Infantry, from the Royal School of Artillery at Kingston.

            The 2ndCanadian Mounted Rifles was a regiment put together especially for the Boer War.  They were not cavalry, but more along  the lines of mounted infantry.  They would use their horse to get around and find the Boers.  But unlike cavalry, they would dismount before engaging the enemy.  Also since South Africa was a wide-open space and lots of distance to cover, the Mounted Rifles were much more efficient than normal infantry, in pursuing the Boers and chasing them down, in their native land.

            The 2ndMounted Rifles got all the enlisted men they needed and set sail for South Africa on the 14thof January in 1902, from Halifax.  They arrived in Cape Town, South Africa on the 13thof February.  The 2ndMounted Rifles arrived in the Transvaal region in mid-March.  They had already been involved in major action, driving 2500 Boers into the desolate far western part of Transvaal.  But the British and Canadian forces were soon on their trail again.  The column would chase the Boers, through the desert until they came to a farm called Boschbult. The battle for this farm was where William was  killed.  This is what happened, according to the military records.

            “Early on the morning of March 31 1902, the column scouts had come across a fresh trail of a small Boer force, moving up the bottom of the dried up Hart River.  Sensing an easy victory, the column took chase after the trail, and left the 2ndRifles to escort the slower supply wagon train, to the rendezvous at the Boschbult Farm.  By the time the supply train reached the farm, the column was under heavy attack, by the Boers.  It turned out that the Boers actually outnumbered the British and Canadians immensely, and had an advantage with the terrain.  During the battle at this farm, William was assisting a wounded comrade back behind the lines, for medical treatment.  Just as he was returning to the fight, he was shot and killed instantly.  He was buried next to his fallen comrades on the battle field.  This battle is an early showing of the grit and tenacity that Canadian soldiers would be known for in future wars.  As they would not surrender, kept fighting until they were out of ammunition, and didn’t give up until they were relieved.

            In 1903, the village of Newtonville erected a monument in memory of William.  This was quiet a large monument for one person.  The reason it was as big as it was, was that William was a well-known man in Newtonville and was respected by everyone.  It stood in the middle of the four corners for around 40 years.  Then in 1942 a Congoleum truck ran into the base of the monument.  It was swerving to miss a 1939 Milly’s car, but ended up hitting both and ruining the base of the monument.  The monument was then taken off this platform and moved back off the road, about 50 feet to the west, to its new location where it still stands today.  In 1979 the monument was restored and rededicated.  It was rededicated again in 1994, with the flowerbeds and shrubs it has today.

(Our thanks to Josh for sharing this account of the interesting life of his great great grandfather, William P.K. Milligan)