Arthur “Gat” Howard — machine gunner, founder of the Canadian Scouts and badass Frontier Partisan.
March 26, 2014, by Jim C.
Arthur “Gat” Howard lived a colorful life — and died game in one of many sketchy incidents of the Anglo-Boer War.
His nickname came from his expertise with the Gatling Gun.
Gat was an American and served in the U.S. Cavalry before settling into a berth with the Connecticut National Guard. During the North-West Rebellion in Canada in 1885, Colt firearms tapped Howard to take two Gatlings assist Canadian forces in suppressing the Metis. Howard’s mission was a success and he apparently liked Canada, for he relocated there and made his pile in cartridge manufacturing.
When the Boer War broke out, he headed to South Africa to operate machine guns for the Canadian Dragoons. At this time he was in his 50s, but his fighting spirit was as fresh as any young buck’s. He stayed on in SA and created one of the most notable Frontier Partisan formations of the war. This from the Anglo-Boer War Museum:
“Gat started the Canadian Scouts, a volunteer corps of mounted scouts that acted independently under his command, but worked in support with regular British army units. He equipped his Scout unit with six Colt machine guns, which Gat now preferred to use instead of the Gatlings.
“The Canadian Scouts, under Howard, won acclaim among the British for their toughness and ruthless campaigning, but earned the enmity of the Boers.
“On Feb 17, 1901, Howard and his aide were caught alone and rode into a Boer ambush. Both were killed. The story spread that the hated Howard was actually captured alive but executed by vengeful Boers. Gat Howard was only 55.”
The Scouts, much like the notorious Breaker Morant, sought vengeance for the death of their commander and were implicated at least by rumor in the killing of Boer prisoners. Unlike The Breaker, none of them ever faced the bar of justice. Such was the nature of a dirty war.