Boer War Discovery 90v

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)

Merry Xmas & A Happy New Year 1899 - 1900
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Queen Victoria chocolate tin 1900
Original tin framed with badges - Size - 13.5" x 17"
Found - Jordan, ON
Original frame & glass, all in mint condition with chocolate still inside, and four collar dogs, & 1 cap badge to Royal Warwickshire Regt.

Queen Victoria Chocolate Tin: The most famous tin from the Boer war was the one (below), which Queen Victoria sent to each of her soldiers in South Africa. Each contained her gift of chocolate, and in her handwriting, across the bottom, said, "I wish you a happy New Year, Victoria Reg".

In December, 1899, the British Army certainly could use some cheering up. In Black Week, in the middle of the month, amateur Boer soldiers and generals had inflicted some of the worst defeats that the British Army - the most powerful in the world - had ever suffered, much to the delight of other Europeans. Hoping to change their luck, the Commanding General Buller was fired - and the men got chocolate.... or so the wags quipped. French cartoonists had a field day. "Oh yeah, right, Chocolate Victoria. Just the thing for treating all the wounded you've got."

Wow: We found a wonderfully preserved chocolate tin of this type, in mint condition (right), in Jordan, ON. It is the most spectacular "Queen Victoria Boer War chocolate tin display" (above) that we have ever seen.

The tin is set into velvet plush, inside a frame, and still contains the original chocolate, as well as the helmet and collar badges of the original owner, who wore them during the war as a member of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment.

Boer War memorabilia to British regiments turns up frequently in Canada because, during the war, many young British Tommies formed strong friendships with Canadian soldiers, who, what else, spoke in glowing terms of the wide open spaces, the land grants, and the freedom to be yourself that Canada offered.

Farewell to Mary of Dungloe:

After the war many Tommies left Ireland, or the sooty ghettos of Manchester or Birmingham - where E. Richards "Art Cutter and Picture Framer of 35 Barr Street," framed up these precious items sometime around 1900 - and emigrated to Canada. They brought their Boer War memorabilia with them.

These were proudly displayed for years, then, by succeeding generations, "when grandpa died," quietly moved, first into cupboards, and later - if we were lucky - into attics.

Once the name of the soldier they belonged to was probably written on the back, but the paper covering what was originally a "dust cover" over the back, has long ago rotted away. A crumbling label, noting "Birmingham, England" - which should be preserved at all costs - is important provenance to show where this historic artifact originated.

Tins in mint condition like the one above are very rare to find. To find them in mint condition, and with the original chocolate still inside, is extremely rare indeed. The chocolate has not usually fared too well with the passing decades, as assaults from pilfering children, or heat from coal fired stoves, nibbled away at the contents.
For Dear Mother: Many soldiers sent their tins home to loved ones. Below, one which was inscribed:" To Dear Mother, a present late in transmission, but always kept for you, with love from Ernest. .... Mounted Trooper, Gunner & Scout Plumer's column Boer War."

Plumer led the column that liberated Mafeking in May 1900. Canadian gunners were also in the group and played a key part.

A Gift for Father:

Canadian Private C. Jackson writing to his father at home, in Dec. 1899.

"I have just received a box of chocolate, Her majesty's present to the South African soldiers, which just arrived today. It is very nice, in fact almost too good to keep here, there is such a demand for them by the officers and everybody else, as mementos. In fact I have been offered 5 pounds for mine, and at the Cape as much as 10 pounds is being paid, so you will readily understand why I am sending mine home. Somebody might take a fancy to it as they did to my match safe. Take good care of it until I return, which I expect will be in a few months....." 

Private Jackson never did get to see Canada again..... He was one of the first to fall on Bloody Sunday at Paardeberg, a few weeks later, on Feb. 18, 1900.

Chocolate for Christmas 1900
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Lord Roberts & Queen Victoria chocolate box, 1900
Original cardboard box - Size - 3.25"w x 9.25"l x 1.5"d
Found - Ottawa, ON
Original cardboard, signed Nixon's, Ottawa, in amazing condition

A Box of Chocolates: A truly amazing find is a cardboard chocolate box in what can only be described as extremely good condition. Aside from minor foxing in places, it is as it was in 1900.

It carries the portrait of Lord Roberts. The box must date from the time of his closest association with the Canadians. That started in December of 1900, when he was appointed the top Army commander in South Africa, so making him the Commander-in-Chief of the Canadians who were there as well. He held this command all during 1900, as he led the victorious British army - in which the Canadian Mounted Rifles, infantrymen, and gunners, all took part - to capture all the main Boer towns and cities, so - as everyone thought - putting an end to the war. Someone had forgotten to tell the Boers...

It is very likely that this box was made during this "heady" time. At the end of the year Roberts left Africa, his job done. A month later, in January, 1901, Queen Victoria died. Two important people passed from the scene, which were gloriously celebrated in this wonderful Canadian memento.

One wishes one could hear the voices of the people who ate the chocolate, which has left only a few stains behind.

c Goldi Productions Ltd. 1996 & 2000