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Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

Pistol holster of Boer Commandant Danie Theron - 1899
Leather holster - Size - 17 x 33 cm
Found - Yorkshire, UK
Stamped,
J HAMILTON, SADDLER, GRAHAM'S TOWN.
Design after British Webley pattern.

While the bombardment went on at Paardeberg, Boer Scout Danie Theron, wearing this holster sneaked through the British lines at night, hoping to make an escape plan with beleaguered General Cronje and his men.

Go to Danie Theron's Holster
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

Boer War Binoculars of Maj. PE Gray RHA, 1900
Orig. binoculars - Size - 6" extended
Found - Vancouver, BC
Lid signed "Major PE Gray RHA, 1900 from CIV SS Aurania," barrels etched "C.I.V." and "JAM"

Typical of the kinds of souvenir items that British and Canadian soldiers commandeered as the spoils of war, often from the hands of dead Boers after a battle, as the three items featured here, probably were.

Go to Boer Souvenir Binoculars
Go to Boer Souvenir Rifles
Go to Dave Gyles Dug Souvenirs
Go to Another View of Paardeberg

The Paardeberg Diary of Bloody Sunday, Feb. 18, 1900 - Lt. James Cooper Mason, Royal Canadian Regiment


James met numerous British officers in the field as they were manoevring the men to attack the Boers, on the morning of Feb. 18th, 1900, a day to become known as "Bloody Sunday."

He met others while he was recuperating, in the tent hospital, after they were all shot.

The Seaforth officer who helped him to "fire a volley" was Lt. McClure who was killed an hour later.

There's also his diary notation of taking his famous picture. "Got my helmet punctured here while getting a photo."



The Cornwall's Colonel he mentions is Col. Aldworth.

In his letter home James says he sat beside the Colonel, in the field before the charge.

 


Aldworth had appeared on the front lines where the Canadians were positioned opposite the Boer trenches. They were in a holding pattern because the firing was severe when they tried to advance.

James and Aldworth were sitting in the grass at the bottom of Gun Hill here, facing left readying to charge the Boers, who were facing towards Paardeberg Hill.

This was the spot where the left wing of the Canadians lay, where James and the Lieutenant fired their volleys, where James sat with the Colonel, and where James took his famous photo.



The Boers were lying here watching the British and Canadians - Aldworth and James Mason - in the distance. They could tell they were up to something.

Aldworth goaded the Canadians, who he knew were all amateur volunteers who had never been in a battle or a war before.

When he seemed to challenge their mettle as real soldiers, and yelled "Charge" they leaped up like professionals, and fell by dozens. Some 20 were killed, Canada's highest losses of any battle in the Boer War.


The massacre of Bloody Sunday took place across this field. The dead and the dying lay here till dark, when the Boers withdrew and the ambulance workers could come in.

Historian John Goldi shows were the men rose to their feet and started running. Within minutes, as James' diary makes clear, the ground here was littered with hundreds of dead and dying men.

James also wrote home, from his hospital bed, "It is not my place to criticize, but for any sane person to think a body of men could dash across 700 yards of open ground in face of a concealed enemy, is to me a mystery..." (Full account on page 2)


Aldworth and several of his staff officers were killed. They lie today in this tiny graveyard, dominated by Col. Aldworth's memorial.


Canadian historian John Goldi stands beside the marker where the Canadian dead of Bloody Sunday lie today, several kms from the final resting place of the British officer and his colleagues whose foolhardy sense of theatrics sent these green boys from civvy street to a premature death.



Fittingly Aldworth lies today, on the other side of the river from the Canadians who were killed that day as a result of his poor judgment.

One should remember that Lord Roberts, the British Commander-in-Chief was sick, and not at Paardeberg that day.

It was General Kitchener who wanted to end the show fast, before his boss came back, and snatch the glory of an easy victory from his deputy's grasping clutches.

Instead the British Army, and the Canadians, had their worst day of casualties of the entire Boer War.

One casualty of K's "Glory or Death" - or more accurately, "Give Me Glory or Give Them Death" - approach to the battlefield was Lt. Moneypenny, who was shot near James in the charge. In a letter home James wrote:

"In the tent with me was Lieutenant Moneypenny, Seaforths. Moneypenny was hit near me in the charge, about 8 paces behind. I gave the poor chap a drink; he had not the strength to put the water bottle to his lips, lying almost on his face. He died at 7 P.M. Monday."




The most notable Canadian casualty, of the frontal bayonet assault strategy, was Capt. Arnold from Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Arnold lies today in his own grave. He was the only Canadian officer killed at Paardeberg.

As James notes, Lord Roberts arrived on the 20th, to take command and begin a new strategy.

Bobs would see to it that there would be no more suicide charges. The British would pound the Boers into submission with long distance artillery barrages.

 

 

 

 

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

 




"Artillery at work all day - Naval guns working to-day."

Still it would take the British nine days of pounding, Boer men, women, and children, who were desperately digging into the banks of the Modder River for safety, with high explosive lydite shells till they surrendered.



Meanwhile, in the hospital tent, James made another melancholy entry:

"Capt. Dewar K.R.R. the other officer in this tent died at 7 in evening."

 






 




Before the fatal charge, when James sat in the field beside Col. Aldworth, on his other side sat Lt. Courtenay, of the Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders.

Now, after the battle. he met Courtenay again, this time in the hospital tent.

In a letter home he mentions the fact and that Courtenay "a Lieutenant in the Argyles, also since dead, dying beside me in the hospital tent."

He ends with noting the melancholy total of dead and wounded. A day's work for K of Chaos.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lest We Forget - But we must not forget that death and devastation was visited not upon Boer soldiers only, but entire Boer families including many women, and children, who were fleeing for their lives, from the invading British army. Some 100 Boers were killed in the bombardment.

Right victorious Canadians loot through what were once personal wagons of Boer families with their remaining possessions inside.

What wasn't burned, or blown up, will now find its way into the pockets of the soldiers as souvenirs of war.

 

Copyright Goldi Productions Ltd. 1996-1999-2005
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

Boer War Souvenir Bandolier - 1899
Orig. leather - Size - 1.15 m
Found - Dundas, ON
Go to Souvenir Ammunition Belts
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure The fabulous Boer War diaries of Lt. James Mason DSO, give a unique Canadian perspective to the war in South Africa.

The journals begin in October 1899, when he received word that he had been accepted as a Lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Regiment, Canada's First Contingent to be sent to the Boer War.

Because of the disruptive nature of a campaign march, with kit sometimes lost or misplaced in a transport train, James had to start a new diary, when the original was temporarily not available.

When he was taken to hospital after the Battle of Paardeberg, he again lost touch with his personal effects and started another diary.

His diaries end in December, 1900 aboard the "SS Lake Champlain" with a rough passage back to Canada.

His last entry "Very ill."


Boer War Diaries, Lt. James Cooper Mason DSO, 1899-1900
Orig. note books - Size -
Found - Cambridge, ON

Roger Fenton, Mathew Brady, Alexander Gardner, Robert Capa... James Mason!!!
Honouring a Landmark Figure in the World History of War Photography

Lt. James Cooper Mason DSO, RCR - 1875 -1923 - 4 - Diaries

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