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Local Heroes 10


A Truly Wonderful Discovery and a Great Canadian Mystery?
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Canadian Mounted Rifles Trooper, 1900
Original tempera painting - Image Size - 20" x 24"
Found - Winnipeg, MB
On stretcher, original frame & glass, cedar shake back, name & numbers in pencil on frame
The Mystery Trooper: The Canadian Boer War Museum has just reclaimed for posterity, from the ash heap of history, this stunning and huge original tempera painting, on canvas, of a Canadian Boer War volunteer.

Of the hundreds of portraits that we have looked at, of Canadian soldiers who went to war during the last century, this is the most fantastic one, by far, that we have ever seen.

It is also one of the very few that remain from the Boer War.

It came from Winnipeg, and for the past 100 years was lovingly preserved in this wonderful condition by a family to whom this soldier lad was special. Did he go and never return?

Who could he be? Perhaps you can help?

If you can offer any possible information at all, as to the clues that come from his clothes, his possible regiment, home town, or name, please give us a call or send an email.
The Mystery Name: Does this signature - from the back of the picture - help or hinder the search for this western Canadian hero?

The groupings, sizing etc. are completely accurate, virtually life size. The first word is very clear, the letters all joined and are virtually certain as capital W, small i, small l, small s, small m that stops with an upward loop. The next grouping could be just a numbers group, is marred by wood scratching, but first letter seems a definite 1, starting with a strong downstroke, followed perhaps by 8, a 3, and almost certainly by a 2, or z. We thought of Wilson, but the fifth letter is definitely a carefully written m, with a first very careful loop on the m ending with a strong downstroke and going up to from the middle loop, with no vestigial o anywhere. And the m ends the word, though some scratchings follow in the gap.

Is the first word his first name, or his last? Or an abridgement like Will Smith by a half-literate writer or one in a hurry? Is the last word his last name, like Long? Or his regimental number like 1032, or 1832? Or D 32, for D Squadron 32?

Is the last group his regimental number? Could he have been a member of the 5th, or 6th CMR who went to Africa but didn't arrive till the war was over. Did their regimental numbers go over 1000? None of the other Contingents' numbers did.

Names and regimental numbers for early Canadian contingents can be found in Canadians in Khaki (see book section), or for all contingents in Ridpath/Ellis, The Story of South Africa. We don't know where names and regimental numbers for the 5th and 6th Contingents can be found. Any ideas?

From sunny southern Alberta, George F. Kush, UE, CD writes:
"The trooper is certainly a member of the 2nd Battalion Canadian Mounted Rifles. Note the trooper's holster and revolver. Only the 2CMR's used the "Mexican-loop" holster, and they used it with the Colt Model 1878 DA "New Frontier" revolver.
Note the revolver's "bird's head" grip - it is positively a Model '78. While Col. Lessard of the 1st Battalion Canadian Mounted Rifles believed that handguns were unnecessary, Col. Evans of the 2CMR considered revolvers an excellent addition, ideal for scouting and close-quarter work. While the officers of the 2CMR carried their revolvers in closed holsters, the men used the Mexican-loop style. These holsters were supplied by Great West Saddlery of Winnipeg & Calgary and Alberta Saddlery of Calgary. While some of the revolvers were chambered for .44 WCF the majority were chambered .45 LC. Over the years I've had an opportunity to examine a great deal of material connected to the 2CMR and while I can't be 100% certain, I'm 99.9% confident that the trooper is a member of that organization. The fact that the painting surfaced here in western Canada also lends support to my position."

We thank George for his great sleuthing and fine educational explanation. Now can we decipher the trooper's name or regimental number, from what we have below?

(Above right a Colt 1878 Double Action New Frontier revolver, and left a "Mexican Loop" type of holster. The "loop" refers to the leather bands outside the holster proper, which could be either single, double, or triple. The trooper above is carrying either a single or double Mexican loop holster, a rig which originated in Northern Mexico in the 1870s and by 1900 was in widespread use across the northwestern USA and western Canada.)


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Boer War "Discovery of the Month" (Oct 2001)

The Canadian Boer War Museum has been extremely fortunate to acquire an unbelievably rare framed chromalithograph from the Boer War. This large (picture surface is 16 x 24") is in immaculate condition, and the only one we've ever seen. (Found in Montreal, Quebec).
The consensus here is that the uncanny resemblance between "The Bugler" and Canadian bugler Edwin McCormick (below) is not a coincidence.
McCormick served two tours in South Africa, first with Lord Strathcona's Horse, then with the Canadian Mounted Rifles. He was present at the Battle of Hart's River, Mar. 31, 1902, and using the bugle (below left), blew the Last Post as they buried the Canadians the evening after the battle.

"The Bugler" is a completely Canadian production, being painted by Paul Wickson of Paris, Ontario, produced by the Toronto Lithographing Company, and published as a Supplement to the Toronto Globe's Xmas issue of 1901.

Hundreds must have been in Canadian homes to honour their heros in far off Africa. This print has been lovingly cared for by numerous generations, probably descended from a Boer War veteran.

c Goldi Productions Ltd. 1996 & 2000