Remembering Major David Richardson Sandeman

Western Canada has generally enjoyed peace for the last 60 years.

Therefore, it is rather difficult for many people living in Central Alberta today to fully understand how searing the experiences of such global conflicts as the First World War and the Second World War were on the community.

The first major war, to directly impact on the fledgling town of Red Deer, was the South African (Boer) War of 1899 to 1902.

Several men from the community enlisted for service overseas. However, the region was still sparsely populated. The total number of recruits was quite small (i.e. some two dozen men of whom three lost their lives).

In the years following the end of the Boer War, a permanent militia presence was gradually developed in Central Alberta.

In 1907, a Red Deer Troop of the 15 Light Horse was formed.

This unit grew so rapidly that it was soon reorganized as an independent squadron of mounted rifles. The Independent Squadron was quickly split in two, with one unit stationed at Red Deer and the other at Pine Lake.

One of the first of those who enlisted with the 15 Light Horse was David Richardson Sandeman. He had been born in Dunbartonshire, Scotland, and had emigrated to Canada in 1904.

He bought a quarter section of land in the Hillsdown district, east of Red Deer, from the Canadian Pacific Railway.

The quarter had a strong, clear spring on it. Sandeman rightly guessed that the ample supply of water would make the land a good place to raise cattle.

He built a large frame house as his new home. While the residence looked impressive, it had little or no insulation. It was therefore very cold in the winter. However, Sandeman was also an industrious and creative man. He installed a hydraulic ram into the spring so that he could easily pump the water up to his house.

In 1905, David Sandeman’s mother and his two sisters, Maggie and Esther, moved from Scotland to join him on the new ranch. They were accompanied on the trip west by their good friends, the Tetley family, who settled farther south and east in the Pine Lake district.

The Sandeman ranch was soon expanded with the addition of two homestead quarters, both of which also had good water and pasturage.

As the ranch flourished, David turned his attention to the local militia. He had already served with the Royal Scots.

Now, he enlisted with the 15 Light Horse. As the Pine Lake Squadron grew to three troops, Sandeman was appointed to be the lieutenant of the Hillsdown troop.

In 1913, the local militia was reorganized once again. A new regiment, the 35th Central Alberta Horse was formed.

Red Deer was named the regimental headquarters and a large armouries was constructed (now the Children’s Section of the Public Library). Captain Sandeman was named an officer with the Pine Lake Squadron of the 35 C.A.H.

On Aug. 4th, 1914, the First World War broke out. Sandeman became one of the first men to volunteer for active service overseas with the 35th Central Alberta Horse and the First Contingent. However, once at Valcartier in Quebec, Sandeman was placed in the 5th Battalion and given the rank of major.

Major Sandeman went into action near Ypres in Flanders (Belgium) in April 1915.

On April 24th, he was badly wounded by a high explosive shell near Gravenstafel Ridge during the famous Battle of St. Julien.

The first aid post to which he was taken had to be quickly evacuated shortly thereafter. Major Sandeman was believed to have died from his wounds, but that was not verified for several weeks as his body was never officially identified.

Because Sandeman’s body was never located, his name was inscribed on the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres, Belgium. Every evening, at 8 p.m. a special ceremony of remembrance is held for all the men whose names are inscribed on the Gate.