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Captain Henry Rivington Poussette, South African Constabulary - 1901-1908

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flashing newGreat Canadian Heritage Treasure

A very fabulous discovery are the Boer War photographs taken by Canadian Captain Henry Rivington Poussette, from Sarnia, Ontario.

He was an insurance agent who volunteered to go to South Africa in 1901, during the Boer War, to lead one of the 12 squadrons of the South African Constabulary that General Baden-Powell raised in Canada, to provide policing in areas that had supposedly been subdued by the British forces.

Henry was to remain in South Africa when the war ended in 1902, until 1908. There were many Canadians who fell in love with South Africa and chose to stay on to help restore it to normalcy when peace came.

There are numerous pictures of Henry squiring around young women by carriage so undoubtedly he had love interest there. Though it appears he never married in his long life. It's probably why he lived to be over 100...

His civilian life following the war kept him overseas most of the time though he returned to Sarnia when he retired in 1938. He celebrated his 100th birthday in 1972.

Henry was a passionate photographer and took many pictures of his stay in South Africa.

The photo album is the largest Boer War photo album we've seen, at a gigantic 29 x 38 cm and contains some 280 photos, most taken in South Africa, at Koffiefontein and the surrounding area, where he was SAC commandant in 1901 and after.

Boer War Photo Album and Memorabilia, Captain Henry Rivington Poussette, 1901-1908
Orig. items - Album Size - 29 x 38 cm
Found - Bloomfield Hills, MI

Henry's grandfather Peter Taylor Poussette was born in London, UK, became a lawyer, and emigrated to Canada and settled in Sarnia, Ontario, in 1839.

His most famous offspring, Dr. AC Poussette became Mayor of Sarnia and took a high profile in local political affairs.

His other son, Henry Maddox Poussette became an insurance agent and was Henry Rivington's father.

An early internet photo from c 1890 clearly shows the young Henry Rivington with his lacrosse team.

Henry's distinctive features show him sitting in the middle on the far left and allow us to pick him out in many of the photos in his album.

Henry followed his father into the insurance business.

Then at 29 he went off to the Boer War in South Africa.

A typical page from Henry's photo album shows the life he lived in South Africa during the Boer War.

As is typical of so many of these albums the pictures were not identified; the owner, after all, knew what each picture was about and didn't need to write it down.

Our curator has had to sort out Henry's photos by referencing them to known people, places, and events.

For instance we believe Henry put the important pictures on the first page.

In fact we are certain that General Baden-Powell is in two of the pictures on the left.

And there's Henry standing among his boys, on his horse, and his lads guarding a rock pile complete with Canadian ensign.

Two photos Henry featured prominently at the front of his album show the unmistakable profile of his commander Major-General Baden-Powell probably during an inspection tour of Henry's unit at Koffiefontein.

The officers with plumes are probably Australians.

Many photo albums of soldiers show anonymous men whom they encountered during the war as they did their drudge work. Rarely would they run into a celebrity general and if they did their camera was never handy. Generals were always going by on their way to more important places.

But Henry is different. As a captain, and a district commandant for General Baden-Powell, he could be expected to get a visit from his boss to see how his sector was doing.

Clearly this was such an occasion and Henry shows this officer grouping in different photos. Probably he wanted to show the folks back home that he was actually in physical contact with the most famous general in the world and later the founder of the Boy Scout movement.

There is another surprise though...

We believe standing aside, watching BP consult with his officers, is Lord Kitchener himself, the British Commander-in-Chief of the war effort in South Africa, from 1900 till 1902.

He would, no doubt, sometimes visit various parts of the front with General Powell and other generals. We believe Henry's camera captured one such moment.

Kitchener's profile is convincing.

Comparing his features with a known photo of him during the same period, he is unmistakable: his chin and chin line, his nose, eyes, the slope at the back of his head, his hairline and cut, and the general configuration of his ear and the layout of its lobes and folds.

Henry was one of the rare soldier photographers who was able to snap photos of the top two officers of his service in the Boer War.

Below right General Kitchener sketched in 1901, the same year Henry's photo was taken, in the uniform he wore when he reviewed troops.

Just more corroborative proof that the man in Henry's photo is indeed, K of Chaos. Below another pic of BP and K from Henry's album.

The largest photo in the album shows Henry as a proper British officer, in civvies, and sporting his cane, proudly sitting in the midst of his officers and NCOs, probably in front of the SAC headquarters at Koffiefontein. below with his horse.

Surprisingly Henry is not a tall man, but his force of personality must have been substantial to make him stand out for a command position in the South African Constabulary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The shots among the rocks are probably posed, on a day when they had little else to do, and decided to take some "Kodaks" for the folks back home. Note how the photographer, with Henry's camera, is well outside the stone barricades where the Boers are supposed to be threatening. But they are nowhere close.

Henry often wore the peaked forage cap, instead of the unique flat-brimmed Canadian stetson that Canucks in the field preferred to wear, probably to parade their distinctiveness from the British Tommies, and Aussies with their pinned up brims and plumes.

An unique picture shows that Canadians were distinctive in other ways. Here the Red Ensign, not the much more commonly displayed Union Jack, is flaunted by Henry's lads. The flag is symbolic of Canadian volunteers chaffing under irksome British military idiotsyncrasies that independent minded Canadians found hard to stomach.

The Canadians were all civilians - Henry was an insurance agent - who had just signed up for six months or a year for war duty in South Africa, before returning to civvy street. They guarded their civilian outlook and values from what they saw as mindless military rules.

The Canadians came under the command of British officers who were regulars, as were the vast majority of British soldiers, all of whom were quite used to the asinine idiocies common in the military. Hence civilians grew to mock the term "military intelligence" which crept into the dictionary as two words that were diametrically opposed. The Canadians remained, at heart, civilians, who just happened to wear a uniform for the moment.

The Red Ensign says these lads were free spirits, and would not put up with dumb rules synonymous with the Union Jack. This attitude led to friction between Canadians and their British officers on many occasions.

And sometimes with their Canadian commanders, like Colonel Otter, who were eager to please their British superiors unquestioningly.

Lights... Camera... Action - One of the most interesting photos in Henry's album is the dive picture which catches, probably Henry, in mid-air with a friend triggering his Kodak. There is another photo of Henry gazing from the water.

It was a common complaint, by so-called war photographers, sent out by their newspapers to catch action shots of troops fighting in the Boer War, that the camera technology was just too poor to be able to capture "action shots" of combat which the editors were desperate to get.

The excuses were two fold: that the cameras were just too big and heavy to follow the fast moving fighting troops at the front.

Others said the cameras were just not able to capture "action" shots.

The editors believed this because for 60 years people in studios had to stand very still for long exposures to capture a sharp image on the glass plate.

But Kodak, which introduced its compact folding cameras, and its paper negatives, in the 1890s changed all that, as Henry's pictures show.

He took his small camera everywhere and could clearly snap good "action" pictures when he chose.

He has captured women running while playing tennis, frozen several bucking horses in mid-leap, and has a fine picture of a horse race.

Clearly the contract photographers were lying, to avoid having to risk their lives, because here, on Henry's photos, are bodies in motion that are frozen in mid-air, in almost sharp detail, showing live action.

Clearly the photo technology was there to capture action, with just the right amount of blur that modern photographers strive for to avoid the look of a figure frozen still, instead of captured in motion.

Just photographers with the will to use them by exposing themselves to the same danger as the fighting troops, were not.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Though war news editors were pining for "danger" shots, of men in "action" tackling the enemy up close, they never got them, though there were hundreds of thousands of photos taken in the most photographed war in history.

Their cameramen employees insisted on taking big box cameras into the field to get "quality shots," and sent home, instead, interminable pictures of camps, horses staked out, men marching, and sitting around tents, all far behind the lines from where the shooting was being done.

The cameramen really relied on their big box cameras to be their life insurance. They were always packing up when the troops moved on, and trailed the army rather than embedding with the lead units. As a result war photographer was pretty well the safest job during the Boer War.

The photographers were clearly just too scared to take their cameras up to where the shooting was being done. No photographer thought they were being paid enough to risk their lives for a picture.

Which is why no combat photos were taken in the Boer War until Captain James Cooper Mason, a courageous Canadian officer, stood up in the Battle of Paardeberg and snapped the world's first combat photograph. A photo that had been 60 years in the making... And would not be repeated for years to come.

Go to the World's First Combat Photo

Lt. Col. Louis Eugene du Moulin, Royal Sussex Regiment (1860-1902)

Henry took snapshots of a number of graves of soldiers. After all this was war and graves were all over the place.

Henry took one of the Canadian graves at Paardeberg but it is too poor in quality to show much beyond that bodies of officers and men were buried where they fell, covered with rock piles and posted with a marker of sorts.

Two interesting photos right show more typical Boer War period graves.

With a magnifying glass we deciphered that in the middle was the grave of Lt. Col. Du Moulin, of the Royal Sussex Regiment, killed at Abraham's Kraal, in January 1902.

He was killed during a night attack by Boer commandoes who were finally repulsed.

The battle took place not far from where Henry was posted at Koffiefontein and while he was nearby.

The photo shows that wooden planks were often the only markers available. Sometimes rock slabs or stones were used, with the details scratched on with bayonets.

Through the years these markers fell apart or faded.

It was only in the 1960s and 70s that bodies were unearthed from inconvenient places, and reburied in centralized - often community - cemeteries.

Some, in more remote locations were just left alone.

One of these was the grave of Col. du Moulin.

The Boer War, though virtually forgotten in Canada, has common and daily reminders wherever one travels in the northern provinces of South Africa.

Blockhouses, graves, markers, battlefields, are all over the place, a reminder of a conflict that probably killed off some 10% of Boer women, children, and men.

Below an article from the Republic of South Africa's Sunday Times which shows the latest story of what happened at Col. du Moulin's grave site, long forgotten during the 107 years since Henry took his pictures there.

One of the remarkable things is that Afrikaners who suffered huge civilian losses - some 26,000 women and children, compared to only 4,000 Boer fighting men - are often as passionate at protecting the grave sites, and properly memorializing their former enemies, as they are of their own.

One such passionate man is David Scholtz at whose fabulous Langberg Guest Farm we stayed when we visited Kimberley, and the battlefields at Modder River, Belmont, Enslin, and Paardeberg. His house was actually a Boer command post during the battles in this area in 1899.

He was upset that Col. du Moulin's grave was not known, or properly registered or marked, and went about doing something about it.

He is the subject of the following story.

(final part of article from the "Sunday Times" (Republic of South Africa) right is below)

"On through Kimberley. Just 20km south of Kimberley on the N12 lies the little siding of Spytfontein with a wonderful bed-and-breakfast called Langberg.

The original farm was started by two Stellenbosch farmers, who supplied the huge Clydesdale horses for the early diggings at Kimberley, or Coleman's Kop as it was then called.

It was here that one of the businessmen, David Scholtz, a Boer War aficionado, asked me whether it would be possible to locate the grave of a fallen British lieutenant colonel named De Moulin, as the place of his burial was not known.

All that was known is that he fell in the skirmish of Abraham's Kraal somewhere near the present location of the Kalkfontein Dam on the road between Koffiefontein and the more famous diamond mine of Jagersfontein.

With time on our hands, off we set, found the turn-off and headed straight to the dam manager's home. Approaching, I saw an old gardener and asked whether he knew where the fallen British soldier was buried.

He pointed to a little hill and said the graves lay there. To the amazement of all in our party, here stood the standard British War Graves cross to Lieutenant Colonel De Moulin and the others who fell in that skirmish. Scholtz was delighted at the find.

But as we headed through Jagersfontein, the almost deserted Victorian village and mining town, then up through the beautiful and intensely sad memorial to the fallen Boer women and children in Bloemfontein, his fury grew.

All the while, Scholtz demanded: "How could the British bury a lieutenant colonel in a private's grave?"

The further we travelled, the greater his anger became.

On returning to Johannesburg, Scholtz started devising his plan. He contacted De Moulin's regiment, the Royal Sussex, stating that we had located De Moulin's grave and were appalled that a man of such standing should be remembered by a rank-and-file cross.

The Royal Sussex replied, congratulating us on the find, but adding that they did not have the money to erect a suitable monument.

David replied in his ineffable, diplomatic way, but between the lines one could clearly read: "We are not asking for money. Don't worry, if the British Army could not honour their dead suitably, the four of us would fund the monument!"

Now, the last thing you ever do is tell the British Army that if they cannot do right by their dead, then you will, and that could be read between the lines of their reply...

After much to-ing and fro-ing, design and acceptance, the memorial tombstone maker of Fouriesmith produced and erected the monument adjacent to where the dead lay. On April 14 2008, a group of us gathered at Langberg B&B.

The British had flown out the flag of the Royal Sussex, the regiment in which he had served. The British Military attaché Andy Mantel OBE came down especially from Pretoria.

Two representatives of the Sussex Regiment were present, Major C Wilmot and Lieutenant Colonel B Carlston.

Also present was Brigadier Potgieter, in charge of the Commonwealth War graves committee, along with Steve Lunderstadt from Kimberley and a further couple of Boer War historians from KwaZulu Natal, Alistair and Marion Moir from Lydenberg, and Paul Probert, all the way from Port Alfred.

The following morning, with the memorial draped in the Royal Sussex colours, the flags of both Britain and South Africa unfurled, and to the sound of a young bugler, the last monument to a fallen British soldier was unveiled on the lonely slopes of the Kalkfontein Dam in the Karoo of South Africa.

The mood was sombre, almost as if one could feel the presence of those who had fallen, and a gentle Free State wind blew softly over those plains."

Canada's First War Overseas - Against peaceful civilian farmers, their wives, and children...

A wonderfully symbolic picture Henry took, that shows Canada's role in the Boer War.

Regular soldiers in uniform surround, having captured for imprisonment, the ordinary Boer men of all ages, from boys in their teens to old men in their seventies and eighties.

They will be separated from their wives and children by force, and shipped thousands of miles away to Ceylon, St. Helena, and Bermuda, for years to come.

Years later, when they are allowed to come home they will find that their women and children had been imprisoned locally, and that tens of thousands of them were dead.

One must remember that, in the first war that Canada ever sent soldiers to fight overseas, they were attacking, not a professional army of a renegade state, but Boer civilian farmers rising up to protect their peaceful homeland from invading foreign (also Canadian) troops.

Right a common sight during the Boer War, as the conflict changed from military men confronting each other to guerilla tactics at the end of 1900.

When the Boer men, hugely outnumbered, changed to guerilla warfare, the British switched to slash and burn, doing an end run around the men to tackle their women, elders, and kids, left defencelessly on the farms.

British generals like Kitchener hoped that if the farms were burned to the ground, all the livestock killed (millions of sheep, cattle, and horses were killed and left to rot) and the women and children locked up in concentration camps, the men would give up.

Wrote Canadian Lt. EWB Morrison who was there when Canadians sacked Dullstroom, "Nobody who was there will ever forget that day's work. There was nobody in the town but women and children.... Amid the row of the cannonade and the crackle of riflefire, the sacking of the place began.... on the steps of the church were huddled a group of women and children. Their faces were white and their eyes blazed....."

Go to Canadians Sack Dullstroom

Right an evocative drawing that is very hard to find in Boer War era history books, because it would not ring well with civilians - especially rural people - back home in Canada or the UK.

And its heading was suitably left at the door of "Colonial Troops Burning a Boer House."

In fact the vigorous looters and burners are Canadians wearing the typical flat brimmed stetson associated with the frontiersmen from the wild Canadian west.

Canadians did a lot of this work for General Kitchener, and is one reason very few extended their contracts to continue on in South Africa after their one year term of service was up.

Unlike the hardened and lower class British regulars, who relished this work - hey it's why they joined the military - Canadian civilian volunteers, who had much more education, and often had rural roots themselves, found burning homesteads, killing livestock, and making women and children homeless and destitute, extremely distasteful, as noted by EWB Morrison left with Boer War VC winner Richard Turner right. Both did the burning as young men and became generals in World War I.

In our day this idea of war against helpless civilians has been ruthlessly updated by the Israelis, who believe it was badly applied as a tactic in the Boer War, and switched to deliberately killing - not just locking up - thousands of civilian Muslim women and children, in Lebanon, and Gaza, hoping in this way, to bring their elusive men folk to heel and desperately sue for a deal at any price. Or lose more women and children during the next round.

It's why French-Canadians, en masse, opposed the Boer War Canadian military adventure. They said Canadians were merely being used as sidekick gunmen by Britain, the world's most terrorist nation of the age, to help subdue a helpless foreign country to the will and exploitation of its corporate elites.

Who said History doesn't repeat... on me... British corporate interests wanted the gold fields the Boers had and so engineered an intervention to get what they wanted by force. And the toadying politicians tarted it up with patriotic ribbons to fool the public into participating. (A total repeat of Canada's military intervention in Afghanistan a century later, with the Canadians, this time, being mere sidekick gunmen to the Americans.)

And the cost to Boer civilians who dared oppose foreign military intervention in their communities, was burned houses and barns, and some 26,000 thousand dead women and children. (Many more Afghan women and children have been ruthlessly exterminated as a result of US and NATO intervention.)

Henry took a number of pictures of burned out barns and houses, with the Boer family that once happily lived there now dispersed, with women and children either in concentration camps or dead, and the men folk in the distant hills, on the run, or also dead.

Not exactly a proud moment in Canadian history, but a major part of their heritage that Canadians should remember.

But positively rosy compared to what Canadians have done in Afghanistan, levelling the country with billions of dollars of shells, bombs, and bullets.

US toadying Canadian politicians of all stripes say they are doing wonderful things there.

But they never explain how, when the cost of the NATO intervention in Muslim civilian dead - women, children, and men - far outstrips, by tens of thousands, the civilian dead of the Boer War.

flashing newGreat Canadian Heritage Treasure A fabulous reminder that not all Canadians are mindless sheep, willing to follow their conniving politicians anywhere.

In the midst of the Boer War, while Canadian soldiers were fighting in South Africa, French-Canadian anti-war sentiment was on the side of Boer President Paul Kruger, the Bin Laden of 1899.

French-Canadians refused to take part in a war against civilians and commit such depredations like the sacking of Dullstroom that Canadians carried out.

Without fear, French-Canadian store owners displayed this wonderful tobacco advertising lithograph.

And once again, in the 21st century, true to their principled stand against intervention in the Boer War, close to 80% of French-Canadians (the rest are military employees) opposed the Judao-Christian attack on Afghanistan, many considering what the white European NATO forces have done there as a gross human rights violation, and frightfully short of genocide against a helpless and destitute Muslim nation, incapable of harming anyone, other than itself.

And all done just to curry favour with the Americans, by far the largest terrorist nation of the second half of the 20th, and beginning of the 21st century.

But unlike during the Boer War, French-Canadians are not alone in opposing a totally useless and opportunistic war against a helpless people overseas.

Then, Canada broke down along ethnic lines, with British Canadians overwhelmingly eager for Canadians to fight the Boers for Britain.

In the 21st century, from the beginning, the vast majority of Canadian civilians of all complexions - with Jewish rights organizations being the glaring exception - opposed the war against Muslims that their craven politicians had engineered. The numbers of opponents to the war have only grown in recent years, but not among tribal fanatics, or politicians and their war profiteering lobbyist millionaire cronies.

Which makes it absolutely certain that Canadian fighting troops will be occupying Afghanistan by force, long past 2011, when the politicians have been promising Canadians for years, that all Canadian troops will come home permanently.

But Canadians know only too well that their politicians are not honest, like those in Spain, who having, like the Canadians, also gone shooting into Iraq, to please their corporate cronies, responded to growing public outrage, and promised to pull out their troops by a deadline, and did so, with no ifs, ands, or buts. Proving that Spain has a democracy that works, which Canadians can only look at with the greatest envy.
Then the Spanish politicians - against the wishes of the vast majority of their people - deployed more troops to Afghanistan.

Paul Kruger French-Canadian Tobacco Ad, 1900
Orig. chromolithograph - Image Size - 38 x 48 cm
Found - Montreal, PQ



Go to French-Canadians oppose war




An Officer, and a Gentleman

Henry shot quite a few pictures of himself with ladies, on picnics, playing tennis, going horseback riding, or on buggy or wagon outings. These unidentified women probably all from Koffiefontein, were likely local English rather than Boer women, who had nothing to smile about during those years.

A rare photo shows Henry with his Kodak, a rather large folding model.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Right Henry in South Africa, during a war he probably considered terrible enough.

Henry, like so many other Canadian civilians, answered the call only six years after returning from South Africa, and signed up to fight in World War I, the most awful war in history.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


He was lucky to survive. His photo portrait is from that period.

After the horrid butchery he saw in Europe, his South Africa experiences must have been a wonderful time of memories. Which is why he created this large photo album.

He took no pictures during World War I. The personal memories of the most ghastly war in history, that talentless and conniving white European Christian politicians had orchestrated for mankind, were awful enough, thank you... No need to be reminded with pictures of the carnage, and scores of friends whose lives were wasted... For absolutely nothing...