Boer War Page 40
The Canadian Anglo-Boer War Project
The story behind the creation of the television series, "The Great Anglo-Boer War: The Canadian Experience," the web site, "The Canadian Anglo-Boer War Museum," and our initiative to memorialize the Canadian Experience in South Africa in a more permanent form - beyond the life of the web site, and the television program - through the Belmont Project, the setting up of the Fiset-O'Leary Center, and the creation of a permanent home for a Canadian Anglo-Boer War Museum in South Africa.
|Henri Wattier: "Reel de Fiset" 1938
You are listening to the "Fiset Reel" performed by Quebec fiddler Henri Wattier, who wrote it in honour of Major-General Sir Eugène Fiset, Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps, Hero of Paardeberg, "Father" of the modern Canadian Flag, and Lt. Governor of the Province of Quebec.
|A Goldi Productions, Canada Millennium Initiative: The Canada Anglo-Boer War Project
In 1999, to commemorate the approaching centennial of the Great Anglo-Boer War, 1899-1902, long-time Canadian independent film and television producers, Joan Goldi and John Goldi csc, decided to create the multi-phase "The Canadian Anglo-Boer War Project," to publicize a part of Canadian history no one seemed to know anything about, and showcase a story which had never been shown on television before. Historian John Goldi believed that the story of Canada's first ever military expedition sent to an overseas war, would make a gripping story of people and events caught up in the first Great War of the 20th century, and one that was marvelously suited for television communication.
Our initiative was honoured by being one of the very few television projects selected to become a Canada Millennium Partnership Program.
Our campaign to publicize this unknown part of Canadian history through "The Canada Anglo-Boer War Project," would involve several phases:
a) - We would produce an innovative television documentary series, feature presentation, that would put the story, and many South African Canadian historic sites, before Canadian television viewers for the very first time.
History Television contracted us to produce a two hour program, "The Great Anglo-Boer War: The Canadian Experience."
Only two modern books existed on the Canadian Anglo-Boer War; one a highly detailed academic treatment, the other one, largely a military history of the event. To make our program more appealing to a wider audience, we decided to create an innovative show that departed in numerous ways from standard history documentaries. It would take us three years of on-going research, culled from over 200 books we amassed on the Anglo-Boer War, to create the final script.
We were determined to use our long experience crafting educational film and television programs, to tell, above all, a human story of people - on all sides - caught up in the first Great War of the 20th century, focus on experts, anecdotes, letters, and voices of the past, and craft the program deliberately to grip the interest of, both general audiences, and experts in the field.
After seeing our rough cuts, History Television agreed to extend the program, first to three, then later again, to four hours.
"The Great Anglo-Boer War: The Canadian Experience," aired across Canada, to wonderful reviews.
b) - We would create an innovative Web Site: "The Canadian Anglo-Boer War Museum," to keep people around the world "in Touch With" the "Canadian Experience" during the Great Anglo-Boer War, between broadcasts. The Canadian Anglo-Boer War Museum is the largest and most lush web site ever created to accompany a television program anywhere in the world.
Instead of the few, small pictures so common on internet museums, we created The Canadian Anglo-Boer War Museum by deliberately using well over 1,000 large and glorious colour pictorials, to illustrate with unprecedented sumptuousness, hundreds of specially created educational modules on all aspects of The Great Anglo-Boer War. It remains the most lavish internet museum on the net. It would be selected as "Web Site of the Month" by "The Beaver" magazine and the Canadian National History Society, in August, 2002.
It is an outstanding success at publicizing "The Canadian Experience" around the globe as it receives many thousands of hits every month from history junkies around the world. And it receives international praise that any producer who could, would be pleased to publish.
c) - We would do a pioneering search for the "Trail of the Canadians" in South Africa, attempt to locate new sites of Canadian historical significance, tell the story largely from those places, and publicize these unique locations for the first time to Canadians.
In May 2000, historian John Goldi, and producer and project coordinator, Joan Goldi, travelled to South Africa to begin what turned out to be a pioneering trip researching and shooting historic sites related to "The Great Anglo-Boer War: The Canadian Experience."
Following the "Trail of the Canadians" proved to be an exhaustive and drawn-out affair - 11,000 kms by car and many more on foot - and would cause us to have to extend our projected stay considerably, but would unearth some amazing Canadian historic treasures whose existence was previously unknown and unpublicized.The obstacles were many. There were no wayside markers or guides to Boschbult Farm - where Canada suffered it's second most heavy day of casualties of the entire war; to the Canadian site at Leliefontein - where three of Canada's four Boer War Victoria Crosses were won; to Coetzee's Drift - where Canadians won fame for daring and pluck under fire; to Sunnyside - where Canadians first went into battle on foreign soil; or to Badfontein.- where Lord Strathcona's Horse suffered its heaviest losses of the war.
You only know you're there when you find a tombstone or memorial set up by the Boers and British somewhere on a hill or field, a hundred years ago. Otherwise, you're totally on your own. In the wilderness really. Which history buffs find wonderful. Virtually every battlefield and site is exactly the way it looked during the war, one hundred years ago. Wonderfully unspoiled by historic markers, fast food outlets, information booths, or tourist displays or facilities.
But for a producer trying to make a documentary, it's extremely trying. Almost all the Boer War sites are in really remote wilderness locations, and hugely scattered - it must be remembered that it was mostly a guerrilla war, so a battle could break out anywhere. Often, only the locals know where many sites are. So, in South Africa, hiring a battlefield guide is a must. Otherwise you will never find the sites you want without wasting days of searching or hundreds of miles of futile driving. Even when you get there on your own, you will not know it.
For South African sites the SATOUR guides are your only guarantee at finding Anglo-Boer War locations even for the major battlefields.
If you are interested in Canadian-specific sites, like we were, you are completely on your own.
Not Protected, Preserved, Posted or Publicized: As we were to discover to our dismay, the Canadian sites are totally unmarked on any map or brochure, and not posted with signage anywhere. A typically neglected site is Faber's Put (left) where the Canadian Artillery had its fiercest fight of the war, as its horses milled around in panic inside this decaying kraal.
Since tour guides are versed in the large battles for mostly British tourists, they were little help in finding the Canadian sites we wanted. We had to find all the Canada-specific locations ourselves, using research from our two hundred books on the Anglo-Boer War, and a large binder of historic maps historian John Goldi had brought with him, and by prying out tidbits of knowledge from local South African historians across the Republic who, as it turned out, also knew little indeed about sites related to the "Canadian Experience."
In the end, we were never able to find some, like Sunnyside, where the Canadians had their first action, though we had maps, and battle sketches, and we hiked all over, and we know, drove by it twice. Still, in the end we were able to feature an unprecedented number of set-ups on historic locations for a history documentary: 15 experts give 104 performances, at 83 different South African historic sites.
d) - We would create "The Belmont Project" to "Preserve and Protect, Post and Publicize" Great Canadian Historic Sites associated with "The Canadian Experience" in South Africa, to memorialize - beyond the life of the television series and the web site - this neglected
part of Canadian history.
- Canadian heritage sites in South Africa have been neglected for a century, and are not marked with signage of any kind, anywhere.
- The historic sacrifices of Canadians during the Anglo-Boer War are not commemorated with any modern signage in South Africa.
- There are important buildings and sites related to the Canadian Experience in the Great Anglo-Boer War, that are unprotected and in danger of disappearing forever unless steps are taken to preserve them.
- It took us lots of time, money, and effort to find Canadian heritage sites in South Africa; why should other Canadians have to experience the same difficulties?
- Our television program "The Great Anglo-Boer War: The Canadian Experience," had ended the century of neglect on this story for Canadians. Our web site publicized this part of Canada's neglected history for people in Canada and around the world. But our pioneering research uncovered that, sadly, the neglect extended to Canadian historic sites in South Africa.
- It was time to recognize the dedication of men like Dr. Eugène Fiset and Father P. O'Leary, heroes to a generation that honoured them for their dedication to Canadian volunteers in sickness, in health, and on the battlefield.
c Goldi Productions Ltd. 1996 & 2000