Boer War Page 92b
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Lt. Harold Borden - Canning, NS

An Invitation Card to a Last Farewell

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"
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 vigorously 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.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Site of the Reception, Halifax, NS, on the occasion of the departure of the 2nd Canadian Contingent for South Africa, Feb. 20, 1900
Orig. armouries -
Found - Halifax, NS
The fabulous new armouries had just recently been completed when the Boer War came along...

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.

The Cunard Street entrance, through which Frederick carried his card, below, was between the two left towers on the left.


To see the inside and imagine the hubbub of hundreds of people in uniforms and tuxes milling about as banners are draped everywhere...

Harold's 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 personal invitation of Frederick Borden has survived.
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
A fabulously large photo of the Milwaukee with a close up of horses being loaded below.
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)

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.

Edouard Adam was one of France's premiere marine artists in the late 19th century. His paintings of ships flew in the face of the contemporary impressionist style, and was noted for meticulous and wonderful detail.

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.

Go to Lt. Harold Borden

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