Boer War


On 26th August 1875 John Buchan, novelist and statesman who served as Governor General of Canada was born in Perth.

The son of a minister, John Buchan had two careers, first as a politician and secondly as a writer. He studied law at Glasgow and Oxford Universities. He performed well in a government post in South Africa in the aftermath of the Boer War and later became war correspondent for the Times newspaper in the First World War.
He was appointed Governor General of Canada in 1935 and was highly regarded in that role. He became Baron Tweedsmuir in 1936 and died in Ottawa in 1940.
His career as the author of adventure stories began in 1910 with “Prester John” set in Africa and “The Thirty-Nine Steps”, set partly in Scotland, appeared in 1915. He published 30 novels as well as biographies of the Marquis of Montrose and Sir Walter Scott.
Buchan is said to have had a good understanding of native Canadian affairs and wrote about them in his last novel The Long Traverse the second pic shows him in Blood (Kainai First Nation) 1937


The Second Boer War, also known as the Second Anglo-Boer War and the South African War, 11 October 1899 - 31 May 1902 was the first major international conflict of the 20th century. The war was fought between the British Empire and the two independent Boer republics of the Orange Free State and the South African Republic (Transvaal Republic). After a protracted hard-fought war, the two independent republics lost and were absorbed into the British Empire.


Four generations of infantry weapons, 1815-1914. From the black powder musket to the smokeless powder magazine rifle.

Top to bottom: Napoleonic-era Brown Bess; ACW-era muzzle-loading rifle; FPW-era Chassepot; and 1900s-WWI-era SMLE.

From the 1985 BBC series Soldiers, A History of Men in Battle.


Sons of Empire

Above are various reproductions of the English military artist Harry Payne's painting ’Sons of Empire’, originally painted in December 1899. The first image is a reproduction of the original painting, printed in Munich in 1900, for London postcard publishers Raphael Tuck & Sons Ltd. in aid of the Transvaal War Fund for Widows and Orphans.  The painting was reproduced as a colour photogravure - a process which involves light sensitive gelatin on copper and etching to produce a high quality, detailed print.  The original run of prints was dedicated to the then Commander in Chief of the British Army, Field Marshal Garnet Wolseley

The painting itself shows over twenty branches of the British and Imperial military forces, a key to the picture (see image #4) was also produced.  The key notes that there are men from across the Empire including Britain, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, Rhodesia, Natal and Tasmania.  As well as elements from the Royal Navy and Royal Marines.  
In the far background of the painting we can see elements of a Royal Navy shore party manning a gun while the Royal Engineers dig a trench while on the right two horsemen of the Natal Mounted Infantry and the Imperial Light Horse approach.  The foreground is packed with over a dozen men from British, Highland and Commonwealth units.  Including a Grenadier Guards officer holding a Union Jack flag in front of him are men of the Canadian Infantry, the Gordon Highlanders, the Royal Navy and the West Australian (Perth) Infantry.  Many of the men in khaki originate from South African units of mounted infantry while the British line regiments appear in their scarlet tunics which would not be officially abandoned until Khaki Service Dress was introduced in 1902.  However, even before 1902, the units in the field during the Boer War wore sand coloured field dress much as the African Mounted Infantry did.

Patriotic prints and postcards were a popular way of raising money at the turn of the century.  Image #1 and #2 are prime examples of this, with the print and postcards produced to support the Transvaal War Fund for Widows and Orphans was set up in 1899, as a fund for the wives and children of British and Commonwealth soldiers who had been killed during the Second Boer War

The January 2nd 1900, edition of the South Australian Register reported that Raphael Tuck & Sons Ltd. were to donate the profit of the first year of the photogravure’s profits to the Transvaal Fund.  Additionally Payne’s original painting, also owned by Tuck & Sons was to be auctioned by the company with a starting price of 100 Guineas (roughly £35,000 in modern currency).  

Image #2 shows a sepia postcard which was sold at the same time as the photogravure also in aid of the Transvaal Fund.  The simplified postcard was catalogued as ‘Empire’ postcard no.1282 by Tuck & Sons and was printed between 1900 and at least 1902.  The example in Image #2 was mailed from Haywards Heath, Sussex on 29th March 1902.

Interestingly ‘Sons of Empire’ was again printed during the First World War, this time in aid of the National Relief Fund - a charity which sought to help families of serving men and those suffering “industrial distress” as a result of the war.  This second colour printing renamed Payne’s painting ‘Defenders of the Empire 1914-15’ and made some subtle changes to the original.  Replacing some of the men with troops from India featuring prominently on the right of the group.  The sailors manning a gun in the original and the Royal Engineers in the background have been removed but replaced with a rather more impressive vista.  Gone are the foothills of the original, in their place is a seascape with ships and aircraft of the Royal Navy.  The aircraft in particular are a remarkably recent addition to the British Empire’s armoury. 

Harry Payne was a prolific military artist producing dozens of paintings focusing on the British Edwardian Army with many commissioned by Raphael Tuck & Sons.  Tuck & Sons was originally founded in the late 1860s as a framing and picture selling shop but they grew rapidly during the 1870s and 1880s selling photographs, greetings cards and postcards that became extremely popular in the 1890s they were granted a Royal Warrant of Appointment by Queen Victoria.  They continued to trade into the late 1950s when they combined with other printing companies.  

The patriotic postcards of the Second Boer War and the First World War became extremely popular with troops departing for France and while they were on the Western Front.  The traditional postcards were quickly supplemented by photo-postcards which used photographs of the front, France and the troops themselves. 


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'1914-1918: How charities helped to win WW1’ (source)

'Sons of Empire’, South Australian Register (Adelaide, 2nd January 1900) (source)

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Australian & British 1885 Pattern Cavalry Sword

1885 Pattern Cavalry sword as used by both the British & Australian Colonial Forces on war service.

The sword features a two piece leather grip, mounted onto a plain steel back strap and pierced nickel guard with the classic 4 sectioned Maltese cross. The slightly curved blade has the classic ‘blood groove’ running 2/3 the way down the 88 cm blade. Non marked. A very well looked after blade, very fine for it’s age. Swords slides into the metal field service scabbard well, scabbard is in good condition with both fixed suspension rings being present. Scabbard shows age wear overall, but very sturdy. A very presentable cavalry sword. Overall length: 107 cm. Please view all pictures & description carefully and bid accordingly!

This was bought through our shop here in Perth, we cannot say if it was worn by a British or Australian officer.

Read more:

Sword-SIte - The World’s Largest Sword Museum - Online & Free!

British soldiers man a Model 1895 Colt machine gun at Krantz Kloof during the Boer War, circa 1900. This particular gun is mounted on a horse-drawn carriage rather than a tripod.


Ordnance of the Week: Hotchkiss & Maxim 37mm Auto-Cannons

At the turn of the 20th century two of the heaviest automatic weapons to appear on battlefields during the Boer War and later the First World War were the Hotchkiss and Maxim 37mm Auto-Cannons.  Both guns were essentially scaled-up versions of their machine gun counterparts with the Maxim 37mm Cannon based on Hiram Maxim’s belt-fed machine gun and the Hotchkiss 37mm was based on the Hotchkiss Mle 1897.

Like its smaller cousin the Hotchkiss cannon fed from strips, with each strip holding eight 37mm explosive shells while the Maxim also fired the explosive 37mm shell but had the advantage of feeding from a belt.  The Maxim 37mm or ‘Pom-Pom’ gun as it became known because of the distinct sound it made when fired.  The French Hotchkiss et Cie company had a background in 37mm weapons having successfully marketed a manually operated 37mm revolving cannon, similar to a Gatling Gun with five barrels, since the 1870s.

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Hotchkiss 37mm Revolving Cannon (source)

The Maxim 37mm was developed in 1890 and was the first autocannon of its type ever designed.  It was originally developed as land based anti-personnel weapon it was soon adapted for use aboard ships, as an anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapon and even as an aircraft mounted weapon. After encountering Maxim-Nordenfelt made Boer 37mm Maxim’s the British Army purchased several hundred Maxims from Vickers-Armstrong and designated them the QF 1 Pounder.

The new Hotchkiss auto-cannon was intended to be a competitor to the highly successful Maxim auto-cannons which had proved so effective during the Second Anglo-Boer War (see images #3 & #4).  However, the Hotchkiss found relatively few customers with only small orders reportedly placed by Mexico and Japan. 


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More from the periodic Ordnance of the Week Series here

London to Ladysmith (Via Pretoria). Winston S. Churchill. Longmans, Green, & Co. Ltd., London, 1900. First English edition.

The first of two Boer War volumes derived from young Winston’s newspaper dispatches as a war correspondent, featuring a thrilling account of his escape from the Boers, an escape that helped launch his political career. Striking cover illustration of the infamous armored train that Churchill was defending when he was captured.