Boer War Page 15

Boer War Memorabilia Part 2


Harry Macdonough (1871-1931): "Bring Back My Bonnie to Me" 1901

You are listening to an original recording from 1901, featuring one of Canada's very first recording artists, Harry Macdonough, singing "Bring Back My Bonnie to Me," with the Haydn Quartet. This song had an extremely singable tune, and an overtone of sad longing for Canadian soldiers who spent a month at sea going to distant South Africa.

Technical Note: To turn off this recording, use a hammer on the front of your monitor.


Boer War Cigar Boxes

Chamberlain: This rare cigar box is made of solid tin with raised scroll work on the corners and around the image. During the Anglo-Boer War it contained "25 Chamberlain Cigars," and celebrated Joseph Chamberlain, the British Colonial Secretary who was behind the machinations leading up to the outbreak of war with the Boers in 1899.

It is a rare find, not only because of its wonderful condition, but because it is also a Quebec produced tin. (Found in Montreal, PQ)

Laurier: The finest cigar box we have ever seen it this ultra-rare and stunningly immaculate wooden cigar box honouring Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Canada's Premier during the Anglo-Boer War.

The box is made of solid wood, not the flimsy stock one usually finds them made of. It has metal scrolls on the corners, around the lock, and the cover portrait of Laurier. Inside it has a wonderfully pristine portrait of Laurier against the background of the old Parliament Buildings in Ottawa, ON. It was made in 1897 by the Rock City Cigar Co. of Levis, PQ.

(Found in Farmington, NH, USA)


Boer War Tins

The most famous tin from the war was the one (above), which Queen Victoria sent to each of her soldiers in South Africa. Each contained her gift of chocolate, and in her handwriting across the bottom said, "I wish you a happy New Year, Victoria Reg".

We found a wonderfully preserved tin of this type in mint condition (right), in Jordan, ON. It is set into velvet in a frame, and still contains the original chocolate, as well as the helmet and collar badges of the owner, who wore them during the war as a member of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment.

Tea tins featuring famous British generals were soon in every house. 

(top right) Lord Baden-Powell, of Mafeking and Boy Scout fame, on the lid with Lord Roberts, left and Lord Methuen. Methuen was put on the tin even though he presided over the colossal British disaster at Magersfontein, and was the only British general ever captured by the Boers.

Below, the only photo known of this subject, featuring Lord Methuen's men at the Modder River receiving their South Africa tins (right) late - what else is new in the army - in January, 1900.

More Boer War Tins: Tins in this remarkably good shape are very hard to find: (above right) a tin with African views, Roberts on the lid, Kitchener left, and Baden-Powell. (Found in St. Catharines, ON)

(below right) Victoria on top, with Roberts left, and General Buller, whose early reverses soon saw him replaced by Roberts as commander-in-chief.


Boer War Era Pitchers for High Society

High society ladies wouldn't be caught displaying their patriotism on lower class mugs and cups. To them the pitcher offered the alternative of choice.

(left) This 5 1/2" high pitcher of Queen Victoria tells of a time when Canada had only 7 crests for seven provinces, and Boer War volunteers who came from Alberta and Saskatchewan were listed as coming from the "North West Territories."

(Since Alberta and Saskatchewan did not become provinces till 1905, the number of crests is useful in dating plates, etc.) (Found in Guelph, ON)

Americans had had their Spanish-American War for a few weeks in 1898, and produced memorabilia of its heroes. Because the war was so short, the only pitcher that was produced was the Admiral Dewey glass pitcher (right), which is still hugely common (in two versions) at yard sales etc.
The British produced a dazzling variety of pitchers on its commanders. The wonderful 6 1/2" high pitcher (left), featured the first British commander in chief in South Africa, Sir Redvers Buller. His humanity made him reluctant to waste the lives of his men in pursuing futile attacks and he soon became know as Sir "Reverse" Buller.

Lord Roberts (right on a 6 1/2" pitcher) was the second British Commander-in-Chief in South Africa. He was on the most plates and cups because he was in command during 1900 when the war was most popular and it seemed certain that British success was sure to follow in only months.

Below, a fancier 6 1/2" Roberts pitcher.

Lord Kitchener, who succeeded Roberts as commander-in-chief, and orchestrated the longest - and the most bitter - part of the war, was celebrated with pitchers above and left.
A 6" high earthenware pitcher (above & left), celebrating "Peace Declared, June 3rd, 1902" at the end of the Boer War. Left a close-up of Tommy Atkins shaking hands with Brother Boer, as the ribbon displays, "They Beat their Swords into Ploughshares". (Found in Calgary, AB)

Match Safes

Soldiers in the field carried their matches in newly-invented "Bakelite" or "Vulcanite" match safes that sported images of Queen Victoria or Edward VII (left).

They had spring-loaded, flip-up tops and bottoms, a striking surface on the side, and were highly coveted by soldiers in the field.

To mark Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee in 1887, many companies had issued the metal "JUBILEE BOX" (below left), celebrating "1837" to "1887," her fifty glorious years of rule.

When Canadian Private C. Jackson (above), wrote home complaining that his match safe had been stolen, it was probably this type.

Like so many other soldiers, Jackson, now probably resorted to the poor man's alternative - empty Lee-Metford shell casings, filled with powder and with the tops crimped, until they were needed as fire starter.

The two below on the right, were found at Belmont, at a remote stone sangar built by the Royal Canadians, who where stationed there for two months in Dec. 1899.

Right beside them on a small rock (left), Private N. Cluff, of D Company from Ottawa had inscribed his name. Had they fallen out of his pocket as he crouched to write???

The shell on the left was found at Lord Methuen`s camp at Enslin, showing the practice was widespread. The centre shell, from the battlefield at Hart's River, is shown for comparison.

Boer War Stirrups

Canada's First Contingent was the first and last group of infantrymen Canada sent to the Boer War. The five following contingents were all mounted troopers.

These military issue stirrups (see Queen's broad arrow above left found underneath the base) are signed "W. Shannon & Sons, 1901" (below) and were probably provide to a Canadian trooper who went to Africa with one of the later mounted units. (Found St. Mary's, ON)

Canadian Horseshoes ???
These horseshoes were found by the owner of the farm at the place on which the Canadians had their stables when they were camped on the outskirts of Bloemfontein.

Thousands of Canadian horses went to South Africa. None ever came back. It is estimated that some 500,000 horses died during the war.


c Goldi Productions Ltd. 1996 & 2000