Boer War Page 32

The Postcard War

In the days before telephones, radio, and television, the postcard was by far, the most common way of communicating between people. Hundreds of pictorial cards from the Boer War were published in Britain, Canada, France, Germany, and Russia, and all took sides. Continental European cards generally ridiculed British efforts for launching this unpopular war and praised Boer leaders and accomplishments.

The Sousa Band: "Canadian Military March #3" 1904

You are listening to a popular Boer War Canadian military march recorded in 1904 by the Sousa Band, under the direction of Herbert Lincoln Clarke (1867-1945) in Philadelphia, USA, specifically for use only in Canada.

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

Patriotic Postcards

General Buller, the first Commander-in-chief in South Africa was honoured with a card, drawing attention to the Victoria Cross he had won many years before, by rescuing unhorsed comrades from certain death. (Found in Montreal, PQ)

Younger patriots in uniform and sporting weapons, were favorite postcard themes.

Postcards were issued showing the armories where Canadian militiamen had learned their military drill. This one is at St. Catharines, ON, but all the larger towns had them. (Found in Woodstock, ON)

Pro-Boer Postcards  
A card produced in the Russia of Tsar Nicholas II (right), warning the British that Boer families, including the women, would be armed to defend their homeland, and make a British victory hard to contemplate.

(below) A German card of armed children: "We are the Transvaal Boers. We live and die for our country."

It was not so far-fetched. Many boys of  12 and 13 fought on the side of the Boers.

A patriotic Boer defending flag and country.

Promotional Postcards
European companies made sets of Boer War cards with which they promoted their products as well as the cause of the Boers. The Liebig Company, the maker of a meat extract in Germany, issued a set of lyrical views of life in the Transvaal before the war began. These are still widely circulated.
Life was idyllic on a Boer Farm (top), and the stagecoach connected widely scattered communities. President Paul Kruger of the Transvaal lived in a modest house (above left). Even the Africans lived in romantic settings (above right).
But everything was to change when the world`s richest gold field, the Witwatersrand in the Transvaal Republic, was discovered in 1886. The coming of the largely British gold seekers (above left) and the opening of the gold mines (above right), started the sequence of events that many feared would lead to war.

To the south, observers noted with apprehension, the alarming British naval buildup in Cape Town, the capital of British Cape Colony.

But  another German company, the maker of Linde`s coffee, warned that the Boer Republic was ready against outside threats. They had a modern artillery in splendid uniforms, and a well-armed citizenry on good horses.

Postcards at War  
A German coffee-making company issued a somewhat neutral card when the war began (right). It features a cameo of British General Buller, and a commando of Boers exchanging fire with a British armored train.  

(below) A German card showing Boers blowing up a bridge at Colenso. On the back, an ad for "King Snow" soap powder, and a promise: "Brilliant white laundry without effort or damage." 

Smaller postcards were put in soap boxes, chocolate bars, or margarine.

A trilingual card: French, German, Dutch, showing the Boers firing from concealed rocky kopjes, on British troops out in the open, a strategy which kept the war going for three years. 

Vitello`s Margarine, a German company, warned what happens to English spies, in this case, an African shot by the Boers.

The Boers became world-famous for their monster guns, the ultra-modern "Long Toms" (above left) which they had bought to defend Pretoria. The British military said they were too heavy to ever be moved in the field and were astonished when the Boers took them overland to surround and besiege the British towns (above right).

Anti-British Postcards 

These postcards were issued in France found their way all over the world. They are still widely in circulation.

The European press was hostile to the British war against the Boers. It felt Britain started the war to get the gold in the Transvaal shown above where British Colonial Secretary "Chamberlain Pickpocket" is after the gold in Paul Kruger's pocket. But Kruger has caught him and is about to give him a drubbing, drawing attention to the early Boer victories. The writer has turned the British Royal Family motto, "Evil to him who thinks evil" on its head.






This postcard (above) mocked the stiff upper lip, of the British locked up in Kimberley, Mafeking, and Ladysmith and being bombarded by the Boer Long Toms. "No damage from the bombardment" writes the haughty Brit on a telegraph message to the outside world. "Right, A telegrapher without a head!" notes the writer.

"Stop, Stop, you idiot" shouts Victoria to Chamberlain (left). "Can't you see you're taking us into one devil of a mess?"

The Queen's Chocolate Gift Box, which Queen Victoria gave to all her soldiers in South Africa for Christmas 1900, was mocked by the Europeans. "Victoria's Chocolate: Infallible for curing wounds" drew attention to the horrendous casualties suffered by British soldiers in the opening months of the war.

c Goldi Productions Ltd. 1996 & 2000