Boer War Page 74e

Rare Boer War News

Below are some of the items the Canadian Boer War Museum has added to its collections in its ongoing efforts to preserve memorabilia from this period.


ANGLO-BOER WAR DAY OF REMEMBERANCE

Mar 31, 1902 - Mar 31, 2002

On Mar. 31, 2002, exactly one hundred years after the event, a Day of Remembrance for Boer and Briton was observed on Boschbult farm, 20 km. west of Ottosdal in the Western Transvaal, where was fought the last big battle of the Anglo-Boer War, and where Canadians suffered losses second only to the Battle of Paardeberg, two years before.
Hart's River (Boschbult Farm): Mar. 31, 1902

British and Canadian army units, who had been chasing Generals De Wet (near right), and de la Rey, and President Martinus Steyn of the Orange Free State Republic (right below), were camping for the night near Boschbult Farm on the banks of the Brackspruit (Brack Creek), when they were suddenly attacked by the Boers they had been chasing.

Canadians under Lt. Bruce Carruthers (below left), and including Chester Rodgers (below right), made a heroic last stand, out in the open, after they were abandoned by a British mounted unit.

When they ran out of ammunition, the men threw away their rifle bolts so the Boers could not use them and fought on by hand till all were shot, wounded, or captured.

In the midst of the action was the Canadian pom pom machine gun (below), photographed only days before the battle.

To the Last Man: One Canadian who died here, was Pvt. Charlie Evans from Port Hope, ON (below). Though out of bullets, he refused to surrender and was shot.

The Cost of War: Chester Rodgers (above right) wrote home about the death of a comrade after the Battle of Boschbult Farm:

"We are taking out a subscription in our troop to get a tomb stone for one of our troop and a chum of mine who was killed Mar 31st. I made a cross of wood and cut his name on it after the fight. It was a pretty tough sight to see them lying in a big trench side by side just with a blanket tied around each of them and the trench barely 3 ft. deep."

Hallowed Ground: Historian John Goldi stands on the very spot where 8 Canadians, including Charlie Evans above, were interred the evening after the battle. The site is now the front yard of a farmhouse. In all, 13 Canadians were to die from this battle. It was Canada's worst day of casualties since the Battle of Paardeberg, two years earlier. The bodies were removed in the 1970s but the blood, and the soil that held the Canadian dead, and the memories, are still in this historic place.

John Goldi is holding the very bugle that 17 year old Edwin McCormick (above) blew to sound the Last Post on this spot as the Canadian Mounted Rifles buried its dead. On the bugle bell collar, Edwin scratched the words "Magelisburg" (the town the Canadians marched through), and "Brackspruit" (the creek on which the battle was fought.) Edwin's bugle was saved from the trash heap of history by historian John Goldi who spotted it among the scores dumped on the internet, and recognizing the implication of the words, rescued it for posterity.

For more on how we discovered Edwin's bugle click our Boer War Bugle page.

Memories from the battlefield: (right) Three spent British Lee-Metford cartridges (left), from the field where the Canadian Mounted Rifles made their last stand, a large 37 mm shell from the dreaded Pom-Pom machine gun, (quite possibly fired by the Canadian gun pictured above), and (far right) a lonely Boer Martini-Henry casing (with a vintage cartridge for comparison).

Quite possibly the shell was fired from a Boer who did not survive. Martini-Henry shells are rarely found around the farm as only the bravest Boers would ride in close enough to face the British fire.

(below) A horseshoe, and harness remnant.

But while the Canadians were burying their dead, William Knisley (below) - from the same Ontario community as Chester Rodgers - and five comrades were on the run. During the battle the group had been cut off and decided to flee back to their base camp at Klerksdorp. For two days they rode through hostile territory being chased by Boer commandos. Finally surrounded in a stone kraal, they were attacked by 50 Boers. The six Canadians fought until they ran out of ammunition and Knisley and Thomas Day were killed.

The Boers praised the Canadians for the way they had fought, and then took the uniforms off the Canadians. (At the end of the war the Boers were in rags and desperate for clothing and so they borrowed clothes off the dead and from captured living British soldiers.)

But they made one exception.

When they saw the DCM on Will Knisley's tunic - the Distinguished Conduct Medal had been pinned to his tunic in Toronto by the future King George V for gallantly riding into heavy fire at Leliefontein. to rescue a comrade - they refused to take it so that he could be buried with his medal.

The grieving people of Will Knisley's rural Ontario home region took up a subscription and set up this monument to him in front of the court house in Cayuga, Ontario where it has stood since 1907.

Another comrade of Knisely's, Otto Moody (left) was delayed with the baggage train, and missed the battle. He arrived the next day. Within days he wrote home of catching Boers who were on the run as the army mounted another sweep across the veldt.

Otto wrote home, days later, of searching a kopje and finding three horses tethered. He writes movingly of the tragedy that followed.

To the Bitter End:
"... we started to search the kopje and found two Boars hidden among the rocks and we took them prisoners. You know the penality of wearing a uniform with a British Badge on it well one had one of our uniforms on and its pretty hard to tell whether we are fighting our own men or not so he was the first man I ever saw sentanced to death after we had gone a mile or so from there he was called out and court marshaled and sentanced to dye. They looked around to find a spade to bury him and they couldn't find one so he was saved until the next day...

The Canadian Uniform:
.....
that same day they captured a young Boar about twenty with a canadian uniform and they shot him about an hour afterwards every one that was there said he dyed the bravest of any they had ever shot. They caught he and his chum in a farm house and he had about 100 pounds on him. He handed it over to his chum and patted his horse and they showed him his grave and then shot him.....

(left) Typical Boer prisoners captured during sweeps across the veldt earlier in the war when their clothes were still in good shape.

c Goldi Productions Ltd. 1996 & 2000