Boer War Page 04

Boer War Mysteries

The Page Which Invites You to Help Solve Great Mysteries
from the Anglo-Boer War

Is this world-renowned First World War poet John McCrae, (left) who wrote "In Flanders Fields"? We offer compelling evidence for you to check.

Give us a call with your thoughts.

Have you got ideas on this Mystery Trooper?

Check and see, and give us a call with your thoughts.


Won't you help us solve ..... A New Boer War Mystery ?

Can you help us identify this Canadian trooper photographed in Kelso, New Brunswick, probably on the eve of leaving to go on a tour of duty in South Africa.

Was he CMR? Strathconas? Canadian Scouts? or South African Constabulary?

Kelso must be a good clue. How many men - sergeants at that - came from Kelso, NB. And the footwear is unusual, no strings on the front like the Strathconas had? And whoever heard of Kelso, NB?

Mystery at Paardeberg

16th Lancers: En route to a Date with History: The Canadian Boer War Museum was recently the fortunate recipient of a lot of photographs that were taken by a trooper from the 16th Lancers (in camp below). The lance was still being carried in the field - old ideas die hard - even though modern Mauser rifles could now shoot down a lancer a mile or more before he could get close enough to see a Boer, let alone pin him with this ancient weapon of war. These photos are valuable in that they are probably the last ever taken of lancers on a serious campaign.

(Of course some lancers were still - to be kind - "hanging about" during the early months of WWI on the Western Front; but their participation could hardly be called a campaign. There was even a case of one or two charges that lasted a few seconds until lancers and horses were annihilated with machine guns and disappeared forever from the pages of history.)

Prologue: After General French relieved Kimberley on Feb. 15, 1900, General Cronje and 5,000 men, women, and children escaped from their camp at Magersfontein and rushed back into the Orange Free State to protect the capital, Bloemfontein. French gave chase. The 16th Lancers took part. It looks like the photos were all taken during the pursuit which would end at Paardeberg, where Cronje dug in to make a last stand.

Because the pursuit was being done during the hottest months of the year, horses died by the hundreds from exhaustion and lack of water. There are no pictures of dead horses, but numerous views of desperate horses drinking in the Modder River.

The Man on the White Horse: Out of hundreds of horses in these pictures, there is only one white horse. The man and horse were important enough that he was centred out for the photo above.

Who is the mystery man (above & right)? A journalist, a general, or just a fool? In the days when photos taken were few, and each one precious, why was this man selected for a rare exposure?

Men on white horses made wonderful targets for the Boers so men who rode them did not last long. Only Lord Kitchener rode a white horse, probably so he would be recognized by the men and to show he had no fear.

Where is the house? The mystery man is shown again in a photo taken from the roof of a house beside a kraal, as the artillery is resting in the background. Where is this? Do the shape of the kopjes offer a location?

Near a hill called Paardeberg: The artillery is parked beside a farmhouse below a kopje near Paardeberg. Where is this place?

Who are these men? The lancer took a photo of this group of non-lancers riding past (below). Is this General Roberts and his staff, or General French? Paardeberg Hill can clearly be seen in the background.

Is this taken from the vicinity of Koodesrand Drift where French cut off the fleeing Boers? And are the Boers at this very moment entrenching half way towards Paardeberg Hill?

The Battle Begins: Extremely rare actual battle photos showing several British guns lined up (above) as one lobs a shell at the Boer laager, and a maxim machine gun (right) joining in. The gunfire would last for ten days, creating a nightmare for Boer men, women & children.
Mystery Wagon; Mystery Men: Taken sometime during a halt or the battle, is the picture (above), centred on a wagon which looks very much like the those British generals used as their headquarters wagon on the march. Was this a general's headquarters wagon? Roberts? Kitchener?

If so who are the two older-looking men featured in this photo? Officers of the 16th Lancers? Or generals? Do their uniforms offer clues.

The Mystery Man on the Mystery Hill: Probably taken during the siege at Paardeberg - the men in the background are settled down among the rocks of a kopje - is the picture of a man important enough to be featured in his own snapshot (above & right).

Who was he? An officer of the 16th Lancers? Was it a British general visiting the positions? Roberts? Kitchener? Smith-Dorrien? It is not French as he was more portly.

Was this Gun Hill? Or Kitchener on Kitchener's Kopje?

Can you help identify anything in these Boer War photos by using the uniforms, the equipment the men wear, or top sheets locating houses and kopjes at the time.

We would appreciate a call.

The End: (above), a very rare picture of Boer War battlefield showing the devastation after a ten day bombardment. The Boers surrendered and the British set up their tents on the battlefield, making it easier to loot the enormous baggage train which they inherited from 5,000 defeated Boers who were now off to Prisoner of War camps.

(above) Historian Johan Hattingh stands on this very spot, displaying a piece of bullet-riddled corrugated iron he just picked up. It offers mute testimony to the ferocity of the Battle of Paardeberg, the first major British victory of the war and the one in which the pluck and daring of Canadian soldiers was heralded around the world.

Paardeberg, Feb. 28, 1900: A driver on the way to water his huge artillery horses (above left), looks at Boer guns captured during the fight, as men in the background sort through the spoils of war.

When Men Fought in Vests & Suits: Boer prisoners (left), glad to survive from the hell of the bombardment, pose with their captors.

Thousands would be sent to prisoner of war camps in Bermuda, Ceylon, and St. Helena, never to see families again for two years. Of the 35,000 men and boys ultimately shipped out of South Africa, over 800 would never see their families again, dying in exile.

Battlefield House: The picture (left), shows a Boer house surrounded by British horsemen. Was this the house, shown on old maps of the battlefield, in which General Cronje had his headquarters?

Can you Help?

If so, the Canadian Boer War Museum would be pleased to receive a call so we can preserve the information relating to these photos.

Can You Help Solve the Mystery at Mafeking ??
Can You Help?

The Museum has recently acquired a group of original photos from Australia that are all related as a lot in age, matting, size (7x 8" without matte), subject matter, and source.

They appear to be a Mafeking group. The marvellous photo top, is the most definitively identifiable and shows the defenders inside Mafeking, with Baden-Powell clearly on the far left. Another photo shows the famous "Nelson" gun in the town square at Mafeking (below).

But what about the rest?

Who are the men in the group above left? Are the plume hatted Australians standing in the town square after relieving Mafeking?

Are there Canadians - all those unplumed flat brimmed hats, and whose guns made the victory possible - scattered among their Aussie chums with whom they had travelled 2,000 miles by boat, train, wagon, and on foot to get here?

Do their uniforms help?

And who is the clearly recognizable Aussie? officer below? Possibly one of the relievers?

Finally who is the important officer addressing the men in the field? Is it Col. Mahon or maybe Col. Plumer razing the Aussies up for the final charge? Or thanking them after the relief?

And who are the off-duty types clearly in the same Mafeking-type surroundings?

Any help you could give would be greatly appreciated.

July, 2001 Won't you help us solve a Boer War Mystery?
We have just discovered, at an old estate sale, this huge 23" x 40" print entitled Boer War (left).

It is a huge photomontage of hundreds of officers from the Boer War, assembled in the Victorian style as if they were all on the hill assembled for the photo op. Each figure is carefully drawn/painted from photographs of the period and one can clearly make out the major generals, and Victoria Cross winners, etc.

For example, assembled around General Warren on horseback (above and enlarged below), is the group from the disastrous Battle of Spion Kop. The photo of Warren shows the painstaking attention to detail that can be found on every face.

General Warren who orchestrated this "Acre of Massacre," looks vainly for guidance over to General Buller, his commander-in-chief, holding binoculars, and who should have intervened during the battle, but did not. Behind stands the portly Col. Thorneycroft, the valiant hero, who inherited command from General Woodgate (bottom corner), when he was killed early in the battle.

Do you know where this lithograph/print comes from? Its place and period of manufacture? Where can one get a key to all the figures?

We would appreciate a call..


We recently discovered a bugle sporting these strange words on ebay, in the old bugle department.

On close examination they spell out as "MAGELISBURG" and "BRACKSPRUIT."

The bugle also has the words "C. Mahillon & Co., 1901."

A further clue is the picture of the bugler below left.


Give up? Clues are explained on the Bugle Page...

News Flash May 2001

Jack the Ripper & the Boer War !!!
You should know this man because he knew Jack the Ripper....

New research has just emerged to show that there is a Jack the Ripper connection to the Boer War. This man knew all along who the Ripper was, but took the secret to the grave with him? Why did he not talk?

This man also had a famous Canadian connection? Do you know what it was?

Who is he anyway?

And then who was Jack the Ripper???

Can you supply the details???

Answer: Use the Search Engine on our site.


We recently received emails about a crop of Boer War bugles that have sprouted up......... that should serve as a warning to all of us that, when buying authentic militaria: 



For the first time in years, Boer War bugles are suddenly cropping up. Within a day of each other, two supposed Boer War Bugles appeared on ebay - one genuine, the other bogus???? You decide... It offers a good lesson to anyone dealing in militaria to be watchful of antique dealers who will say anything to beguile the unwary into paying enormous sums for items that are not at all what antique sellers say they are. Educate yourself by visiting the Bugle Page.

June, 2001 Another Canadian Boer War Mystery?
We have just discovered at an auction the carefully preserved hoof of a Mountie's horse from 100 years ago (left).

We know it's that old because it was part of a lot which included badges from the days when the RCMP were known as the Royal North West Mounted Police (RNWMP), from 1904 to 1920. Also in the lot were spurs, shoulder flashes, horse bits, leather gauntlets and wrist covers. Who would have kept this collection? And why? And what is the identity of horse # 2201? Was this a Mountie regimental number or a British Army Boer War brand? We know hoof branding like this was common in South Africa during the war.

Do you have any information, or leads as to who the mystery horse might have been, and where and how it spent its life? Was the hoof so well preserved by a sentimental Mountie because his horse had served him well in South Africa, perhaps saving his life by taking bullets meant for him?

More pictures and information on Page 19 The Mounties at War

c Goldi Productions Ltd. 2000