Boer War Page 91tt

Rare Boer War 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.

Great Canadian Heritage Discoveries

Canadian Boer War Memorial Postcards 1903-1910
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Boer War Memorial, Brantford, ON c 1904
Orig. postcard - Size - 3.5" x 5.5"
Found - Woodstock, ON
Brantford, ON: A hundred years of sunsets have fallen on the Boer War memorial at Brantford, Ontario.

After the war this small town had three local sons to memorialize. The statue, which the populace erected in their memory, in 1903, featured three large bronze plaques with relief images on three sides, showing the battles in which each man died.

Norman Builder (left) used to walk along the banks of the Grand River here, on late summer evenings, just in front of the armouries where he trained with the local Militia unit.

He was only 22 when he died at Leliefontein, where Canada won three of its four Boer War Victoria Cross medals.

It is trivial to say Norman died heroically; everyone in Brantford knew it without saying. But the British knew it too, and they were saying it, like General Smith-Dorrien, the commanding officer at Leliefontein.

Had Norman lived, he also would have won the Victoria Cross. But, during the Boer War, the rules said you had to live in order to be nominated and win the VC. The rule was changed afterwards, because of the injustice to brave men like Norman, but it was too late for him. It would be up to his townsfolk to honour his sacrifice. He lies buried in Belfast, South Africa among the other Canadian dead from Leliefontein.

JW Osborne (inset right), like many Canadians, fought in a British unit. He had the ill fortune to be present at one of the British Army's worst defeats in history, Jan. 24, 1900, on top of a mountain called Spion Kop. Today he lies buried in the mass grave - over the original trench lines - among hundreds of his British comrades of the Scottish Rifles, at whose side he fought and died. His name is on the far memorial pillar.

The third man, William Sherrit, died at Boschbult Farm - Canada's second most costly battle of the Boer War - on Mar. 31, 1902, and was originally buried, that night, with seven other Canadians, on the spot where historian John Goldi, right, is standing.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Boer War Memorial Cup, Brantford, ON c 1905
Orig. cup - Size - 3" x 3.25"w
Found - St. Thomas, ON
Coinciding with the explosion of coloured postcard views, in the years after 1900, was a flood of small souvenir ceramic cups, plates, busts, etc. that people could take back home. The monuments themselves became tourist destinations.
Great Canadian Heritage Treasures
These two cards show why cheap colour printing transformed the postcard trade in popular views, in Canada, in the first decade after 1900.

Shown here are a group of cards all photographed in Brantford, Ontario, and posted between 1903 and 1912.

It may have been a military subject but most of the writers who sent these cards were women.

Just like today, when young women - and some older ones too - seem to have a phone glued to their ears, at all times - they were wild, then, about sending postcards on the feeblest excuses.

"Oh! It's raining... Hey! Must send a card to Ella right away ... It's only a cent to send...I'll do it right away."

Plus ça change, plus...

The statue was carefully designed to "keep the memory of the boys" alive at a focal point of outdoor community life, by surrounding their monument with benches, on which people could sit and talk (left) about the three boys who once romped "in boyhood's hallowed haunts" across these grounds, but never would again...

One of them could easily have written the card right, (also third down on the left, below) just before going to South Africa. It was sent by a keen hunter from Jerseyville, Ontario, in April, 1912, to Master Morley Baker, at Windham Centre, Ontario. He posted it the morning the Titanic sank with the loss of 1500 lives.

"Hello morley I received your card a few days ago and was glad to hear from you if I can I will come up to ketch wood chucks and have some more fun good by from ER

I am after the musk rats now they are worth $4"

Two years later the carnage of World War 1 would sweep across Europe and carry off an entire generation of young men.

Just the kind of eager young hunters who wrote to each other here. There is no doubt they signed up to go overseas. Did either of them survive to return to their "boyhood's hallowed haunts?" The odds were extremely poor. Hopefully he enjoyed his muskrat hunting... while he could...

Boer War Memorial Postcards, Brantford, ON 1903-1910
Orig. postcards - Size - 3.5" x 5.5"
Found - Savannah GA, Salem OR, Hanover, Port Dover, Toronto, Barrie, Palgrave, ON
The Brantford Armouries were built in 1893, during the great "armoury building period" in Canadian history. Even in the big cities, the armouries were among the biggest buildings, and certainly among the most imposing. They were a natural stopping place for a cameraman shooting views for the latest postcard craze.

The war was still raw in everyone's memory. So he had to get that monument in every shot if he could. Sometimes it appears the camera went off by accident. Nobody cared; it was colour; it was portable and affordable; and it was Canadian...

Roll overs to read letters more clearly.

Quebec Boer War Memorials
Great Canadian Heritage Treasures
Boer War Memorials, Quebec & Montreal, PQ - 1903- 1910
Orig. postcards - Image Size - 3.5" x 5.5"
Found - Houston, TX, Port Dover, Hanover, ON
Above, left, is "Monument des Enfants de Quebec morts pour L'Empire dans L'Afrique du Sud," to the sons of Quebec who died for the British Empire in South Africa, all too many of whom would never return. It was set up in Quebec City, only meters from where the "Brave One Thousand" heard Prime Minister Laurier praise their patriotism. Then the cheers of a tumultuous crowd accompanied them down the hill to board the Sardinian, the first Canadian military unit ever to march off to join an overseas war.

Perhaps the most spectacular monument is that to Lord Strathcona's Horse, in Montreal, PQ, right.

Nova Scotia Boer War Memorials
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Boer War Monument Cup, Halifax, NS c 1905
Orig. cup - Size - 3" x 3.25"w
Found - Cass City, MI
The Boer War saw the first widespread setting up of "memorials to the fallen" across Canada. The odd memorial had been set up, before, to commemorate the fallen in the Fenian Raids of the 1860s. A few more followed the Riel Rebellions, after 1885. But the Boer War saw memorials going up, at an unprecedented rate, in towns all across Canada.
Great Canadian Heritage Treasures
Boer War Memorials, Halifax, NS - 1902-1910
Orig. postcards - Image Size - 3.5" x 5.5"
Found - Houston, TX, Port Dover, Hanover, ON
The corner stone for the memorial, left, beside the Provincial legislature, was set by the Prince of Wales on Oct. 19, 1901. He, and Princess Mary, were the first Prince and Princess of Wales to visit Canada, right in the middle of the Boer War. The Prince would also hand out medals to returned veterans. In 1911 he would be crowned George V.

Local lore holds that the man who posed for the memorial figure in the public gardens (right), walked by it every day, for the rest of his life...

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 invitation - Image Size - 4" x 5"
Found - Vancouver, BC
On heavy card stock, hand inscribed "Hon. Dr. Borden & lady"
The fabulously rare invitation sent to Frederick Borden, right, Canada's Minister of Militia and Defence during Prime Minister Laurier's entire 11 years in office, on the occasion of his only son Harold's departure for South Africa. They would never see each other again.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Boer War Memorial Plate, Canning, NS c 1903
Orig. ceramic saucer - Size - 6.5"
Found - Hopkinton, MA
Wicker wrapped.
Probably Canada's rarest Boer War plate is this small souvenir saucer, featuring the memorial to Capt. Harold Borden, Canada's most famous casualty during the Boer War, in Canning, Nova Scotia. The wicker casing, completely covering the back, alone, makes it unique among Canadian memorabilia plates. We have never seen another.
A Sad Postscript: The Anglo-Boer War was the last war, in which community statues and busts were erected to individual soldiers. Then, it was still economical to do, with only one or two fatalities coming from a region of several towns. And in their communal grief, the shock of losing even a single life roused the people to donate all the funds that were needed.

After the horrendous carnage of World War I, only group memorials - featuring at best, an anonymous statue - made any sense anymore.

Whereas in the Anglo-Boer War only communities sorrowed, during the Great War to come, virtually every home grieved for a family member, relative, or friend. You could not memorialize each life lost with its own statue.

On future memorials, the dead were now simply reduced to lists of dozens and scores of names on plaques.

For more memorabilia, and information about the monument to Canada's most famous Boer War casualty:
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c Goldi Productions Ltd. 1996 & 2000