Boer War Page 71j
Great Canadian Heritage Discoveries
Go to List of Artists
More important Canadian antique memorabilia the Museum has recently preserved.
For Related Items/Info - USE OUR SEARCH ENGINE

Ultra Rare Great Boer War Discoveries ( July 2005)

General William Penn-Symons 1843 - 1899
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

Commemorative Water Pitcher 1899, Maj. Gen. Penn-Symons
Orig. ceramic pitcher - Size - 6.5"
Found - Nantwich, UK
Fabulous: Easily the rarest pitcher or jug we have ever seen is this once in a lifetime discovery of one commemorating Sir W. Penn-Symons, the first British general to die in the Boer War, at Talana Hill, in the opening conflict of the war.

This jug model can be found, from time to time, featuring General Buller or Lord Roberts, both Commanders-in-Chief in South Africa. But to find one to Penn-Symons, whom Winston Churchill praised as a "most capital fellow," is an unsurpassable treat.

It was the death of Penn-Symons, and the Battle of Talana Hill, that energized Canadians into mobilizing patriotic volunteers to defend the Empire against the Boers. Within ten days the first Canadian Contingent was off to South Africa, aboard the Sardinian.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Maj. Gen. W Penn-Symons, Celebrities 1900
Orig. lithograph - Image size - 10" x 15"
Found - Toronto, ON
One of 75 lithos featured in Celebrities of the Army, 1900
This black and white postcard was issued shortly after Penn-Symons was killed. The coloured one was issued shortly after the war and shows the cairn where the general was shot down just after crossing the wall at the bottom of the frame. Below are modern views of the same scene. There is substantially more ground cover (trees & bushes) today, than there was in 1899.

Talana Hill, Natal: Oct. 20, 1899

The First Battle: The opening shots of the Anglo-Boer War were fired across this meadow (right), when, on the morning of Oct. 20, 1899, the British camp in the field, awoke to see Boers on top of Talana Hill. The Boer guns opened fire on the camp below.

British General Penn-Symons (below right), ordered his men to "Take that hill boys." The huge Bacon lithograph (below) - though a fanciful recreation of the scene (right) - correctly shows the closely bunched British soldiers as they attacked up the hill, on a broad front which swept through the Smith Farm on the far right. A withering Boer Mauser fire cut them down by the scores.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Battle of Dundee, Oct. 20, 1898
Orig. lithograph - Image size - 22" x 30"
Found - Hay on Wye, UK
Signed GW Bacon & Co. Ltd., Bacon's South African Battle Pictures #1
A Heroic General: In the best tradition of British army officers, General Penn-Symons now rode on to the bullet-swept battlefield to re-energize the stalled attack.

(below) Pam McFadden, historian & curator of the Talana Hill Anglo-Boer War Museum, at Dundee, Natal, explains how Penn-Symons rode up to rally his men, dismounted at this wall (below), "Right in front of me. Right here, because it was too high for his horse to step over, and in doing so he presented a perfect target to the Boers on top of Talana Hill. He was mortally wounded."

Pam, standing in front of the cairn set up on the spot where Penn-Symons was shot, notes his last words to his men, "Don't mind me boys. I'll be out again tomorrow. The sad thing was he did not come out tomorrow but died of his wounds."
Penn-Symons' heroism energized his men, who charged the hill and swept the Boer off it. Penn-Symons' death received pride of place in the Bacon print (above and below). He lies alone now (right), in a corner of the Dundee churchyard (foreground).

Talana Hill - Oct. 20, 1899
A Glorious Victory: The troubles for the British were not over. When they reached the top of Talana Hill, many Tommies were killed by their own artillery fire (above), which could not distinguish between Briton and Boer at such long distances since everyone now wore khaki coloured clothing. The Bacon print correctly shows the distances that caused the problem, though not the correct colours for the uniforms.

The British cavalry unit, sent to cut off the fleeing Boers, was itself captured and sent as prisoners of war to Pretoria. The following day, Penn-Symons' successor abandoned not only Talana Hill, but the town of Dundee, fleeing in panic back to Ladysmith, leaving the British camp, the wounded, and the dying Penn-Symons, to the mercy of the Boers. The Boers reoccupied Talana Hill and were to stay in Dundee for many months to come.

Boer General Piet Joubert, sent Penn-Symons' personal effects and his condolences, to the General's widow in England. The Last of the Gentleman's Wars had begun.

Six months later, Lady Penn-Symons remarried, after an ungentlemanly short mourning period.
Go to

c Goldi Productions Ltd. 1996 & 2000