Boer War Page 4
Great Canadian Heritage Discoveries
More important Canadian antique memorabilia the Museum has recently preserved.
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Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Firescreen Tapestry - Major General Baden Powell - 1900
Orig. tapestry - Size - 48 x 54 cm
Found - London, UK
Fabulous! Fabulous!

This is a fabulous - why not repeat it - firescreen, from 1900.

This woven tapestry reminds us that in the Boer War era many people heated their houses with fireplaces, often in small rooms and so many people needed firescreens on stands to put between the direct heat of the fire and where they were sitting to shield them from the blast.

At some point the stand disappeared but they kept the tapestry as a memento of a man who grew only more famous as he grew older.

Below are two other versions of tapestries featuring Major-General Baden Powell, not Lord Baden Powell; that would be years down the road.

They are all the same size and were, either framed on the wall, or used as firescreens, or as facings for pillows.

Firescreen - Maj. Gen. Robert Baden Powell -1900 - Tapes 2

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Anglo-Boer War "World Television Premiere"
Discovery of the Month
(June 2002)

In honour of the World Premiere Broadcast
of "The Great Anglo-Boer War: The Canadian Experience"
we feature this outstanding tapestry from 1900
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Boer War Tapestry, 1900
Woven textile - Size - 1.22 m x 1.32 m
Found - Miami, FL
"Anglo-Boer War Tapestry: A splendid artist designed this wonderfully huge (1.2 x 1.3 m) tapestry, in 1900, when patriotic fervour throughout the British Empire was fuelled by the apparent success of the British in defeating the Boers. Lord Roberts' fabled "March to Pretoria," the capital of the Boer's Transvaal Republic, from Feb. to June, 1900, had the Boers fleeing into the rural areas to escape the steam-rolling British army.

Canadian volunteer infantrymen (the Royal Canadian Regiment) and mounted men (the Royal Canadian Field Artillery, Lord Strathcona's Horse, the Canadian Mounted Rifles) all took part in the "Great March."

The tapestry shows highlights from engagements between Britain and Boer during the campaign.

The Armoured Train, top left, was a key part of the strategy used by the British against the Boers, who only had horses, mules, and oxen for transport. Trains could quickly bring men and supplies to wherever the British felt threatened, or to support a fresh attack against the Boers.

But the trains were vulnerable. Since they always followed the same track, Boers could plan an ambush days in advance, and constantly blew up bridges and tracks, to hamper their effectiveness.

Left, a Boer general directs his men in an attack on the armoured train. He is wearing a sword, a fanciful invention of the artist, who composed the tapestry.

Only the British officers wore swords, and then only for a few weeks during the opening months of the war.

Boer sharpshooters quickly singled them out for special attention - the Boers had no quarrel with the common British soldier who was only doing what he was told to - resulting in huge losses to the British army's officer corps.

Within a couple of months, British officers removed their insignia, medals, swords, Sam Browns, so they would be indistinguishable from their men in the field. In fact, when General Woodgate led the attack up Spion Kop in Jan. 1901, he even carried a rifle so he would "blend in."

At the left, Highlanders are rushing in to close with the enemy as a Boer receives a fatal shot below.

The Attack below, is a rather fanciful interpretation of the British cavalry attacking a Boer convoy. In fact even when burdened down with thousands of women and children, and hundreds of wagons, the Boers consistently outran and outmanoevered the British columns sent to catch them.

General De Wet, for one, won international renown for eluding the British army for two whole years without ever being caught and for constantly attacking and capturing British wagon trains and thousands of British soldiers.

The British cavalry charging with sword and lance happened only in the first weeks of the war. Boer fire at a kilometer and more was so fierce and accurate, the Anglo-Boer War marked the end for the usefulness of the British cavalry.

The War Balloon, right, was another relatively recent innovation in war. The British had five balloon units in South Africa. Right, the artist fancifully shows the men paying out the rope by hand, totally impossible of course. Balloons were tethered with a steel cable to a windlass on a balloon cart, and sent aloft to spy out the Boer positions ahead of the army as it advanced.

They were also used to direct artillery fire during an attack, the use so wonderfully shown by the artist in the tapestry. The men aloft are using telescopes to spy on the Boer positions, and would throw information on Boer movements down in weighted envelopes.

The Guns, shown charging on the right, also underwent a major transformation in the war. Traditionally always galloped close into the enemy lines, by gallant British officers, to pulverize the foe at close range, the tactic became suicide in the face of modern rifle fire.

At Colenso, the modern infantry rifle proved superior to the fabled British field artillery. The Boers with their outstanding marksmanship - with the new German Mauser rifle - mowed down the gallant British gunners and captured 10 of 12 British guns. It sent a shock wave through the British military.

This tapestry - probably from a wealthy home - encapsulated the patriotism of the British Empire at a time when war was widely accepted as a "Gentlemen's Game" and the populace celebrated their achievements by decorating their homes with war memorabilia to honour their efforts and to demonstrate their dedication to Queen and Empire


c Goldi Productions Ltd. 1996 & 2000