Boer War Discovery Page 90uu

Rare Boer War Discoveries

Go to Great Collections
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.

Harry Macdonough (1871-1931): "Rocked in the Cradle of the Deep" 1902

You are listening to an original recording from 1902, featuring one of Canada's very first recording artists, Harry Macdonough, singing "Rocked in the Cradle of the Deep," with the Haydn Quartet. The song was played with special poignancy on Canadian Gramophones, as Canadians sent their boys off to war to distant South Africa. The troops faced a sea voyage of 30 days to get there. A few men, but hundred of horses, were buried at sea.

Technical Note: To turn off this recording, use a hammer on the front of your monitor.

Great Boer War Discoveries ( Nov. 2004)

Sardinian Getting up Steam
"And the band played Waltzing Matilda, as the ship pulled away from the quay...
And midst all the tears, flag waving, and cheers, we set sail for........ Southern Africa...
(Eric Bogle, amended)
Overheard at Dockside
Through the miracle of modern technology we've been able to "go in" and see and hear what's going on as the men get ready to board!!
Patriotic Fear
"Got me a cousin down there. Sure worried dem Boers'll be beat 'afore they can git ther'. Be at least a month at sea, sez he. By then he's mighty feared it could be all over!"
Terminal Anxiety: The Boer War started the anxiety among Canadian young soldiers that they would be too late to get where the action was, to miss the dying... I mean adventure!
Helpful Advice
"You sure that thing ain't loaded. If you ain't careful, you'll blow your head off for sure, aforn' you even gits to see a Boar!"
Virtually all the men were absolute greenhorns at war. Most had never had any military training to speak of. Only a tiny few had ever been under fire before.
A Geography Lesson
"Nae, Nae, Mu'm! 'Tis nae Arabia we be goin' tae. 'Tis Africa. An 'tis nae the Blacks we be 'goin to fecht. It be the Boars. Tin times worse, begorrah. Dutchmen they be, thoomin' their noses at the Queen. But nae for lang, ae kin vouch ye that for sartin!"
African Reveries: Actually few Canadians had any clue where exactly all this was taking place. After almost three years of war, and three hundred dead, knowledge of world geography improved among Canadians.
Farewell Dock: All the hubbub took place on the end of this dock where the Sardinian, an Allan steamer like the one shown, was tied up beneath the glowering battlements of Quebec.
Last Time on Canadian Soil?
Conversations overheard...
Taking Care of Business
"So I told the old lady. Look! It's only a year. Go stay at your Ma's house. You know how she loves our kid. I'll be back afore you know it. She wasn't too keen on it, you can take that to the bank. But I wasn't gonna miss this for nothin!"
"No, no, no! That's the Minister of Militia, Borden, you be looking at. It's the guy beside him, in the top hat. That's Sir Wilfrid! ... Ooooh and there's the gal I tol' you about, I was wi' last night! ... Hmmmh, and it looks like 'er husban' came home now too! It's a good thing we be leavin' shortly. I be thinkin' Africa will be safer for me than stayin' 'ere!"
"Stop worrying Bill! I told you my Buddy would take care of your wife!!! We're only going for a year or so!!! She's in good hands with him, believe me!"
'Larnin' 'bout guns!
"Hey! The barrel 'o this thing's still plugged up with grease! What about yours Hank?"

"Hold your horses, I'm checkin', I'm check'in!"

A Deadly Game: In Africa one soldier accidentally killed his best friend while horsing around, when he pulled the trigger on an "empty rifle" while his pal looked down the barrel, during a "mock inspection." His remorse was so great he had to be watched so he wouldn't commit suicide.
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Bayonet of Walter Simmons RCR #8161 1899
Lee-Metford Pattern 1888 - Mark I, Type 2 - Size - oa 16.75", blade 12"
Found - Halifax, NS
Bayonet #349, VR '11, 96, Wilkinson, 49W - scabbard #349, WD H1G 96 - frog #907
Walter Simmons: This bayonet and scabbard were carried on the dock that day by Walter Simmons from Halifax NS. He carried it at Paardeberg, and on Lord Roberts' fabled March to Pretoria. It was present when the Canadians entered the Boer capitals of Bloemfontein and Pretoria.
Popular Wisdom
"Son take a good look. You're never going to see anything like this again, as long as you live!"
Over There! Actually going off to fight in overseas wars was to prove catching to Canadians. Very likely his young son volunteered for World War I and left by ship too - this time they went in the hundreds of thousands - and in all likelihood was one of the 55,000 who never came back. Only 300 Canadians died in the Boer War.
"You ain't heard nothin' yet. I heard say there's way too many of us for indoor toilets. So you know what? They're just havin us hang our butts over the rail - them rails right there - right out in the open, in front of everybody, would you believe, on some boards they'll rig up to keep it off the sides of the ship! Man, I feel constipation commin' on just thinkin 'bout teetering there with my butt blowin in the breeze!"
Watch Out! One soldier, when he dropped his trousers, saw the presentation watch, which his grateful community had given to him for going to fight for his country, go slithering down the boards into the sea...

A problem also developed because the dining room port holes, aft of the deck latrines, when opened during meal times, ingested far more than unwelcome odours, as the ship was powering forwards into the wind...

"Yeah, well me too! I was tryin' to go. But no luck at all! Eight of us applied from our unit but only one was picked. Must be a powerful lot of blokes tryin' to do their duty... Or at loose ends, like me, as jobs are shore dryin' up, what with winter comin' an all... You got any leads?"
"Damn, am I hung over... I shouldn't have had those last twelve beers!"
One More for the Road: Canada's first fatality of the war was a soldier who never recovered from a colossal hang over from the farewell festivities at Quebec, and was buried at sea.

Psychologists will tell you that the bravado and boisterous drinking often associated with soldiers going off to war, betrays a real fear that you may be closer to the end of the line than you want to believe. It's all about teetering on the balance between fear and bravery, and this Boer War soldier did not get it right.

"Don't mind admittn' I'm a wee bit apprehensive too. Can't help wondrin' how many o' all these laughin' young rascals be lookin' for the last time at Canada's shores...."
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Last letter home of Pvt. Curphy RCR #7806 1900
Orig. letter - Size - 3.5" x 5.5"
Found - Pasadena, CA
Enteric Fever: Pvt. Curphy, who was on the dock, died of enteric fever, at Bloemfontein Apr. 18, 1900. Like many of his regiment he had contracted the fever by drinking the contaminated Modder River water - from hundreds of dead horse carcasses - at Paardeberg. "Chateau Modder" it was ruefully called. It claimed some two thousand British soldiers as well as Canadians.

Take me to J Curphy's Letter

c Goldi Productions Ltd. 1996 & 2000