Boer War Discovery Page 91l

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.

The Kilties (1902-1933): "Soldiers of the Queen" 1902

You are listening to one of Canada's very first recordings, "The Soldiers of the Queen" played and sung in 1902 by one of Canada's very first recording bands, the Kilties. Formed in Toronto by members of the 48th Highlanders Band to keep some touring commitments of that group, the Kilties Band of Belleville, Ontario was one of Canada's most popular international touring bands of its day. The Soldiers of the Queen was the march most often identified with the Victorian army.

You can hear these earliest Canadian recordings on our program's soundtrack. Details on our Music Page.


Vanity Fair Press

For decades Vanity Fair magazine produced huge (10" x 14") full colour prints of notable figures on the world stage.

The historic first issue of Vanity Fair was published in London on Nov. 7, 1868. The purpose of this weekly magazine was to expose the vanities of public figures. Each issue carried a large, original, coloured lithograph of a leading news maker of the day, portrayed in a smooth and good-natured style that set the standard for caricature art published during the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Spy and Ape were the leading artists. For 45 years, until publication ceased in 1914, Vanity Fair produced the definitive portraits, that for millions of people, represented the public faces of major world figures.

Vanity Fair offered these portraits of the principal actors during the Boer War.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
President Paul Kruger, Transvaal Republic, 1900
Orig. Vanity Fair lithograph - Image size - 8" x 14"
Found - Queenstown, MD
Signed Drawl, Pub. Vanity Fair, Mar 8, 1900, "Oom Paul"
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
President Martinus Steyn, Orange Free State, 1900
Orig. Vanity Fair lithograph - Image size - 8" x 14"
Found - Queenstown, MD
Signed WAG, Pub. Vanity Fair, Aug 9, 1900, "Ex-president Steyn"
Boer War Villains! To the British the villains of course, were Paul Kruger (above left), President of the Transvaal or South African Republic, with his capital at Pretoria, and Martinus T. Steyn (right), President of the Orange Free State, with capital at Bloemfontein.

Paul Kruger was driven into exile in 1900. Young Queen Wilhelmina of The Netherlands sent a battleship to bring him to Europe. He never saw his wife or homeland again. For the next two years Martinus Steyn was "the soul of the freedom struggle" as he fought alongside General de Wet and Boer commandos across the Boer republics. Neither was ever caught.

To the Boers, the big villains were Joseph Chamberlain (below left), the British Colonial Secretary they were sure was plotting the overthrow of their republics, and his lackey, Dr. Leander Jameson, who led an abortive attack with hundreds of followers against the Transvaal Republic.


Pres. Martinus Steyn, OFS
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Joseph Chamberlain, British Colonial Secty. , 1899
Orig. Vanity Fair lithograph - Image size - 8" x 14"
Found - Pocono Lake, PA
Signed WHO, Pub. Vanity Fair, "War-worn"
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Dr. Leander Jameson, 1900
Orig. Vanity Fair lithograph - Image size - 8" x 14"
Found - Queenstown, MD
Signed Spy, Pub. Vanity Fair, Apr 9, 1896, "Dr. Jim"
Joe Chamberlain: Working hand in hand with the ultimately "War-worn" Chamberlain in England (left), and the always "war eager" private Doctor Jameson in South Africa (above), was Lord Milner, the chief British minister in South Africa (below left). He focused himself totally on bringing about an impasse with President Kruger of the Transvaal Republic so that war was virtually the only alternative ... to war.

BP: In Mafeking, a remote, sleepy, and dusty outpost town, a Colonel named Baden-Powell (right) saw the way the wind was blowing and set about preparing his little town for the worst .... or is that the best... for a soldier? Who could ever have guessed that in the fullness of time he would become the best known soldier/scout in history.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Lord Milner, Cape Colony High Commissioner, 1897
Orig. Vanity Fair lithograph - Image size - 8" x 14"
Found - New York, NY
Signed Spy, Pub. Vanity Fair, Apr 15, 1897, "High Commissioner"
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Col. Robert Baden-Powell, 1900
Orig. Vanity Fair lithograph - Image size - 8" x 14"
Found - Queenstown, MD
Signed Drawl, Pub. Vanity Fair, July 5, 1900, "Mafeking"
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Lord Roberts VC, "Bobs", 1900
Orig. Vanity Fair lithograph - Image size - 8" x 14"
Found - Pocono Lake, PA
Signed Spy, Pub. Vanity Fair, June 21, 1900, "Bobs"
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
General French, 1900
Orig. lithograph - Size - 8" x 14"
Found - Queenstown, MD
Signed GDG, Pub. Vanity Fair, July 12, 1900, "The Cavalry Division"

Of the thousands of Vanity Fair prints produced - and millions distributed over half a century - the one of "Bobs" was, by far, the most popular one ever issued.

Bobs: Replacing the unlucky General Buller, whose army of foot soldiers had been repeatedly defeated by the highly mobile mounted Boers, was the popular 67 year old Lord Roberts - affectionately known to one and all as "Bobs" - (left) who the British expected to bring the war against the Boers to a speedy end.

The Cavalry: Robert's secret weapon was the cavalry commander General John French (right). To match the Boers, Roberts put every man in the saddle he could find - experience not necessary. French's cavalry quickly outflanked the Boers defending Kimberley and lifted the siege. Then he chased Cronje's army to captivity at Paardeberg. To do it all French drove his horses mercilessly in the stifling heat, killing them by the thousands. He killed more horses than any British general before or since. Vanity Fair shows him whipping his horse to greater effort for the Queen.

Ladysmith: General White VC (below left), was brave in his youth, but in spite of being warned of the danger by Buller, ended up trapped inside Ladysmith with his army of 10,000 men, waiting for months to be relieved. Still he remained a huge hero in Britain. The man who rescued him was the driving cavalry commander Earl Dundonald (below right), who later moved to Ottawa, Ontario to head the Canadian Militia. After two years of butting heads with his colonial colleagues he would be the second last British General to head up the Canadian Army.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
General George White VC, 1900
Orig. lithograph - Size - 8" x 14"
Found - Queenstown, MD
Signed Spy, Pub. Vanity Fair, June 14, 1900, "Ladysmith"
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
12th Earl of Dundonald, 1902
Orig. lithograph - Size - 8" x 14"
Found - Seattle, WA
Signed Spy, Pub. Vanity Fair, May 8, 1902, "A Cavalry Reformer"
Sir Wilfrid: Prime Minister Laurier (below), reads all about the bad news that the Boer War was generating in the Quebec papers. French-Canadians sympathized with the Boers and didn't want to attack another minority on behalf of the British Empire. The crisis was splitting his country down the middle, along ethnic lines... Sir Wilfrid had been knighted only two years before for being a loyal supporter of the Empire! Would he do his part now when England "expects every man to do his duty?" (After the war, Laurier would also be the Prime Minister who saw the last British general leave as commander of the Canadian Militia, and appointed Col. William Otter - the head of Canada's first Boer War contingent - to become the first Canadian to become Chief of the Canadian Army.)

"Reverse" Buller: General Redvers Buller (below right), in civilian dress. He was - for a couple of months - the first British commander in chief in South Africa, but failed to eject the Boers from British territory, suffering horrendous defeats during Black Week in December, 1899.

His humanity forbade him from gambling recklessly with the lives of his soldiers. All his men liked him. He had a special fondness for Canadians - and they for him - for he had campaigned in western Canada during the Riel Rebellions.

Buller's problems - besides with the Boers - was with the officer corps. He had warned White not to get locked up in Ladysmith. White didn't listen of course and Buller had to rescue him. No matter; the British had a way of making defeat sound like victory! Buller returned to England, wildly popular among the people but universally shunned by the British military establishment. The General Staff, of course, liked success on the battlefield; they didn't really care all that much about the body count needed to get results.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier, 1897
Orig. lithograph - Size - 8" x 14"
Found - Queenstown, MD
Signed Spy, Pub. Vanity Fair, Aug 19, 1897, "Canada"
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
General Sir Redvers Buller VC, 1900
Orig. lithograph - Size - 8" x 14"
Found - Queenstown, MD
Signed Spy, Pub. Vanity Fair, July 12, 1900
The General Staff: Vanity Fair featured Victoria's top Boer War generals in a very special two page fold-out colour litho (below). Left to right, Pole-Carew, Macdonald, Buller, Baden-Powell - in a silly hat obviously added later in a retouching session - Dundonald, Kitchener, and seated on the right, White and French, surround Lord Roberts.
A Beautiful Waist! This elite group didn't do it all themselves. They had other generals that commanded divisions of infantry and cavalry for them. Lyttleton, below, tried his best at Colenso but proved no match for the Boers, and had to follow Buller away to safety. No matter, they would try to cross the Tugela some place easier, further up. How about Spion Kop a few weeks later? Unfortunately, the same result. And so it went in December of 1899 and into the New Year.

Sir Henry Colville (below right) was also a career general who found himself in the war against the Boers in South Africa. In his favour Vanity Fair's biography notes approvingly, "He has a beautiful waist." And so he had.

Was Vanity Fair implying that Lyttleton did not, and strategically placed his arms to hide him the embarrassment? Is Sir Neville grumpy because he is clearly no match for his slender brother officer? The artist has even tucked Sir Henry's arm very nicely behind his back, to show off his exquisitely feline profile to best effect.

British Victorian generals were notoriously famous for noticing such things about each other. Was it a factor in promotion...? Is that what they're all looking at so approvingly, above right? Dundonald certainly wants a better look. And Kitchener, does he really think - by looking away - we don't believe he's more than a little intrigued - possibly even more than any of the others? Had they sought out more soldierly attributes in Sir Henry, they might have foreseen his failure to come to the aid of a beleaguered column in South Africa, and subsequently avoided all the bad press at having to dismiss him, later, as Commander-in-Chief of Gibraltar over it.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
General Sir Neville Lyttleton, 1900
Orig. lithograph - Size - 8" x 14"
Found - Queenstown, MD
Signed EBN, Pub. Vanity Fair, Sept 5, 1901, "Fourth Division"
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
General Sir Henry Colville, 1895
Orig. lithograph - Size - 8" x 14"
Found - Westwood, KS
Signed Spy, Pub. Vanity Fair, Oct 3, 1895, "Odger"
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
General Archibald Hunter, 1900
Orig. lithograph - Size - 8" x 14"
Found - Westwood, KS
Signed EBN, Pub. Vanity Fair, Apr 27, 1899, "Our Youngest General"
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Boer General Christiaan De Wet, 1900
Orig. lithograph - Size - 8" x 14"
Found - Queenstown, MD
Signed EBN, Pub. Vanity Fair, July 31, 1902, "De Wet"
De Wet: All the Queen's Generals and All the Queen's Men, couldn't put wily Boers, like farmer turned General Christiaan De Wet, into jail. Even when Britain's "youngest" - Archibald Hunter (above) - and a handful of other generals had him cooped up and trapped in the mountains, De Wet slipped through their fingers to fight another day. They never did catch him.

At the end of the war Vanity Fair produced its print of a man who was then truly world famous. In America, Russia, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden - wherever civilized men made war - one name was known to one and all and that was "De Wet."

De Wet, started the war as a simple farmer in the ranks, but within weeks rose to be Commanding General of President Steyn's Orange Free State Army. He was the mastermind behind the guerilla war which he led for two years without ever being caught though chased - along with President Steyn - by entire clusters of British generals sweeping the countryside for him with tens of thousands of men. His mythic exploits and escapes made him a huge international hero and one of the great soldiers of all time.

With one big difference. While other professional generals fought for glory, the admiration of their peers, to put into practice what they had learned in Staff College, or to serve their Queen or King, Christiaan de Wet fought, plainly and simply, only for his people and his farm. And it really is as simple as that...

Which, I believe, makes him a great man, as well...

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Lord Strathcona, 1900
Orig. lithograph - Size - 8" x 14"
Found - Westwood, KS
Signed Spy, Pub. Vanity Fair, Apr 19, 1900, "Canada in London"
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Lord Minto, 1900
Orig. lithograph - Size - 8" x 14"
Found - London, UK
Signed Spy, Pub. Vanity Fair, June 29, 1905, "Roley"
Lord Strathcona: Outstanding Boer generalship at the beginning of the war made things go so badly for the British that even Canadians became concerned for the safety of the Empire. What to do?

Anglo-Canadians thought the Government under Prime Minister Laurier was far too slow and measured in its response to the crisis facing the civilized world in South Africa. He was spending far too much time reading when the times called for action! Wealthy men like Lord Strathcona (left) dug deep into their pockets to fund private armed units to go to South Africa to help save the Empire. He founded and funded Lord Strathcona's Horse, a regiment that is still active in the Canadian army today.

Lord Minto: In Ottawa Lord Minto was Governor-General from 1898-1904 - the Queen's representative in Canada. Good old "Rolley" pronounced "Roley," was pushing Laurier too, to send Canadians to fill holes in the ranks of the British army being created by the devastating fire of the Boer Mausers rifles.

Rolley's ties to Canada were lengthy. He had been Chief of Staff to General Middleton during the Riel Rebellion where he was also much admired for his riding skills. He was simply the best horseman in the British Army. He won the Grand National in France, being the only amateur rider in a field of eighteen. He rode in the Grand National five times and won undying fame among surgeons for breaking his neck and refusing to die. In another meet he won six races - on six different horses! He was passionate about landscape gardening too.

In Canada he was made Honourary Commandant of the North West Mounted Police. Perhaps he is the inspiration for the "fat letter" sent to RCMP constables whose buttons are bursting - and not from pride - since he suffered from depression whenever his weight started to go up. He no doubt saw the added weight as a great disadvantage to his legendary prowess as a horse racer.

In his honour, an isolated, bustling, "gold rush" town in the Yukon was named Minto. There is nothing there now... just a few ruins in the wilderness, gradually turning back to the way God intended, before the spoiling hand of greedy gold-seekers desecrated the shores of the magnificent Yukon River. Not a bad memorial to a man who loved Canada's great outdoors above all else.

His wife, Lady Minto, presented guidons to Strathcona's Horse, and bade these young Canadian boys "safe passage," and a "speedy return" on the steps of Parliament Hill, just before the regiment left for South Africa in early 1900.

At the end of the war she would lead the charge to put the distinctive Canadian tombstones - decorated with Maple Leaves - on the graves of some of those very same boys she had seen off to the wars... In the end she would need tombstones for some 300 young Canadian volunteers who would never return home.

Fine representatives of what the best of "Empire" was all about - the Mintos...

After six years in Canada the Mintos left, but only to take up the posting of Viceroy of India, the Jewel in the Crown.

On the ship taking him back to England, when leaving Canada for the last time, Rolley wrote in his diary,

"... so our life in Canada is over, and it has been a great wrench
parting from so many friends and leaving a country which I love,
and which has been very full of interest to me."
- Viceroy of India


c Goldi Productions Ltd. 1996 & 2000