Boer War Page 39

Rare Boer War Images

No previous war in history had been documented with such a huge number and variety of images. We offer some unusual ones below.

Harry Macdonough (1871-1931): "Onward Christian Soldiers" 1902

You are listening to an original recording from 1902, featuring one of Canada's very first recording artists, Harry Macdonough, singing "Onward Christian Soldiers," with the Haydn Quartet. This song was extremely popular and enthusiastically sung in churches like the Anglican Cathedral in Quebec City as the soldiers held their final church service before leaving Canadian soil for South Africa.

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


The Sacking of Dullstroom Nov. 1900
The streets above once reverberated to the sound of Canadian voices and horses' hooves. Canadian artillerymen drove down this street on the way to set up their guns on the hill overlooking the town (background) as the cavalry chased the Boers out of their houses.

These rare images of Dullstroom and its people on the eve of the Canadian visit, have been provided through the courtesy of the Dullstroom Historical Society. Below, the van de Poll mill was in operation that day, and the women below, shown at a picnic just before the war, watched the Canadians at work. The men had fled at the approach of the huge British Army.

Background: In November 1900, the Canadian mounted troopers and artillerymen under British General Smith-Dorrien took part in a farm and town burning expedition into the countryside north of Belfast. Dullstroom was on their list. Canadian Lt. Edward W.B. Morrison, wrote a moving account in his book "With the Guns," of the events that he witnessed there. The excerpts below are from his book and are a featured "voice" in our show.

"Nobody who was there will ever forget that day's work. There was nobody in the town but women and children.... Amid the row of the cannonade and the crackle of riflefire, the sacking of the place began.... on the steps of the church were huddled a group of women and children. Their faces were white and their eyes blazed.....

Below, the way the women looked on the steps of the church. Holding the child on the right is Aunt Alida van de Poll - her family owned the mill - her sister, and her mother.

Morrison, below left, as he looked in 1908, and right, during his South African campaigning days. This is how he, and the other Canadians would have looked as they rode into Dullstroom.
The Boer men were on the hills surrounding the town, and could only watch at what was happening to their homes, wives, and children, in the town below. Four men who saw it all were J. Bijeleveld far left, and Oom "Uncle" Frederick, both shown carrying the outmoded Martini-Henrys with their huge cartridges. Foeke and Willem Ottens, right, were also among the watchers.
"How can you be so cruel?"

One woman who was there, as the Canadians helped to burn the town, was Aunt Alida van de Poll, left. Her family owned the town's mill (above). She might be one of the figures standing in the doorway as the Canadians approached to burn it down.

"Oh how can you be so cruel she pleaded. I explained to her that it was our duty. I was sorry for her - we all were - until her house started to burn and hidden ammunition exploded and nearly killed some of my men..."

Left, Aunt Alida's house, built in 1893, in happier times, and right, after the visit of the Canadians. They also burned the van de Poll family mill (top.)

Below, despondent Boer men, women, and children gazing about forlornly among the ruins of their homes.

"It was a sad sight to see the little homes burning, and the pretty flowers shrivelling up in the pretty gardens, and the sad groups of women and children huddling among the ruins as we rode away."

Sir Edward Whipple Bancroft Morrison became the senior Canadian Artillery General during World War I, was knighted, and retired honoured and esteemed in the hearts of his countrymen.

The British forces burned down some 40 towns during the Anglo-Boer War to prevent the men from getting a source for food, clothing, and shelter.

Candid Photography of the Boer War
The Pocket Kodak: Cameramen had been taking pictures of wars since photography was invented in the 1840s. But the cameras of Roger Fenton - who shot the Crimean War in the 1850s - and Mathew Brady - who documented the American Civil War in the 1860s - were huge and heavy, and required long set-up times. Of necessity their pictures all look stiff and heavily posed.

In the 1890s Kodak introduced its first "Pocket Kodak", the Model 1A Folding camera. Hundreds of these went to the Boer War in the packs of officers and men.

The pocket Kodak began the craze of "candid photography" - shooting from the hip to capture a rare moment in history. Now amateurs could instantly whip out and "unfold" the camera and snap a "Kodak." The laborious set-up time of old was gone and so was the "posed" and stiff-looking photos of old.

Left, a wonderful and rare image of a Maxim machine gunner "in action" during the Battle at Paardeberg. (detail)

But now a blizzard of pictures flooded out, many looking like the camera had gone off by accident, the inevitable result of Kodak democracy applied to photography.

But photography was no longer the private reserve of professionals like Fenton, and Brady.

Thanks to Kodak, every man could now be his own "Brady" and snap good photographs, capturing instant photos of men at war "in action"

Many thousands of these "candid" images document all sides of the Boer War.

Left, a British gun pounding the Boer positions at Paardeberg.

Rare Canadian Images of the Boer War
Col. Otter & Lord Roberts, Belmont: We consider this perhaps the rarest and most special photo featuring a Canadian subject taken during the Boer War.

It was taken at Belmont station early in Feb. 1900, just days before Lord Roberts began his fabled March to Pretoria. It shows the British high command walking towards the train as a Canadian honour guard stands at attention.

Lord Roberts, in helmet on right, informs Col. Otter, Commander of Canada's First Contingent (The Royal Canadian Regiment), that his men will be invited on this historic campaign. The tall figure on the left is Lord Kitchener, Robert's chief of staff.

This occasion was felt to be so rare that Canadian journalist, Stanley McKeown Brown, who was there, devoted a whole chapter of his book "With the Royal Canadians" to the visit, describing the great excitement among the Canadians, and how the men fell all over themselves snapping Kodaks as Bobs, Kitchener, and Col. Girouard, the Director of Railways, who was a Canadian, toured the Canadian camp.

"Camera fiends popped up here and there, and shoved their blinking little instruments as close as it was safe to the great generals, and whether sun favored them, or whether kodaks were properly focussed or not, they snapped away in all directions."

One of them snapped this wonderful, and now rare, candid photo of Otter and Roberts, just after "Bobs" had inspected the honour guard and issued orders that the Canadians were to be given better bandoliers.

Though there are a number of photos showing Canadian soldiers on campaign in Africa, this is the only photo we have ever seen of Colonel Otter (below) - or any other Canadian senior officer - in Africa.

Pictures of Canadians were so hard to come by that Colonel Otter had to be painted into an African scene. In a rare antique lithograph below, Otter is shown directing his men during the Battle of Paardeberg.

Capt. Mackie of Pembroke, ON: Capturing a wonderful moment in time, is this newspaper clipping (left), found folded inside an old Boer War book.

It mirrored sentiments duplicated in countless community papers across Canada.

Canadian Artillery at Faber's Put
The Survivors of Faber's Put: Left, a rare candid snapshot of the Canadian wounded of E Battery, after the Battle of Faber's Put, in May, 1900. The Boers attacked the sleeping camp around the stone kraal below before sunrise trying to stampede the Canadian horses which were penned inside.

The gunners, left, and their mates, rushed to the guns parked outside the kraal and aimed them at the Boer horses in the far left background. The Boers fearing their only means of escape would be cut off retreated to their horses and fled.

One other gunner who was there was Jack Randell shown beside the 12 pounder he used at Faber's Put.


c Goldi Productions Ltd. 1996 & 2000