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Harry Macdonough (1871-1931) & S.H. Dudley:
"Bye and Bye You Will Forget Me" c 1900

You are listening to an original recording from c 1900, featuring two of Canada's very first recording artists, Harry Macdonough, and SH Dudley, singing "Bye and Bye You Will Forget Me." Soldiers sang poignant songs such as this in camps while they pondered their future after leaving home and girlfriends for a year's service in a dangerous war in South Africa.

Details on getting full versions on our Music Page.

Victorian/Edwardian Medals - 1

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For Conspicuous Gallantry: The Victoria Cross
The British Empire's Top Medal
The Victoria Cross: The most prized medal issued to British soldiers during the past 150 years is the Victoria Cross (left).

The VC was introduced during the Crimean War for conspicuous, individual acts of gallantry in the presence of the enemy.

In 1854-56 Britain and France fought the Russian Empire, principally in the Crimea. Right is the Crimea Campaign medal featuring the main battles: Sebastopol, Inkerman, Balaklava, and the Alma. Today, these famous battles are memorialized on countless streets in Canadian towns and villages named by veterans of these campaigns who came to Canada to help carve "civilization" out of the wilderness.

Crimean War, and subsequent VCs, were all cast from captured Russian cannons, until 1942, when the supply ran out and gun metal was used instead.

The Victoria Cross is still the highest honour - civilian or military - that the British Empire recognizes, and takes pride of place atop a list of 78 honours available to British citizens.

During the 19th century only 4 Canadians won a Victoria Cross.

William Hall: The first Black Man - and only the second Canadian - to ever win a Victoria Cross, was William Hall, born and died in Nova Scotia. Left, sporting his VC on top, he had early volunteered for the British Navy, and was aboard a ship shelling the Mutineers holding the British Residency at Lucknow, India, during the Indian Mutiny in 1857. Though all about him were shot and killed, he - and one other survivor - continued to operate the ship's last serviceable gun against the land position, an outstanding feat for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross. He proudly sports the India General Service medal (left) with its Lucknow bar near his buttons.

Fighting in the same campaign was a fellow Victoria Cross winner who would become Britain's most poplar general of all time.

The India Lobby: Young Lt. Frederick Roberts, seeing Indian Mutineers making off with the Regiment's colours, rode "into the jaws of death" to win them back, slashing his way against fierce opponents, to reclaim the flag and win the Victoria Cross (shown far left on his breast with a wrongly-coloured ribbon.)
Like Hall, he sports the India campaign medal (left) with its bars next to his VC.

Of Irish descent - he was born in India to General Abraham Roberts - he spent almost his entire life there. He won fame when he led the British Army in an astonishing and fabled route march from Kabul to Kandahar where he dealt a crushing blow to the Afghan army. In 1895 he retired as Lord Roberts of Kandahar, Commander-in-Chief of the British Army in India - the second most coveted post in the British Imperial Army.

He wrote his memoirs, "Forty-one Years in India," full of countless and affectionate references to his Indian and British army colleagues, and returned to live out the rest of his days, in peace, in Ireland, as Commander-in-Chief of the British Army there. He could not have foreseen that the Great Anglo-Boer War would forever change, not only his, but countless other lives. Below some of the General Service Medals and Campaign Bars which Imperial troops in India under Roberts were awarded (for Burma, Waziristan, Tirah, Samana, Punjab Frontier.)

Because they fought "Fuzzy-wuzzies" in so many campaigns across the frontier reaches of Northern India, Afghanistan, and Burma - in fact, Roberts spent his entire life doing it - the officers in the India service believed they were the elite arm of the British Army.
The VC Motto: "Who wants to be a dead hero!" This saying could very well have resulted from the initial policy governing who could win a Victoria Cross. In fact, to get a VC - besides performing a death-defying act of gallantry in the face of the enemy - you had to survive, to be honoured for your bravery. Too bad if you "made the ultimate sacrifice" in the process, no VC for you! In fact, it would take the Anglo-Boer War to change the policy.
The Africa Lobby: A great - and sometimes bitter - rivalry for influence began in the British Imperial Army between those who chose a career in the Indian Army - the biggest hot spot in Victoria's Empire - and the "Africa lobby," who developed a career fighting Zulus and other African tribes in different parts of Africa. Each tried to get their favourites into the influential positions of policy making and power in Britain.

Left representing the India lobby, Lord Roberts VC, and right the chief protagonist of the Africa lobby, General Sir Redvers Buller VC, in Magic Lantern slides. Though top generals in the British Army, they had never met.

The Zulu Wars: While Lord Roberts was busy in India, General Sir Redvers Buller made his career in Africa, and won his VC in the Zulu Wars, for repeatedly riding back into fierce Zulu fire to rescue men of his unit who became unhorsed and faced certain death.

Interestingly enough, while Roberts won his VC for risking his life for a "symbol" of Queen and Empire, Buller risked his for saving the lives of his men.

It was a telling difference that would play out in the Anglo-Boer War.

The culminating clash between the India and Africa lobbies would occur during the opening months of the Anglo-Boer War when these men would have their final face-off. But it would take a personal, and national tragedy, before a victor would be named. One would retire in official disgrace, but remain a wildly popular hero. The other became "Bobs," the British Empire's most popular general of all time.

(Right a Tuck post card from the 1890s celebrating Buller's VC. Found in Woodstock, ON.)

Isandhlwana & Rorke's Drift: The most Victoria Crosses ever awarded during a single action was 11 for the Defence of Rorke's Drift during the Zulu Wars in Natal, South Africa, in Jan. 1979.

On Jan. 22, 1879, some 1,800 British troops camped on the slopes at the foot of Isandhlwana Mountain (below), were overrun and slaughtered on the spot by some 23,000 spear-wielding Zulus. They were buried where they lay under the piles of white stones. It was one of the British Victorian Army's worst defeats ever.

A few survivors managed to get away, fleeing to the left, towards Fugitive's Drift, and Rorke's Drift. As the disaster unfolded, British Lt. Melvill (far right) was entrusted to "save the colours," and Lt. Coghill, left, though wounded, turned to help him at Fugitive's Drift before they were overcome by Zulus and killed. The colours, which fell from their exhausted hands during the heat of their battle at "Coffin Rock," drifted down the river and were recovered days later.

Melvill and Coghill's heroism was trumpeted around the Empire, but, unlike Roberts who, 20 years before, won a VC for performing the same deed, Melvill and Coghill both died and so failed to qualify for the VC. They - and General Buller - were entitled to the Zulu Wars General Service Medal (below right.)

Left, the site of the disaster photographed only days after the battle with the abandoned wagons still sitting in the midst of the massacre zone.

Below, where two of Victorian Britain's biggest heroes, Melvill and Coghill, met their end on the points of Zulu spears, on the slopes above Coffin Rock in the Buffalo River. They - and another survivor of the massacre at Isandhlwana had fled left along the far shore, (left photo below), to the shallows at Fugitive's Drift.

At Coffin Rock (large below right) which is half way up and a quarter of the way in on the left picture, the three men huddled for protection as Zulu spears flew at them. The flag fell out of their hands and drifted down the rapids to the right. They swam for survival, tumbled over the rapids, and then the utterly exhausted Melvill carried the wounded Coghill up the near slope, where both were overcome and killed by the Zulus.

(For more pictures and info on these men and their heroic deeds see Peter Critchley's web site, to whom the two pictures below are duly credited with thanks.)

The Sudan
The Sirdar and the Sudan: Britain's most spectacular success, before the Anglo-Boer War, was Lord Kitchener's enormous victory in 1898, in avenging the death - in 1885 at the hands of the Dervish tribes under control of the Mahdi - of General Gordon at Khartoum. At the Battle of Omdurman Lord Kitchener killed some 10,000 Dervish tribesmen with a loss of only some 48 men of his own, thanks to British rile fire and machine guns.
Above, the carpet of dead tribesmen, at Omdurman, in front of the British lines and machine guns from an 1898 Bacon print. Left a rare celebratory plate of Lord Kitchener, "The Sirdar" of the Sudan.

Within a year he would become Lord Roberts' Chief of Staff during the Great Anglo-Boer War, creating what the British public believed was an unbeatable team of the British Empire's top two soldiers. The Boers were to give everyone a surprise that stunned the world.

Above, and left, the Khedive's Sudan campaign medal, awarded by the ruler (Khedive) of Egypt. Winston Churchill, who was a young officer on the campaign, and fought at Omdurman, at Khartoum, would have worn the medal above with bar for Khartoum, as well as for other actions in which he fought. The native soldier (left) was at 7 major actions in the Sudan and survived.

Above right, the Queen's Sudan Medal awarded without bars, for the same campaign.

TheVictoria Cross in the Great Anglo-Boer War

VCs in Anglo-Boer War: During the Anglo-Boer War, 78 VCs would be awarded.

Col. CJ Long, left, was responsible for the most Victoria Crosses won in the Boer War during a single action - seven, at Colenso, on Dec. 15, 1899, as men repeatedly braved a murderous Boer bombardment and withering rifle fire during the vain attempt to rescue Long's 12 guns which had fallen into the hands of the Boers. See Great Battles Page 28 for the whole story of the reckless and foolhardy Col. Long. Or was he a great hero, as Boer General Botha claimed?

Colenso also figured in two sets of fathers and sons each ultimately winning the Victoria Cross. Freddy Roberts - son of Lord Roberts VC - was nominated for a VC for his gallant part in the rescue of the guns on the site below.

Left, historian John Goldi stands on the exact, bullet-swept spot where 7 VCs were won in the rescue of two of Col. Long's guns that stood where the stone blocks are today. Freddy, celebrated posthumously in a cigarette card, above, fell mortally wounded, right behind the block on the right. But since he died of his wounds, Freddy, no longer qualified for the Victoria Cross. The other six men got their VCs.

n 1905, three years after the end of the war, the policy of awarding the VC only to living men was finally reversed. The first posthumous Victoria Crosses were awarded to Lts. Melvill and Coghill, the heroes of Isandhlwana in 1879.

Freddy Roberts - the hero of Colenso - was awarded his posthumous VC as well, making Lord Roberts and Freddy the first father and son to both win the Victoria Cross.

Capt. Congreve, who had helped in rescuing the guns, and went back to bring back the mortally wounded Freddy Roberts, had won a VC at Colenso. He was to feel Lord Robert's tragedy more than he could ever have known. During World War 1, when he was a senior commander, his son won a VC on the Western Front, but was killed. The Congreves became the second father and son Victoria Cross winners.

Postscript: Colenso - one of three horrific defeats a hesitant General Buller had suffered at the hands of the Boers during Black Week in Dec. 1899 - was the last straw for the British High Command. To them, Buller was just too concerned about saving the lives of his men, instead of throwing them headlong into determined charges against the Boers. Buller was sacked; Roberts - an "Indian" with no "African experience" - was given Supreme Command over the war in South Africa. In the morning he got his fondest wish; in the afternoon of the same day, he received the tragic message about the death of Freddy, his only son, and Buller's condolences. Wrote Roberts aboard ship to his wife, "Honours, rewards, congratulations have no value to me. How different it would have been if our dear boy had been with me."

Roberts reprised his fabled march from Kabul to Kandahar with his equally famous March to Pretoria, the biggest march of a conquering army since Napoleon's march on Moscow in 1812. Roberts went home 10 months later - his army in command of the main cities and towns and the railways - certain that his traditional tactics had ended the war. But the Boers started a two year guerilla campaign that left the British helpless and fumbling through the longest and most bitter period of the war.

Canadian Victoria Crosses
Canadian VC: Canadians won four Victoria Crosses during the war, three being awarded to Sgt. Holland (above left), Lt. Hampton Cockburn (centre), and Lt. REW Turner DSO, all within possibly half-an-hour during the Battle of Leliefontein, Nov. 7, 1900. See Great Battles page 30.

Sgt. Richardson of Lord Strathcona's Horse won his VC for riding back into heavy Boer fire to rescue a comrade in July, 1900, an event memorialized in the Canadian lithograph from 1900 titled "VC." Many men actually repeated this feat throughout the war, most of whom got lesser, or no official recognition at all, for their gallantry. Canadian Cpl. William Knisley was severely wounded at Leliefontein for his "rescue" and was awarded only the DCM, the second highest medal for bravery. Back home, in Jarvis, ON, for years, people spoke of their local hero winning the "VC."

For all those who got no official recognition, it must have been personally deeply satisfying to save the life of a "chum" in battle.

Eddie Holland, VC
Henry Manning Douglas VC, DSO: Some 150 Canadians served as officers in British units during the Boer War, because, since Canada had no standing army of its own, they could only find employment in the British Army. So Canadians were already dying in South Africa before the first official Canadian contingent even arrived.
The first Canadian casualty of war was Lt. C. Wood of Halifax, who was killed at the Battle of Belmont while serving in the British Lancashire Regiment in 1899.

Other Canadian-trained officers in the British Army were winning medals. Harry Douglas (left), was a graduate of Queen's University in medicine and served in the Royal Army Medical Corps.

At Magersfontein on Dec. 11, 1899, somewhere in the area where historian John Goldi is standing - where the Scandinavian corps of the Boer army was overrun and annihilated, and now lies buried under the monument - Harry Douglas won his VC for repeatedly braving a hailstorm of rifle fire to attend to the wounded officers and men that littered the ground in this area. He had already won a DSO, the Empire's second highest award for bravery. Henry survived to serve in World War 1 and became a Major-General in the British Army.

The only other Canadian to win both top medals during the war, was Richard Turner VC, DSO, from Montreal (above).

(Picture of Harry Douglas courtesy of Pete Starling, Curator, Army Medical Service Museum, Aldershot, UK)

c Goldi Productions Ltd. 1996 & 2000