BOER WAR CHRISTMAS GIFT TIN

Godalming Museum, ref: B980.532

 

Tins containing chocolate were sent out to the British and colonial servicemen fighting against President Kruger's forces of the South African Republic in the year 1900. The tins were a gift from Queen Victoria and a printed inscription on the lid, in the Queen's handwriting, reads, "I wish you a Happy New Year".

This example belonged to, and was donated by, Mr A R Gore. Godalming Museum also has, in its archives, an unpublished manuscript entitled, "My Life Story" by Joshua May. He recalls the day that reserves marched off to Stoughton Barracks before being sent off to South Africa,

I remember them singing "Forty Thousand Horse and Foot and Off to Table Bay!"
(It took nearly two hundred thousand horse and foot , under General Buller, and
nearly four years to finish the war).

"What a great night it was when we heard that Ladysmith was relieved. Then there
was Kimberley and, at last, Mafeking. What joy there was in Godalming for was not
Powell, its senior officer, an old Charterhouse boy?...But the lifting of the siege
did not finish the war and for a long time we were chasing De Wet. I think our real
objective was to posess the gold and diamond fields around Kimberley. Well, we
got it at a price and now we have lost it again. I wonder if it was worth the money
and the lives we paid for it".

In the Museum are copies of letters, one from Lord Baden-Powell written (while he and his troops were besieged at Mafeking) to his old schoolmaster and flown out by balloon post. The other was from soldier, Billie Boxall, to his sister. In a sentence, which reveals some of the trials of a soldier's life in the Boer War, he says,
"I shall not be home by Christmas we dont know when we shall so you must tell
mum to save me some of that wine and Pickled Cabbage till I come home Billy dont
want no jam he gets enough now we have jam for breakfast and tea everyday no
butter nor nothing else."

Although Billie survived this war, he and his two brothers, Alan and Harry were all killed during the First World War. Their mother, Annie Boxall, a jam maker (the reason, probably, for Billie's reference to jam in his letter) tolled the bell at Godalming Church every midday during the First World War in memory of those killed.

 

 

Return to Wartimes or the Collections index