Boer War Page 30

Great Anglo-Boer War Battles 3


The Kilties (1902-1933): "The Maple Leaf Forever" 1902
(also known as the Regimental Band of the Gordon Highlanders)

You are listening to one of Canada's very first recordings, "The Maple Leaf Forever," 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 Maple Leaf Forever was English Canada's unofficial national anthem. The Canadians sang it everywhere in South Africa.

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



Coetzee's Drift, May 5, 1900
As the British Army advanced on Pretoria, the Boers tried to stop it at every natural barrier, including river crossings. At the Vet River (left), Lord Roberts ordered the Canadians to seize the drift (ford), still visible, snaking out from under the modern bridge.
Lt. Richard Turner from Montreal (below), won the DSO, the Distinguished Service Order, the second highest award for bravery in the British Empire for repeatedly swimming across the Vet River (right), to draw the fire of the Boers who were dug in on the north (right) bank.

Lt. Harold Borden, the only son of Canada's Minister of Militia, was brought to Lord Roberts' attention for swimming with Turner across the Vet River.

A few months later, while standing up to scout the Boer positions, as his men were rescuing a British unit, Borden was shot and killed. All Canada mourned his loss.


Faber's Put: May 30, 1900

The Boers launched a surprise dawn attack on the sleeping British and Canadian units camped all around this stone kraal and farm buildings in the background

The Canadians had their horses penned in this kraal while Capt. Mackie (below left) and Col. Sam Hughes (below right) slept in the farmhouse. They were asleep in the room below right, when they were wakened by gunfire on the sides of the house (below). 

The bullet holes (below) are still visible behind the head of historian John Goldi (below left) who shows where Hughes and Mackie were standing, in socked feet and underwear, while shooting to defend the camp.  Hughes would later claim he deserved the Victoria Cross for his heroic actions.
Standing where the Canadian guns were parked for the night (below), John Goldi points to the kraal which held the Canadian horses, and from the far side of which, the Boer fire was coming. 

When Canadian gunners aimed over the heads of the Boers at their horses, the Boers, fearing they would lose their only means of escape, fled the scene.

Jack Randell (above) poses beside his 12 pounder at Cape Town. Weeks later he would service the gun at Faber's Put as it fired over the kraal (right). "The Boers surrounded us on three sides and gave us hell. The horses ..... stampeded, and everything was confusion. Our artillery horses stood their ground, and after the drivers had taken them to safety behind the farmhouse, we opened fire with our twelve-pounders and machine-gun and soon had the Boers on the run. We lost twenty killed and about one hundred wounded out of a column of five hundred men." - Jack Randell

(below) William Latimer's tombstone in Kimberley cemetery. Like many of the dead, Latimer was first buried on the battlefield, and his place marked with a rough stone or stick cross, inscribed by his friends. Then the army moved on. They lay there until the 1960s when complaints of Boer farmers resulted in moving the dead to centralized town cemeteries. The tombstones were paid for by a group of Canadians overseen by the Canadian Governor-Generals wife, Lady Minto.

The first fatality of the Royal Canadian Field Artillery, Bmdr. W. Latimer occurred on this spot. He was only 21. His home town of Granby, PQ set up the monument below in his honour. (Postcard found in Oregon, US)

Left, the Canadian wounded after Faber's Put.

Postscript: Sam Hughes (top right) was angry that many British soldiers had died, and complained to the press in Cape Town and Canada, that General Warren, (below), who had only months before presided over the disaster at Spion Kop, had picked a bad camping spot and posted too few sentries. The military high command ordered Hughes back to Canada for insubordination.

And Later: During World War I Sam Hughes would become Canada's Minister of Militia, in effect directing the Canadian war effort during World War 1. But in the end he would be fired for writing an intemperate memo to Canadian Prime Minister Robert Borden, which in effect accused him of being a liar.

General Warren & Jack the Ripper

Before the Boer War, Charles Warren had been a noted archaeologist. His excavations under the Temple Mount in Jerusalem remain the biggest holes that were ever dug there. He shared his passion with a close friend, Victorian explorer, map maker, and scholar, Col. Claude Reignier Conder, 1848 - 1910 . Then Warren became the Chief of the London Metropolitan Police just as the mutilated bodies of Jack the Ripper's victims started appearing to horrify Victorian London in the 1880s.

Everyone wondered what kind of monster could do such a thing? And what were all those strange symbols and writings the killer left? No one could ever decipher them, and the Ripper was never caught. Warren finally had to resign over his failure to solve the Ripper murders.

But the latest resarch contends that Warren knew more than he let on. Researchers now claim that new evidence shows that the Ripper's symbols came from ancient writings that Warren and Conder had first discovered on their archaeological digs. No one else knew about them.

But, the researchers contend, Warren, loyal to old friends of the upper class took the secret to his grave, rather than betray a friendship.

(For more details go to your search engine and type in "Jack the Ripper Charles Warren.")


Leliefontein: Nov. 7, 1900

British and Canadian army units were returning to camp at Belfast, after a long burning expedition, when they were attacked by a Boer commando. British General Smith-Dorrien ordered Col. Francois Lessard from Quebec (left), to organize his Canadians (Mounted Rifles and artillerymen) to fight a rear guard action to protect the back of the retreating British army. Because of his outstanding work Lessard was pictured as one of only 2 Canadians honoured to be among 75 British generals pictured in a huge colour portrait (left) in "Celebrities of the Army".


Leliefontein - Nov. 7, 1900
Victoria Cross Action:

78 Victoria Crosses were awarded to British soldiers during the Anglo-Boer War, Canada winning four in all.

Three of these four VCs were won at the Battle of Leliefontein, for acts of outstanding heroism during the retreat of the British forces.

Essentially the Canadians were to stay behind to fight off the Boers so the main army could escape the wrath of the people whose farms they had been burning.

Sgt. Eddie Holland VC: Historian John Goldi shows the spot from which Eddie Holland (left and below left), fired his Colt machine gun against a wave of Boers charging down on him from the far ridge.

Just before the Boers reached him, Holland carried off the red hot barrel of the Colt in his arms, receiving severe burns in the process. Holland won the Victoria Cross for his bravery.


Eddie Holland, VC
Lt. Hampton Cockburn VC: When it seemed all but certain that the Canadian guns would be overrun, Lt. Cockburn (left photographed on the eve of leaving for South Africa) rallied a group of men to fight a delaying action in the grass as the artillerymen tried to steer the pannicking horses into an orderly retreat. The ploy worked but Cockburn and his men were overrun and taken prisoner.

Lt. Richard Turner VC, DSO: Shouting "Never let it be said that Canadians let their guns be captured," Lt. Richard Turner from Montreal, (below left), although already suffering from two wounds, made a desperate stand with a handful of his men to give the Canadian gunners time to get away with their guns.

The guns were saved but his men were all killed, wounded, or captured. Turner, who had won the DSO - the Distinguished Service Order, Britain's second highest medal for bravery - at Coetzee's Drift, for swimming the Vet River under heavy fire - now was awarded the Victoria Cross.
One who died heroically, near the monument where the action took place, (below right), was Norman Builder (right), a Sergeant from Brantford Ontario.
There he is remembered with a memorial in front of the armouries (below.) He was photographed in his Canadian militia uniform of the Norfolk Rifles in 1897 only two years before he joined up and left Canada for the last time.

The memorial (right) marks the high spot of the action, where both Boer generals (including Komdt. H.F. Prinsloo below), were killed during Turner's valiant stand to prevent them from capturing the Canadian guns.

Gen. Smith-Dorrien, who was the British commander at Leliefontein, paid for the memorial, many years after the war, to honour the brave Boer commanders he had fought.

The lonely field at Leliefontein where three of Canada's four Boer War Victoria Crosses were won.

The ceremony on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, as the Duke of York, the future King George V, pins the Victoria Cross on the tunic of Eddie Holland, on the carpet in the shadow of Queen Victoria's statue, which had just been dedicated in honour of the late Queen.

Postscript: During World War I, Lt. R.E.W. Turner VC, would become Major-General Turner VC, lead Canada's Second Division in France, and would then become commander of all Canadian troops in Great Britain.

c Goldi Productions Ltd. 1996 & 2000