Boer War Page 92o3
Great Canadian Heritage Discoveries
Below are some of the key items the Canadian Boer War Museum has added to its collections
in its ongoing efforts to preserve important Canadian heritage memorabilia from this period.

Ultra Rare Great Boer War Discoveries ( Jan. 2006)


Go to Emily's Autographs Page 1 Page 2

Tommy Atkins in Hospital

War’s dreadful din and noise is in abeyance still
So let us take a look at our soldiers who are ill.
Scant food, long marches, exposure day and night
Have, with bad water caused them to relinquish the fight

Now don’t expect to find them spruce and spick & span
As you’d see them on a smart parade clean, shaved & washed & grand
But prepare for something different – what you don’t see every day
Poor Tommy stretched upon his back & helpless as he lay

Walk gently in please, and pray don’t disturb the ward
You will find material here which will strike a tender chord
Come – let me take you round Sir, & I’ll explain each case to you
It will help you to remember & impress you somewhat too

Now this is #99 Pte Jones – 10th Royal Hussars
He is suffering from a bullet wound & various other scars
He got at Klip Kraal drift – you see he’s very weak -
Just stoop and listen – catch the words he tries to speak.            

Oh! Mother, mother, hear me,?Forgive your erring Son
I did not know how wrong I was until the deed was done
I know you will forgive me when I tell the truth to you
‘Twas for Justice – mother - Justice & old England’s honour too"

The words then ceased and Pte Jones turned over on his face
And we felt his prayer was answered from the fountain of all grace
His was a simple story – entered perhaps above -
Where love of country vanquished every other love

But first look here – look there & there in fact throughout the room
All those poor lads are struggling with war’s demon clothed in gloom
They have all enteric fever – are reduced to skin & bone
With scarcely strength to turn or move & when they do they moan.

You’ve seen enough? Good Sir, if you listen to my tale
You’ll place poor Tommy Atkins higher in the social scale –
He is willing, uncomplaining, he’s courageous brave & true –
He gives his all – his life Sir – now what more could he do?

Oh there’s just one thing to mention – Tommy feels his tongue is tied
And he knows that but for them Sir, more of his pals had died
It’s our nurses that I’m meaning – who’ve come across the sea
Like angels in disguise Sir, good comforters to be

He knows how very cheerfully – how quietly they tend
How tenderly they watch him through sickness to the end,
But he can’t give full expression to his thankfulness you know
Or, if he could, I fancy, words such as these would flow

Great God whose power is infinite. Whose love’s o'er all thy works
Whose eye discerns our every act, & sees where danger lurks
Into Thine own almighty keeping take Thou our Nurses evermore
Protect them waking – guard them sleeping, & bring them safely home once more. 

WS Cauvin

Claremont May 24, 1900

Three more prominent Victorian surgeons who went to South Africa are Henry Stumbles, AH Anthonisz and Henry Cayley.
Col. AH Anthonisz was head of one of the first medical teams sent to South Africa in 1899.

Henry Cayley was Surgeon-General of the Army Medical School at Netley in the 1890s and wrote about the value of inoculation against the scourge of enteric fever.

Below We can only imagine the girlish giggles they all enjoyed the day Emily Hay got autographs from

"Notable Women" from the London Hospice as she called them:

Chloe McGowan, Mary Greenham, and Elizabeth Hamilton. No doubt they all read the poem (right) written the week before by the good lieutenant who was now already three days at sea.

(All three of Emily's friends would be Mentioned in Dispatches by Lord Roberts in September, 1901. Did politicking help? It couldn't have hurt that all three, and Ethel Becher, below, had gone out to South Africa, with Emma McCarthy, on the Dunottar Castle with Lord and Lady Roberts, and dined regularly with them on the month long voyage.)

Lt. Cauvin spoke against the sentiment of the age. In the dozen huge pictorial books published between 1890-1902, The Army and the Navy Illustrated, and the London Illustrated News, literally hundreds of warrior soldiers have pictures with name captions; but perhaps half a dozen nurses at most, are honoured with a picture and a name.

On the rare occasions when a photo shows several nurses with some doctors, the doctors are named, the nurses not.

Sexism was the rule in these huge official volumes that were published by the Government on behalf of the Armed Forces.

The Lieutenant clearly felt the nurses - as well as Tommy Atkins - were the unsung heroines of the times, and tried to express his gratefulness on behalf of those who could not do so - before it was too late...

Four days after he wrote the poem, the Lieutenant boarded the Jelunga for home... leaving the nurses to toil on... He could not have guessed that the dying that was still to come would far outstrip his worst expectations...

Left, the Jelunga loaded with troops departing Portsmouth for their turn at the colonial wars. How many were being shipped off to a lonely grave on some foreign soil that is forever England?

Tommy Atkins in Hospital

This is another poem, an emotional foray, written by Lt. WS Cauvin, ASC, a quartermaster. Being in the Army Service Corps, and seeing what went on in the hospitals, made him philosophical and eager to pay tribute to the unsung heroes of the Boer War, the women of the Army Nursing Service (ANS), and their civilian sisters, who saved countless lives with their ceaseless ministrations, at no little cost to themselves.

Oh Listen to My Tale of Woe

The ship speeds swift o'er the mighty deep
Oh listen to my tale of woe.
And I lift up my voice & commence to weep
As I think while my anxious watch I keep
That other do nothing but eat & sleep
Oh listen to my tale of woe.

Now on this ship was a girl I knew
Oh listen to my tale of woe.
She'd beautiful eyes of the deepest blue
Like two big drops of morning dew
And her voice was as soft as a dove's coo coo
Oh listen to my tale of woe.

The kind of a girl that a man would cheer
Oh listen to my tale of woe.
From the depths of her big blue eyes so clear
To the delicate tip of her shell like ear
Oh life was sweet when she wandered near
Oh listen to my tale of woe.

And now of the sun we see no sign
Oh listen to my tale of woe.
And the stars in the heavens refuse to shine
For their brightness is dimmed by this girl divine
And to open their eyes they all decline
Oh listen to my tale of woe.

And I weep as I think how soon she will say
Oh listen to my tale of woe.
Goodbye for I can no longer stay
Perhaps I shall see you again some day
And then she will go far far away
Oh listen to my tale of woe.

Harolde Orchard
P.O. Sardinia, 29.9.02

We surmise that when the Sardinia docked in Southampton on Oct. 26, 1902, they both went their separate ways, and took up civilian life in different parts of England, as did countless thousands of others who returned from the wars...

What happened to them in later life we do not know...

Emily Hay put her autograph book away, far from prying eyes, never to write in it again.

But from time to time, we believe, when she was quite alone, she would take it out and leaf through the pages, softly touching again the places where friends of long ago, during a terrible time, wrote their names for her.

Releasing a flood of memories... conversations... laughter... and then there was Harolde... and maybe a tear or two... Remembering Golden Links to long ago...

Then she put the book away in a special place where it would be safe and preserved for the Ages...

Leaving us a cherished treasure of vibrant men and women who lived and loved, in turbulent times, over a century ago...

Freedom has a thousand charms to show

That slaves however contented never know,

GJ Schupers
Commandant 30.10.01
Beaufort West Hospital

The Cost in Blood:

Some 22,000 British soldiers would die during the Boer War, most from sickness and disease, not Boer bullets though there were bloody deaths aplenty.

Several pages on Emily Hay's autograph book have blood stains on them right. The signatures were often made in hospital beds where the officers - no privates seem to be among the signatures - were convalescing, swathed in bloody bandages.

Emily got many of her signatures from officers who were only a few days from being shipped out to Britain, on steamers and hospital ships, which left from Cape Town quite regulary during the Boer War, each loaded down with hundreds of soldiers who were returning for home care in England.

Mentioned in Dispatches

The MiD right is the oldest award for gallantry given in the British Armed Forces, to individuals being noted in official reports, by the Commander-in-Chief in the field, for special or outstanding performances in the execution of their duties. It allows you to wear the leaf clasp above your service medal.

12 of the 22 nurses who signed this book were Mentioned in Dispatches by Lord Roberts and Lord Kitchener during the Boer War.

And three nurses were Mentioned twice: Helen Neale (page 2), Alice Bedwell (below), and Ethel Becher (left).

Ethel Hope Becher, along with Emma McCarthy (page 2), was also awarded the prestigious Royal Red Cross (left) during the Boer War, being noted "for exceptional devotion and competency in the performance of actual nursing duties."

Ethel devoted her life to her profession and in World War I would meet with Queen Mary to promote the welfare of the nursing service.

A large number of British doctors were sent to South Africa. Many were commissioned officers in the RAMC, the Royal Army Medical Corps.

WH McNamara was Surgeon-General - the top doc in the Armed Forces - at Aldershot, the British Army's main training base in southern England.

But many doctors - just like the nurses - were civilians who were engaged because the huge workload caused by disease and casualties overwhelmed the military.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Boer War Ceramic Nurse & Soldier, 1900
Orig. porcelain ware - Size - 9"
Found - Kent, UK
Unsigned, hand painted, extremely fragile, numbered
A rare Boer War pair, featuring a wounded soldier displaying a wound to a caring nurse.
Oh Listen to My Tale of Woe

Peace was declared in June 1902, but nurses and soldiers stayed behind, for months, before gradually being returned to England.

The P&O steamer Sardinia (below) left Cape Town on Sept. 24, 1902, with another load of soldiers and nurses. Aboard was moonstruck Harolde Orchard, who was to write a final, and most personal, entry in the Boer War Autograph Book of Emily Hay.

The Sardinia was due in Southampton a month later, Oct. 26, 1902. Plenty of time for a shipboard romance, with a nurse...

Probably lots of soldiers fell in love with nurses who showed extraordinary care for them when no one else seemed to, and they were helpless, either terribly sick of enteric, or frightfully wounded.

We know that this autograph book was aboard the Sardinia on that trip because Emily Hay was one of only two nurses listed as passengers. We know she met Harolde Orchard on board, and must have offered him some encouragement, because five days later, while the Sardinia was ploughing up the South Atlantic, Harolde wrote his gushingly private poem in her book...

The Spectacular Autograph Book of British Boer War Nurse Emily Hay - Page 3


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