Boer War Discovery Page 90u

Rare Boer War Discoveries

Below are some of the items the Canadian Boer War Museum has added to its collections in its ongoing efforts to preserve important Canadian heritage memorabilia from this period.

Great Boer War Discoveries ( Dec. 2004)

Across the Sea to Africa 1899-1900 - The Canadian Contingents Depart
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
SS Sardinian, Allan Line, c. 1904
Orig. colour postcard - Image Size - 3.5" x 5.5"
Found - Seattle, WA
SS Sardinian: A very rare colour postcard of the SS Sardinian, which carried the First Canadian Contingent to South Africa in 1899. In peacetime, after her maiden voyage in 1875, she steamed the Liverpool, Montreal, and Quebec run, for the Allan Line.

The Allan Line: The Allan line of steamers were as famous, in 1900, as those of the Cunard Line. Their trademark red funnel with a white border under a black top graced numerous ships which carried hundreds of thousands of European immigrants to Canada during the Victorian and Edwardian period. The Allan line was bought out by Canadian Pacific in 1909.

Marconi: In 1901 the Sardinian played another major role in Canadian - and world - history. She carried Guglielmo Marconi and his radio equipment to Newfoundland. From atop Signal Hill, at the entrance to St. John's harbour, he would make the first transatlantic radio transmission to Europe.

Radio was here to stay, and was soon aboard ships. Eleven years later, the White Star liner Titanic, approaching the Newfoundland shore, would be the first ship to send out an SOS signal by radio. It would be picked up at Cape Race, some distance south of where Marconi had proved that radio does work. Now they could find the bodies much faster.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasures
Allan Line Troopship, SS Sardinian at Quebec, Oct. 30, 1899 The Sardinian is loading 978 men and NCOs, 41 officers, and seven horses, at the Queen's Quay, just below the Dufferin Terrace.

Canada's Premier, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, and the Governor-General Lord Minto were all in the crowd to see the men off.

Orig. Photos - Image Size - 6" x 8"
Found - Sherbrooke, PQ
On back: "Saml. H. N. Kennedy, 26 Palace Street Quebec, Copies of this photo can be had at any time"
If you want to hear what people are saying at the dock...


An Invitation Card to a Last Farewell
A Premonition: It was an invitation he dreaded, an invitation he never wanted, an invitation he tried in every way to avoid. In vain...

Dr. Frederick Borden, Canada's Minister of Militia had, more than any other Canadian, pushed Canada to become involved in the Boer War, and when it happened, he vigourously organized the contingents for war.

But he did not want his only son, Harold, a militiaman and a medical student at McGill University to go. Newspaper taunts finally caused Harold to "join up" against his father's strongest objections. He was not to be dissuaded and signed up as a Lieutenant in the Canadian Mounted Rifles.

His ship, the Milwaukee was at the dock when both father and son attended the farewell reception given by the City of Halifax in Feb. 1900. The rare invitation has survived.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Reception Invitation to Dr. FH Borden, Halifax, NS, on the occasion of the departure of the 2nd Canadian Contingent for South Africa, Feb. 20, 1900,
Orig. card - Image Size - 4" x 5"
Found - Vancouver, BC
On heavy card stock, hand inscribed "Hon. Dr. Borden & lady"
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Elder-Dempster Troopship SS Milwaukee, Halifax, NS, loading the 2nd Canadian Contingent for South Africa, Feb. 21, 1900
Orig. Photo - Image Size - 12" x 16"
Found - Burlington, ON

Any invitation card from the event would be rare enough. To find the one personally named to one of the main guests of honour, and who doubtless carried it on the occasion, is a most splendid historic treat.

Obviously the expected crowd was so huge that only those with special invitations could get in to the limited space. Cards had to be specifically named, even for celebrities. This wonderfully rare card was personally tagged for "Hon. Dr. Borden & lady," so even the Minister was not allowed to bring an entourage of Ottawa aides. Haligonians would be given pride of place to honour their gallant sons.

Down on the waterfront the Milwaukee was waiting, draping a banner over the side saying CANADIAN CONTINGENT. The next morning the regiment was loading horses and fodder (left).

The Last Farewell: Somewhere in the throng father and son are bidding each other aideu. Neither could know that they would never see each other again. Harold would meet a heroic death only five months later, while eagerly scouting - with greenhorn enthusiasm - an enemy position with a fellow officer.

His death would shock all of Canada.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Elder-Dempster Liner SS Milwaukee, 1902
Orig. oil on canvas - Image size - 24" x 36"
Found - Toronto, ON
Signed Edouard Adam 1902, (1847-1929)

Right, a magnificent oil on canvas painting of the SS Milwaukee in mid-Atlantic, executed, in 1902, by the eminent French marine painter Edouard Adam.

The men were aboard for a month on the voyage to Cape Town, South Africa.

Brothers in Arms; Brothers in Death: Aboard the Milwaukee, with Harold Borden, was John Burch, another lieutenant. Left, holding the binoculars that would kill him, is the last picture taken of Lt. Burch, 2 CMR.

On July 16, 1900, while leading their men to go to the aid of the Royal Irish Fusiliers, these companions in a great "adventure," went ahead to reconnoiter the enemy positions. Still green at war after only a few months, they stood up, perhaps a bit too eagerly and unwisely, to get a better look. Both were shot at close range by snipers. Borden died instantly, the first member of his regiment to be killed; Burch died shortly afterwards.

Wrote Lord Roberts, "Killed with Borden, while gallantly leading their men in counter attack on enemy's flank at critical juncture of assault upon our position."

At home, Frederick Borden was inconsolable; his worst nightmare had come true.

For more see Capt. Harold Borden


Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Troopship SS Idaho docks at Halifax, Nov. 1, 1900, bringing home the Royal Canadian Regiment from the Boer War.
Orig. Photo - Image Size - 6" x 8"
Found - Vancouver, BC
A great day in the history of Halifax was Nov. 1, 1900, when the heroes of Canada's first contingent returned from "the wars," aboard the SS Idaho. The men of Canada's first military contingent to ever serve in a foreign war, had stopped off in London to accept Queen Victoria's personal thanks on behalf Britain and the Empire.

On the clock it is 10:09 a:m. As the ship noses in to the dock, with her precious cargo of local, and Canadian "boys," the docks, the streets, and rooftops, balconies, and telephone poles, are crowded with cheering admirers. After all, these were the Heroes of Paardeberg, whose fabled exploits on the battlefield had helped give Britain the first major victory in the war and put Canada on the world map.


c Goldi Productions Ltd. 2000