Boer War Page 91i

Rare Boer War Discoveries

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

Great Canadian Heritage Discoveries

Rare Canadian Boer War Zulu Relic Saved for Posterity - Aug. 2001
We have had numerous reports of souvenirs brought back from South Africa by Boer War volunteers from Canada, including shells, equipment, and Africana items such as bows and spears.

How wonderfully lucky we were to be able to salvage this rare 19th century Zulu shield that was brought back by Canadian Trooper Bays in 1905, when he ended his Boer War service after a stint in the South African Constabulary. Until recently, his granddaughter had preserved it in his memory.

This is a small "umbhumbhulozu" war shield, (18" x 27") carried by many of the Zulu Impis into the disastrous battles against the British and Boers of the 1870's; reconstructions and re-enactors of the period usually carry the large and more dramatic shield, but contemporary photographs taken immediately after the defence of Rorke's Drift, show that many of the Zulu did in fact use this size of shield.

This shield is made from the hide of an insundukazi or dark brown cow, and would have been uniform to the regiment which used it, as the various colours of hide amongst Zulu cattle were used as a means of denoting different regiments; shields from the darker patterns of cattle being used to denote regiments of young warriors, and paler colours being reserved for the regiments of older soldiers.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Zulu Shield Boer War Relic, 1905
Orig. Zulu shield - Size - 18" x 27"
Found - Campbellville, ON
Souvenired in South Africa by Trooper Bays
The shield still has its original wooden staff and the thumb loops by which it was held, though the top of the stick has lost most of its tuft of decorative civet fur.

Contrary to popular belief, the Zulu Impis did not all carry the larger "isihlangu" shield which had been in use since the time of King Shaka.

From the 1850s onwards the young Prince Cetshwayo introduced this smaller lighter version which in battle was easier to use, enabling the Zulu warriors to be swifter in hand to hand combat. By 1879 many of the Impis carried these shields, and they would have been typical of the weaponry used at the battles of Rorke's Drift, Isandlwana, Khambula, Ulundi, etc.

Isandlwana: On this spot, on Jan. 22, 1979, below the brooding Isandlwana, a British army of 1,400 men was annihilated by a Zulu force of 24,000 men, carrying spears, and shields like that above.

More British soldiers were killed on this spot by spears, than fell - 20 years later - during any battle against the Boers, using the most modern weapons, in almost three years of war.

Canadian Boer War volunteers would have heard stories of these terrifying battles and looked for souvenirs to remember them by. What could be a more fitting memento for a Canadian soldier, than a war shield from a Zulu warrior who might have used that very shield in battle during the Anglo-Zulu War. So for generations, Trooper Bays no doubt enthralled family and friends with this wondrous Boer War souvenir from South Africa.

The Zulus swept in from the right, backing up the defending British soldiers towards the tents that were along the base of the mountain, and drove them here to where the wagon park was and the biggest slaughter took place. Stone piles cover mass graves of British soldiers.


c Goldi Productions Ltd. 1996 & 2000