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Great Canadian Heritage Discoveries

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More important Canadian antique memorabilia the Museum has preserved.
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Harold Lothrop Borden Shooting Medal - 1900
Orig. copper - Size - 47 mm
This is the actual medal won by Captain Dillion, a famed Ontario crack shot during the mid to late 19th century, a member of the Canadian Bisley Team, and a Fenian Raid and Riel Rebellion veteran.

It is highly likely that Captain Dillon was ceremoniously presented with this fabulous medal, personally, by a grieving Frederick Borden...

Absolutely Fabulous: A rare, large, and heavy medal struck by Frederick Borden, the Minister of Militia under Prime Minister Laurier, in honour of his son killed in action during the Boer War. It commemorates Canada's most famous casualty of that War.

Insight Canada

The tombstone in the Canning graveyard, is an exact replica of the one marking the real grave of Harold Borden near Pretoria, RSA.

When we wanted to visit Harold's actual grave site, in 2000, our mercenary-for-hire, Dave Gyles - who had persuaded us to engage him and his huge .357 Magnum, as the only thing that would guarantee our personal safety during our stay in South Africa - refused outright to take us there even though he carried his huge pistol - often deliberately in plain sight - wherever he accompanied us on our tour of Boer War historic sites.

He recounted, gravely, that the last time he had gone there, to take a photo, he had taken a very foolish chance in doing so, which he would never do again. Gunfire had erupted suddenly, very close by, he said, and he ran away in terror. He would never ever go back there even fully armed.

In spite of our earnest pleas, he refused.

Sadly, as Dave Gyles was fond of repeating to us, "South Africa is now more dangerous than it was during the Boer War!"

We are indebted to Dave for the photograph of Harold's real grave. As good a photographer, as he is a crack shot with his Clint Eastwood special, he has managed to catch a bullet in mid-flight as it zapped by his head across the picture. Wow!

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Harold Borden Monument, Canning, Nova Scotia
Orig. monument -
Found - Canning, NS
The tombstone, which marks the empty grave of Harold Borden, in the Frederick Borden plot, at Canning, NS, is on the far left of the fenced in family plot below right. The tall tombstone is that of his father Frederick Borden. Rollover: Harold's real grave in South Africa.
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Harold Borden Monument, Canning, Nova Scotia
Orig. monument -
Found - Canning, NS
Erected in homage to the quintessential Home Town Hero, is this marvellous monument crafted by one of Canada's finest Edwardian sculptors, Hamilton MacCarthy. Hamilton executed other fine Boer War era memorials in Canadian cities, including several in Ottawa, Ontario, including one to Alexander Mackenzie on Parliament Hill.

The monument is topped by a bronze bust, and also bears bronze plaques of Harold's most famous battlefield engagments.

At the bottom it features a watering trough for horses, which has been filled with flowers for many decades.

Lt. Harold Borden - Canning, NS

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Frederick Borden Home, Canning, Nova Scotia
Orig. Queen Anne -
Found - Canning, NS
A fabulous mansion, built by Sir Frederick Borden, Canada's Minister of Militia during Sir Wilfrid Laurier's entire 15 year term as Prime Minister, was erected at the height of the Queen Anne craze.
Few Canadians today, passing old houses, can imagine the wails of despair that once echoed off their walls, during the first two modern wars of the 20th century.

In the small town of Canning, Nova Scotia, lost in its leafy surroundings, are the "hallowed haunts" of the youthful Harold Borden. His father's mansion, and the tree, around which he played tag as a boy, are still there, scarce now, remembering the young boy whose laughter once echoed about the place.

In 1900, Lieutenant Harold Borden became Canada's most famous and lamented sacrifice of the Boer War.

Henry Burr (1885-1941): "Safe in the Arms of Jesus" 1916

You are listening to an original recording featuring one of Canada's very first recording artists, Henry Burr, singing a hymn that was sung with special poignancy for many during the Anglo-Boer War. Henry Burr from New Brunswick, started recording in 1902 while in his teens, and, with some 12,000 recordings to his credit, was the most prolific recording artist of his generation.

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

Go To Farewell Party for Lt. Harold Borden

Harold Borden, Home Town Hero

Of the 300 Canadians who died during the Boer War in South Africa, none touched the heart strings of the dominion more than the death of young Lt. Harold Borden, right, of Canning, NS. (Above a detail from the bronze plaque on his memorial, showing Borden in a commanding role on the right, at the scene of his death. The memorial is also featured in Canada's rarest Boer War plate left.)

Harold Borden's father was Frederick Borden, Canada's Minister of Militia left, who was a strong proponent of Canadian participation in the war in South Africa, and among those most eager to test Canadian men and war materiel under battlefield conditions. He could not know the high price he would pay for his enthusiasm.

Harold below was a prominent officer in his local militia unit but was in the midst of medical studies at McGill University when the Boer War broke out. When the First Contingent embarked for South Africa, the press - ever eager to needle a politician when a weak spot is detected - tauntingly reminded the Minister of his enthusiasm. "Where it the son of the Minister of Militia?" Young Harold, stung by press criticism that seemed to question his bravery and his patriotism, against his father's wishes, signed up for the Second Contingent.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Elder-Dempster Troopship SS Milwaukee, Halifax, NS, loading the 2nd Canadian Contingent for South Africa, Feb. 21, 1900
Orig. Photo - Image Size - 12" x 16"
Found - Burlington, ON

Harold is in the throng of soldiers on Pier 4 at Halifax, NS, as the steamer Milwaukee is loaded to take another contingent to South Africa, in late Feb. 1900.

The Milwaukee was a 7,300 tonner, launched in 1896 at Wallsend-on-Tyne, for the Elder Dempster line. In 1903 - three years after she took the Canadians to South Africa - she was taken over by the Canadian Pacific Line.

She shared the fate of many of the Boer War soldiers she ferried safely to Africa, being consumed by the holocaust of World War 1. She was torpedoed by U-105, in Aug. 1918.

Below, a huge 24 x 36" magnificent oil on canvas painting of the Milwaukee in mid-Atlantic, executed, in 1902, by the eminent French marine painter Edouard Adam (1847-1929).

On Board Steamer Milwaukee, Feb. 28th, 1900.

My Dear Mr. Robinson,

I have a little leisure now, and will try to get a letter ready to send to you at the first opportunity. I have just come off a twenty-four hour continuous watch, so if my letter appears disconnected, please pardon on this account, as I naturally feel a little sleepy.

We are now eight days out on our long voyage and have come about 1,900 miles. It is rumored that we will be at the Cape Verde Islands by Saturday, and that we will be convoyed by a British Man O'War from there.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Elder-Dempster Liner SS Milwaukee, 1902
Orig. oil on canvas - Image size - 24" x 36"
Found - Toronto, ON
Signed Edouard Adam 1902, (1847-1929)

The first three days out was very rough but since then the water has been as calm as a lake. I was quite sick for two days but am all right now.

We are fairly comfortable but our sleeping quarters are pretty cramped. We sleep in hammocks, wedged in like sardines. We get up at a quarter to six and go at once to stables. The horses, poor creatures! Have the hardest time. Already some eight have died and been thrown overboard.

The weather to-day is simply perfect, the sea is like a mill pond. A breeze, like one is accustomed to meet on a balmy day in June, is sweeping over the decks. I am writing this stretched out on the deck. All over the ship is hustle and bustle. Some are drilling, others at fatigue work, others at target practice, while many are reading or writing. We seem to be altogether out of the track of sailing craft. Occasionally a steamer can be discerned away off on the horizon but never near.

We have a sort of impromptu concert on board every night, consisting of Songs, Instrumental Music, Stump Speeches, &c. Occasionally a sportive whale, shark or porpoise pays us a close call.

One of the prettiest, or at least one of the most impressive sights I ever saw, was the Parade Service last Sunday at 10 a.m. Imagine a large steamer steaming rapidly over a trackless sea.

On her decks some 600 men assembled in a Service of Parade One of the old, familiar tunes is given out by Rev. Mr. Lane and as the organ strikes the first note the time is taken up by hundreds of voices. The strain of praise echoes and re-echoes far out over the waters and I feel as if it must reach even the little town in the dear home land where are all I hold dear. God bless and keep all! I hope once again in the future to meet you all, but if it is my lot to offer my unworthy life for my Queen and country, I promise, God helping me, to die like "a soldier and a man."

The strange feature of our voyage seems to be the fact of being away from all news. I dare say stirring events are taking place. The general health of the men is good. Yesterday, and for two days before, we were being vaccinated. I was rather amused at the antics of some of the men when they bared their arms for the surgeon's lancet. It took quite a while for some of them to get the proper courage. One fellow remarked to me that he always fainted at sight of blood. I wonder what he will do on the battlefield!

Today is wash day on board. Our troop have their turn this afternoon.

I must close now. Will try to write you an interesting letter from South Africa.

With kind regards to all.

Your old School Boy.

W. H. Snyder. B. Squadron, 4th Troop, South African Field Service

Harold was brought to Lord Roberts' attention for his battlefield exploits - during the March to Pretoria - when he swam back and forth across the Vet River (below) to draw the fire of the Boers to expose them as the army launched its attack here at Coetzee's Drift.

Coetzee's Drift - May 5, 1900










The View from the Bridge: Above, historian John Goldi points to the north bank from which the Boers were shooting, as Harold (along with Lt. Richard Turner), swam across the river below. (Treat the two photos above as a panorama of the scene as you look out from the bridge.)

A few months later, while standing up to scout the Boer positions, as his men were rescuing a British unit, he was shot and killed at Witpoort, not far from Pretoria. All Canada mourned his loss.

The citizens of Canning, NS, set up the memorial (below) in the center of town to memorialize the self-sacrifice of their favourite, lamented, native son. On the side they mounted large bronze castings honouring his selfless heroism at two noted South African battlefields.

Left, the full bronze casting of the engagement at the Vet River, shown above, and a detail showing Borden in a commanding role, for which he was brought to Lord Roberts' attention.

Below, another full view of the second casting at Witpoort where Harold was killed. The detail is featured at the top.









Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Boer War Memorial Plate, Canning, NS c 1903
Orig. ceramic saucer - Size - 6.25"
Found - Hopkinton, MA
Wicker wrapped.

Canada's Rarest Boer War Plate: The memorial plate, below, is small, only 6.25" across, and shows the Borden memorial set up in Canning, NS. It is rare, not only in being one of the very earliest Canadian memorabilia colour plates, but also because it is cradled protectively - almost lovingly - in an all-embracing wicker basket. It is the only plate we have ever seen wrapped this way.












Canadian colour ceramic plates, cups, and pitchers, of 1900, featuring Queen Victoria and carrying the "Canada, Our Country" logo - which were specially created in England to promote Canadian enthusiasm for Queen and Empire during a time of crisis - are encountered with not uncommon regularity, if one goes to lots of auctions and antique shows.

Two other Canadian Boer War plates, the Royal Visit of 1901, in the midst of the Boer War, and the Battle of Paadeberg "Bloody Sunday" plate, left, are only done in black and white and are relatively common.

The unique Harold Borden memorial plate is the only one we have ever seen.


Go To Lt. Harold Borden Departs
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