Boer War Page 12e

Anglo-Boer War Baden-Powell Fakes

As a public service, to prevent eager collectors from being duped by unscrupulous antique dealers
we offer our Fake Pages.
A good original Boer War Officer Field Kit comprising of a food box and drinking bottle, contained in a leather case & designed to fit on the belt or saddle. The food box measures 5 X 3 inches and is maker marked "James Dixon, London" (Well known shot flask makers and the leather case "George Parker & Son, London". All pieces engraved "UV"; this was once the property of Col VYVYAN, an Officer on Baden Powell's staff' .... a nice original item.
Above is a recent ebay auction notice. Click on the link to see the listing complete with pics.

This seems straight forward enough. A leather pouch, with named, or engraved items.

The dealer makes special note of two things: that all the items "was once the property of Col. Vyvyan", and to make sure you've got the right one, he adds, the one who was "an Officer on Baden-Powell's staff." And to prove it all, he notes that "all pieces engraved "UV," and offers lots of close-ups to prove his point...... All reproduced here.

Presumably the V stands for Col. Vyvyan...

The Col. Vyvyan associated with Baden-Powell would have been a lot more famous than he is now, did he not have the misfortune to have such a famous boss during the siege of Mafeking in the Boer War. He had been BP's second in command in the Matabele Wars and later, at Mafking. BP's diary notes that he rarely moved without Vyvyan in tow.

Wrote BP, during the Matabele Wars, "In the afternoon I rode over yesterday's battlefield with Vyvyan, recovered my gun.......

And on another day, "In the afternoon I rode out with Vyvyan to Tabas' Induna, a flat-topped hill that stands up bold and abruptly out of the sea-like veldt ten miles from Buluwayo."

And, "Vyvyan ill with a very bad throat."

During the siege at Mafeking Vyvyan was the engineer who planned all the town defences and was made town commandant. It was he - when the siege was lifted - who read, in the town square, Lord Roberts' thanks to the Baralong tribe for their loyalty during the war, and helping fend off the Boers.

His key role was overshadowed by the "Wolf that never sleeps," BP, who was accorded most of the glory for the magnificent stand of the town against the encircling Boers. Vyvyan stayed on in Mafeking after the war.

How wonderful to find his personal items all carefully engraved "UV."

Ouch!!!! There is a slight problem. His name was not UV.

He was Lieut-Col. Courtenay B. Vyvyan....... Not a "U" in sight, anywhere among his initials! And it is a "U," as all the close ups and the leather inscription make clear.

Did Your Mother Name You Captain? British officers had - and still have - a passion for being addressed by their rank, long after they have left the service. Like no one else on earth British Victorian Army officers were proud to be a member of the best and most powerful army in the entire world.

It stands to reason that they always engraved their rank and name on their campaign items - books, field glasses, etc. (Captain MB MacDonald proudly wrote his rank & name on his Boer War telescope, Maj. Benson wrote on the flyleaf of his campaign book, and Maj. Burnham stamped his binocular strap with his rank and name.)

Most odd, then, that the good Colonel did not properly engrave his property with his rank, denoting his standing in the military community. No "Col." in sight, no "C", no "B," no "CB," or "CBV." Just "UV," which usually stands for Ultra Violet! But not for this creative ebay wheeler-dealer.

Why would the good Colonel, first, skip his rank, and then have all his items carefully inscribed with a name he didn't have? (left, initials on the pouch) Maybe to throw the Boers off his trail? Agreed, it is a possibility we must consider ....

A more probable explanation is that these items didn't belong to a military figure at all, let alone to a Colonel, and certainly not to anyone called Courtenay B. Vyvyan.

Maybe they belonged to Uriah Venables, or Ulysses Vetch, two men whose exploits in the Boer War are not recorded or remembered anywhere, by anyone. The possiblities are literally endless, what with half a million men in South Africa. What about World War I, just a few years later? Millions more possibilities there: Unctious Vail, Urban Vaud.....Actually Ultra Violet is starting to look good...

Tally Ho!! But who says this is military? There are no signs at all, except this highly questionable dealer's say so. Very likely this is a period fox hunting memento that once belonged perhaps to Umberto Volturno, or maybe to "Unspeakable" Vaughan, you know, the former friend of Oscar Wilde. (Wilde, right, is on record as Vaughan being one of the many of "The Unspeakables in Search of the Inedible.")

Pity. Makes for a poor sale item on ebay.

So. Why not just say Vyvyan.... Say Col. Vyvyan. Ignore his other initials. Just the right touch of obscurity, with a dash of Baden-Powell star power. BP stuff sells great all over the world. Ebay buyers aren't going to worry about - or learn about - that other awfully embarrasing initial, until long after the sale is closed.

Conclusion of Our Experts: UV stands for "Unsubstantiated Verification." This is a very nice fox-hunting pouch that once belonged to a dandy of the horsey set - lots of those in the UK. There is no credible evidence of any kind - whether actual or circumstantial - presented, that this was in the Boer War, let alone that it belonged to British Victorian soldier Lt. Col. Coutenay B. Vyvyan.

Was it ever in a Boer War collection? Who cares. It will not stand - in any way - on its own merits. Lots of collections contain fakes: photos wrongly labelled, medals that have been renamed, or had bogus bars added, badges, tunics, helmet reproductions etc., and countless items whose only provenance is the "say so" of an antique dealer who makes his living from selling - and pumping up what he is selling.

Finally, knowing what you know now, would you feel comfortable writing the banners for ebay that this dealer did?

This has all the earmarks of a classic ebay con. (See others on our Fakes Galore pages)

The Dealer Speaks: When contacted by one of our experts about these anomalies in his listings, and asked for an explanation, the dealer was curt, and offered no supporting proof, or further provenance. He did not issue a revised warning on any of these items to alert possible buyers that he might be mistaken on his wildly fanciful listings, but let things stand exactly as he wrote them. To say he was not receptive to these querries would be an understatement.

But he knew something he wasn't telling, and offered a word of advice: "If you're not sure, pls do not bid, as you are obviously an expert."

Curiously, rather than trying to entice us into buying a rare treasured Boer War discovery - what every purveyor of genuine Boer War memorabilia would obviously try to do - he didn't want to risk our bad Feedback from receiving a bogus item. It seems clear that an "expert" is the last thing this ebay dealer wants to encounter with some of his items.


If you love this kind of provenance, this dealer has more for you.

How about "a good original Boer War portrait/painting of BP," and "signed by the well-known Boer War artist "F J WAUGH"

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