Boer War Page 12b

Boer War Era Fakes

We offer the following advice page to prevent trusting Boer War memorabilia collectors from being ripped off by unscrupulous ebay sellers of bogus items.
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Harry Macdonough (1871-1931): "Seeing Nellie Home" c 1902

You are listening to an original recording from c 1902, featuring one of Canada's very first recording artists, Harry Macdonough and they Haydn Quartet, singing "Seeing Nellie Home," a group song popular around Canadian pianos and Gramophones at the time families had their last get togethers before seeing their boys off to Africa.

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

ebay Consumer Alert! -
What, Another Fake Boer War Flag????
ebay ad

"Absolutely stunning and UNRESERVED. This time we are listing a piece of HISTORY. We puchased this flag amoung many other antiques from a prestiqous Esate sale belongs to Late a Canadian Irishmen, Mr. G Armstong. This Flag, 33 1/2" x 21"(80cm x 53.5cm) NOT IN MINT CONDITION. As you can see on the pictures especially the corners and the edges are not in very good condition and has some stains. Experts seen this flag,some claim these are blod stains ."

This amazing flag - the usual cotton printed civic display flag - comes complete with "blod stains" in the white field areas. The coat of arms is certainly pre-1905, but then the puzzle starts. Someone (presumably G. Armstrong) has written in ink a list of names that start tantalizingly with Ottawa, Halifax, Cape Verde - where Canadian ships always stopped on the way to South Africa, and Cape Town. As the names unroll the puzzle deepens.

Then the writing gets very interesting: "Tpr Jones killed in action on Feb 02 at ............. (indecipherable.) Then Tprs. Payeman,......., Stevens, Paton." Wonderful! Did Armstrong write the names of his dying pals on a flag he had brought from Canada. Maybe he laid it on their bleeding breasts as his comrades dug their graves?

Problems abound with this flag. Only a couple of men named Armstrong served in the Canadian contingents during the Boer War and none was a G. Armstrong. So the mystery writer could not have been a Canadian. His name does not appear among the rolls of 7,000 Canadians who served in South Africa. So where does the Ottawa, Halifax writing come from, and why.

As well, none of the dead men are on the Canadian casualty lists, not one of them. No Canadians were killed on Feb. 02, during any year in the war. Almost all Canadians killed in the month of February, during any year in the war, were at Paardeberg, and they were infantrymen, not troopers as these men apparently were.

So those place names are related to another regiment, perhaps an irregular unit. Irregular units did not start in Ottawa and go to Halifax.

If it is not the record of a Canadian unit and was not written by someone serving in the Canadian contingents who was the writer? And what were the circumstances of it being written? Was he a skilled ebay forger, with a great idea? The flag won two bids only, the winner or looser in our estimation, getting it for $102 US.

Finally: Why was this called a "Museum Quality Regimental Flag"? We actually went to see this intriguing flag in person to the store that sold it in Toronto. As everyone knows, who reads on below, this is not any "regimental" flag by any stretch of the imagination but another of these ubiquitous Canadian Victorian school parade flags that get fenced by unscrupulous Canadian antique dealers to unwary American buyers. Whatever else one can deduce about this flag, one thing is clear. The antique dealer very well knew it was not a "regimental flag." Why? Because he told us he had worked for years as a curator/administrator at the Gallipoli battlefield in Turkey, and so would have been extremely intimately knowledgeable about what a real regimental flag would have looked like, and what 'Museum Quality" is all about. Though we could be wrong here. Perhaps the Turkish Army - probably as an economy measure - issues school children's flags to their forces.

We must admit he was most uncomfortable about our presence brusquely saying "I don't know anything about militaria. I don't want to get into selling militaria." Don't everybody now get out those dripping old pens and make up more of these. Or do us a favour and explain all this for our readers.

News Alert:
ebay Helps Entrap Innocent Buyers of Bogus Boer War Flags
Hardly a week has gone by without a "Genuine Canadian Boer War Flag from a Halifax Estate" going on sale on ebay. Four or five so far, and as we predicted early on, there will be more. Crooked Canadian antique sellers are cashing in on Americans eager to buy a genuine Canadian Boer War flag, since American ones are so absolutely rare while Canadian ones seem - astonishingly - so readily available. Read the story below on how the Canadian Anglo-Boer War Museum uncovered the con in Canadian memorabilia and set about informing the public to beware.

Now ebay has joined the conspiracy to entrap the unwary.

In August, for the first time ever in history, on ebay's "Boer War" site, where we have seen many tens of thousands of items for sale over the past few years, ebay permitted a "hidden" private sale on an item - one of the below mentioned bogus Canadian "Boer War flags." That meant the bidders and there were several - had their emails hidden, locked out, so that no other ebayer could contact them. Blocked out completely from contact with other ebayers - and our consumer alert - the winning bidder was fleeced for $51 US dollars for an item that can be bought in any Canadian antique store for three to five dollars US.

Read below on our efforts to protect unwary ebayers from being ripped off by crooked and unscrupulous antique dealers.

Not Another Fake Boer War Flag ??
ebay ad - "Very rare Canadian Flag, Carried by the troops in the Boer War"
Recently a seller from Victoria, BC, advertised a Canadian "Patriotic flag, Superb" that had supposedly been "draped over the front of a Halifax business, for welcoming home the troops from the Boer War in 1900." The proof - his word that it came from a Halifax estate!

He advertised, at the same time, that a banner consisting "of 8 of these similar flags" with similar provenance, would be put on sale on ebay. Regretably, there was a bit of oil on one of those flags. We were the winning bidder on the single "display flag" for around 55 US dollars, way too much for an item with highly suspect provenance.

Suspicion #1 - The seller offered us - as the winning bidder - a deal for $400 for the banner. We declined, but began to see that our flag looked suspiciously like - exactly like - the flags in the banner!!! He subsequently put the banner up for sale on ebay, but the "8" flags had now suddenly - "my mistake" - been reduced to "7". And the "business" on which this banner had hung before, now turned into a "machine shop," presumably to give the bad oil stains some historic value to snag unwary ebay buyers.

We guessed quickly that the seller had cut a "test flag" off the banner to see what it could earn by itself.

We were annoyed that we had been duped, because he had sold us a display flag, when it was not that at all, but a piece of display cloth cut from a larger banner.

When a seller is this dishonest what is the provenance behind this flag/banner/bogus cloth worth anyway?????

His banner did not sell on ebay, but .....

Suspicion #2 - A week later a new ad appeared on ebay. It was accompanied by the jpegs above and below.

"In this auction you are bidding on a very rare Canadian flag carried by troops in the Boer War. The size is 28 inches by 16 inches. It is printed one side with the British ensign and the Canadian coat of arms with the Victorian crown. This flag came from an estate of a Boer War veteran many years ago and is ORIGINAL! not a reprint. Any questions will be promptly answered....."

Suspicion #3 - Thanks to the large jpegs provided, we could see at once that our "piece of display flag" appeared to be totally identical in every way - the type of material, the colour, the frayed borders on all four sides matched exactly, the white frayed top and bottom where it had been cut from a roll, the size and shape of the emblem, the size and placement of the Union Jack, the fold at the top, even the lay-away folds in the cloth were identical. Absolutely the same printing press, exactly, had stamped out these flags. Not a doubt about it.

With one exception. Whereas ours had sold for an inflated $55 as a display flag on a store, this flag "Carried by troops in the Boer War" went for $378 US, an astronomic sum for a flag totally identical in age and manufacture to our patriotic display flag. And one which can be bought in virtually any Canadian antique store for five or ten dollars - Canadian dollars (equal to three to seven US).

After reading our cautionary about Bogus Boer War flags, the buyer demanded and got his money back. We also informed the sellers of these flags that what they were doing was - intentionally or not - unethical. They did not desist but continued to sell them with slightly toned down rhetoric. But they went one further. For the first time in history, a "Genuine Canadian Boer War Flag" was sold on ebay through a private sale - all bidders are locked out from being communicated with. The Museum can no longer send out consumer alerts because ebay has joined the conspiracy to block out communication with bidders who fall into the trap of this charlatan. Why would a seller cloak his dealings in such a veil of secrecy if his sale item was in any way legitimate? The conclusion is obvious.

Our "Display Flag" - The emblem was stamped by the same press and the frayed cut off bottom matches the bottom of the top flag. Why the white uneven bottom border on a red flag? and why what looks like scissor cuts?
What Happened? The seller had failed to get a bid for his "display banner." What to do? It was quite clear that he had already cut one piece off and got $55, so if he couldn't sell it as a unit, did he decide to sell it piecemeal? But he would have to jazz it up. Military guys don't want "display banners" they want "blood and gore" battle flags. So lets give it to them. And there were many bidders for this single flag and none for 7 similar flags all joined together.

Who Did This? Did a friend or colleague - the seller claimed to be from a nearby city - buy it and decide to cut it up for resale? Not very likely, because the original seller wanted an awful lot of money for his banner so a reseller could not hope to get a good enough deal to be able to recoup his investment.

Or did the original owner, who sold us our bogus flag, cut the banner into pieces and resell it under an ebay alias, using a nearby city as a cover. It is interesting that the seller had only this single item for sale on ebay? Why is that? We've never encountered that before. Anyone whose "other auctions" we click always has a slew of other items for sale. Was this a single sale cover for a scam?

Some Other Considerations? In our experience as Boer War "experts," it is very next to impossible to find a Canadian Boer War flag anywhere. Now we suddenly had a whole crop of the same size, design, manufacture, and provenance. Just what is going on here in the "rare" department.

The Boer War is the first war where flags were never carried into battle - ever. This was totally opposite to the case in the US Civil War, when flags were everywhere - not so in the Boer War. Lancers in the opening months of the war carried guidons on their lances. But these disappeared quickly. They drew attention from Boer sharpshooters who could snipe a man at nearly two kms. Who would carry a flag in these circumstances. Certainly not the Canadians. We have seen tens of thousands of photos of soldiers during the Boer War and have never seen a flag displayed anywhere except on a building.

Comparing Flags

Regimental Flags - everyone has seen them on parades or hanging in churches - compared:

Our "Display Flag" - The left border has no rope, or room for a rope, or signs of past attachments to a pole or rope. The top edge has the same white border as the top flag, and shows threads fraying in the same way, probably from where the string once held it in place.
Regimental flags are large, 3 feet by 4 feet or larger.
- the ebay "rare flag of the Canadian troops" matches instead, my puny 16 inches by 24 inch display flag.

Regimental flags are made of heavy duty thick gauge cotton, wrinkle-proof material, so they stand up to the wear and tear of campaigning, and so are heavy and bulky
- ebay flags are thin, wrinkly, T-shirt like material, like used in Edwardian kerchiefs, and can be tucked into an envelope for shipping, like a kerchief, and are light as a feather.

Regimental flags are composed of panels of material sewn together to create the design, in the flag and the crest, partly so the colour-fast material can be used that will not run.
- the ebay flags have been printed in a press, like t-shirts or kerchiefs are, and the colour will run. Just put them in a washing machine and get rid of some of that battle grime on them, and watch the result.

Regimental flags have heavily reinforced seams on all sides to prevent fraying of edges due to wind or wear.
ebay flags have never been sewn, and have scissor cut edges, and frayed edges on all sides.

Regimental flags have an especially heavily reinforced staff section, where the flagstaff should go.
- ebay flags have all four sides equally thin and unreinforced, in fact it looks like they were designed to be hung from a string, not a favourite way that soldiers generally carried flags.

Regimental flags have a heavy gauge rope sewn into the staff or tack side of the flag to attach it to a pole or staff.
- ebay flags do not now, or ever appear to have had this, but are light weight so they could easily be hung on a string or tacked to a little stick.

Regimental flags have some regimental crest in evidence - sewn in - to show the flag had a home.
- ebay flags do not, because they had no regimental home, but were made to find a home anywhere.

Regimental flags are phenomenally rare - rarer than hen's teeth - and belonged only to the very few regiments, "the troops" that went to Africa. The couple that survive are kept in museums.
ebay "rare Canadian Boer War flags carried by the troops" are cropping up all over in BC, all from Halifax, and all from the same printing press batch.

There were "Canadian" flags but these were captured "Boer" flags - the Transvaal Vierkleur is common - from town hall flagstaffs when the British marched in. Veterans brought these back in their packs as souvenirs. These are huge. 5' x 8' is a common size, and all of them are like the battle flags described above, and not at all like the ebay flags.

These little ebay "rare Canadian battle flags" of 18 x 24 inches are for bicycles, or dining room tables, a window ledge, or over schoolhouse clocks. They are not the size that any self-respecting soldier of any regiment would ever carry for any purpose, whether parades or battle. At best they are town hall gazebo decorations as the band played concerts on Sundays.

Our "display flag" is totally identical to this ebay bogus "troop flag" in every way. It is false in the extreme to call a flag like this "a very rare Canadian flag carried by troops in the Boer War." Publicizing a decorative item like this is dishonest and all too common on ebay because so many military buffs are always trying to "get a piece of the true cross." And there are always charlatans eager to give it to them. And ebay makes it easy to do so and hide. The higher the prices, the more money for ebay.

Not Again! An acquaintance who sold, mainly militaria, regularly on ebay, pulled the flag scam once. We were at an auction where a similar display flag came up for sale - these are constantly appearing at Canadian auctions, souvenirs from olden day holiday festivities, political parades, family reunions, etc. The auctioneer announced it as a "Boer War flag!" We both laughed, but he bought it. We could not see why. A week later we happened to see it on ebay as a Canadian Boer War flag! It sold for $400 US to an American. We were astonished and asked him how he could do that. He laughed. "They don't know the difference." So he sold a decorative school parade flag, that he had paid $20 Canadian for, as a Canadian Boer War Battle flag for several thousand percent profit. We have not looked at him the same way since.

You must only buy what you know. And because they don't, many Americans - who know very little, as a rule about Canadian history and militaria - are duped into paying great sums for bogus items of little value because they trust too much that others are as honest as they are.

UPDATE: A week or two later the same seller offered new jpegs of the same flag, but now advertised it differently, as below. Why?
ebay ad - "Offered for sale is a vintage Boer War era Canadian patriotic flag from an estate in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Flag is approx. 16" x 24". Made of cotton. A super piece."
This one is a dead ringer for ours above, which also seems to have been cut out of the same roll of flags???? How many more of these will show up????

Now, can I sell you a "Very rare Canadian flag, carried by the Troops in the Boer War." It came from the estate of an old Boer War gent in Halifax, who told me he used to tell his children and grandchildren that he had carried it into battle - but in reality he had stolen if from a vase in a brothel the night before he sailed.

OH No! Not another fake Boer War flag !!!
ebay ad -"This is a guaranteed original Boer War Flag retrieved by a Canadian Soldier. Measures 33" x 22". Outstanding Piece which is considered Rare. Pics"

Here we go again:

Fact -
This was the coat of arms and motto, "Ex Unitate Vires" or "Unity Through Strength" of the Union of South Africa, and then the Republic of South Africa, from 1910 till 2000.

Conclusion: This flag - decoration whatever - did not come into existence till many years after the Anglo-Boer War was over. And certainly could not possibly have been "retrieved by a Canadian soldier," all of whom had gone home many, many years before.

So what could it be? Perhaps a souvenir tourist display flag brought back by a soldier serving in South Africa during World War II. And he's not telling where he picked it up!!!

So much for "guaranteed original Boer War Flag retrieved by a Canadian Soldier.... Outstanding Piece which is considered Rare."

All hype - no lies - made up by another ebay seller designed to entrap the unwary buyer. Complain for the sake of all of us.

Please see Warning on Fake Bugles on the Bugle pages.


c Goldi Productions Ltd. 1996 & 2000