Boer War Discovery Page 91x

Rare Boer War Discoveries

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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 ( Apr. 2005)

Complimentary Banquet to General Buller
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Dinner Invitation, Honouring General Buller, London, UK, Nov. 30, 1900
Orig. card - Size, opened up - 5.25 x 6"
Found - Boulder, CO
A Bash for Buller: Recently retrieved from the ash heap of history was this treasure trove of four memorabilia items saved by an officer who attended a banquet honouring General Sir Redvers Buller VC, after he finished his service in the Boer War, at the end of 1900.

He, and his successor as Commander-in-chief in South Africa, "Bobs," had just returned to England to celebrate. They had just completed the biggest march of a conquering army since Napoleon's March on Moscow, believing they had put "the Boers to bed."

As events were to unfold, they proved to have been just as successful against the Boers as Napoleon was against the Russians. But that was all in the future.

On Nov. 30, 1900 all Devonians in London were called to attend a complimentary dinner thanking General Buller for his service to Queen and Empire.

The toast list left, explaining the program for the evening, and the menu pages are part of a four page souvenir booklet.

And enclosing the entire fabulous souvenir was a red folder featuring a cover portrait of the great man, and his personal signature, written in his own hand, for a select group of admirers.

The officer who kept these souvenir items together also preserved two great stevengraphs of the famous British commanders (below). Military men preferred the stevengraphs by Grant because they were labelled loudly as Empire Makers, and Empire Defenders. When the officer died items like this are often thrown out, or if lucky, are snagged from the ash heap of history by conscientious collectors like the Canadian Boer War Museum.

No doubt, the veterean of the Boer War - and Buller's bash - hung these portraits in his hallway, or parlour, some place where he walked by every day for the rest of his life, where he could, every now and then, glance up at the faces of two of Queen Victoria's finest Generals with whom he had helped "Make the Empire." Without doubt, it remained quite probably the high point of his life.
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Stevengraph, General Buller, 1900
Orig. WH Grant - oa 5.5" x 7"
Found - Boulder, CO
Silk 2.5" x 4" - backed with blank label
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Stevengraph, Lord Roberts, 1900
Orig. WH Grant - oa 5.5" x 7"
Found - Boulder, CO
Silk 2.5" x 4" - backed with blank label
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Dedication Card, Honouring General Buller, London, UK, Nov. 30, 1900
Orig. card - Size, opened up - 5.25 x 6"
Found - Boulder, CO
Farewell to Thee: For many there that night, the dinner was an emotional time. General Buller was frowned on by the military establishment which had fired him because of the battles he lost early in the war. Behind his back they called him Sir Reverse Buller. But Buller did not like taking unnecessary chances with the lives of his men. Tommy Atkins knew that and is why Sir Redvers was held in wild affection by the common soldier.

Lord Roberts VC, who was not at the dinner, had won his VC, and risked his life, to recapture a British flag - a symbol - from a group of enemy tribesmen.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
General Buller Winning the VC - 1879
Orig. pc c 1904 - Size - 3.5 x 5"
Found - Woodstock,ON

Sir Redvers - when he was a Lt. Col. in South Africa in 1879 - had risked his life, during a British army retreat, and won a VC, for riding into the teeth of a closing horde of Zulus, and rescuing a fellow officer from a certain and awful death.

And then, tempting death once more, he did it again, rescuing another officer from the same fate - and still again, a third time, this time bringing back a common trooper who would have been killed by the Zulus.

Right is a postcard that was widely distributed during the Boer War era to celebrate one who exemplified the absolute finest qualities of a British Victorian officer.

Lt. John Kerry was credited with saving one man's life though this claim was challenged as bogus, by some; but it was enough to make him a Presidential contender in the US.

Col. Buller, in full view of hundreds, saved three men's lives within scant yards of angry Zulus closing in for the kill. To Buller it was just a normal day's work in the life of a British officer. Which goes a long way to explain the stupendous success and glory of the British Empire in world history.

Buller - who had great affection for Canada and Canadians - he had been a Captain serving in the Red River Rebellion of 1870 - was, in turn, beloved by Canadians who served under him. The dedication card, above and below, also placed by each plate during the dinner, tried to put some of this into words...

Buller's fellow Devonians took up a collection and erected this magnificent statue of him in Exeter, which was dedicated by a vast assemblage with the General in attendance.
Sadly, Sir Redvers Buller VC, died only a short time later, in June 1908, at the age of 68, widely lamented as the best kind of Victorian soldier.

To help them remember Sir Redvers, people across the British Empire preserved his image on tens of thousands of plates, silks, buttons, cups, jugs, busts, tiles, and magic lantern slides (right), which they had bought to do him honour.

They turn up at auctions from time to time, testifying to a time when people had love affairs with generals who were seen to embody the finest values of a nation, not like today, when it seems to be rock stars, rap artists, palpitating princesses, pablum popes and prowling priests.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Lantern Slide, General Buller - 1900
Orig. lantern slide - Size - 3.5" sq
Found - Milton, ON
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Mug, General Buller - 1900
Orig. mug - Size - 4.5 x 6.75"
Found - Bristol, UK
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Jug, General Buller - 1900
Orig. jug - Size - 6.5"
Found - London, UK

Canadians at the Bash

Canadians were in London the day of Buller's dinner. In fact the day before, Col. Otter and a contingent of the Royal Canadian Regiment had landed from South Africa and were in London. On Nov. 30, the Queen reviewed and thanked the Canadians personally at Windsor Castle. That night, while Buller was feted at the Cecil Hotel, across town, Queen Victoria was having dinner with Col. Otter and a couple of his officers. Were the others at the Buller bash?

Her farewell to the Canadians was just about the Queen's last official function. She died a little over a month later.

c Goldi Productions Ltd. 1996 & 2000