Object Advent Calendar Day 2

Hand-painted Christmas card on cloth by Private Mcfarlane

Today’s object from the Black Watch Museum Collection is a hand-painted Christmas card on khaki cloth, made by Private McFarlane during his service in the Boer War.

The Second Anglo-Boer War was fought from 11th October 1899 until the 31st May 1902 and resulted in the annexation of the Boer republics of the Orange Free State and the Transvaal, and ultimately leading to the creation of the Union of South Africa in 1910. The war, which started due to British encroachment onto the Boer territories, consisted of three distinct phases. The first, which saw the Boers strike into British territory and besiege the towns of Kimberley, Ladysmith and Mafeking, culminated in the British defeats at Maggersfontein, Colenso and Spionkop.

Hand-painted Christmas card on khaki cloth, made by Private McFarlane during his service in the Boer War.

Hand-painted Christmas card on khaki cloth, made by Private McFarlane during his service in the Boer War.

The second phase saw increasing British reinforcements start to apply pressure on the Boers, a second British offensive which succeeded in relieving the besieged towns and culminated in the capture of the Boer Capital of the Transvaal, Praetoria, in June 1900.

The final phase saw the Boers engage in a guerrilla campaign against the increasingly victorious British forces which was to last two years. During this time the elusive Boer columns raided British infantry storage depots, telegraph stations, railways and other sites. In response to this the British forces adopted a scorched earth policy and imprisonment of Boer families in concentration camps, where around 25,000 were to die. The Boer surrender came on 31st May 1902 with the treaty of Vereeniging and the acceptance of British rule over the two Boer Republics with the promise of self-government in the future.

The 2nd Battalion Black Watch arrived on the continent in November of 1899, and took part in most of the campaigning for the next four years. At the Battle of Magersfontein, as part of the Highland Brigade, they took part in the disastrous attack on the defended Boer positions which cost the battalion nearly half its strength in killed and wounded. The Battalion was able to get its revenge at Paardeberg, when the Boer General Cronje, the defender at Maggersfontein, was forced to surrender.

With the relief of the besieged British towns, the British forces in South Africa found themselves newly reinforced, including the 1st Battalion Black Watch, which arrived in December 1901.

Unfortunately we cannot be certain which Private McFarlane created the Christmas Card as at least three McFarlane’s appear on the Black Watch Medal Roll for the Boer War. Perhaps one of our readers can assist in further identifying him?


About blackwatchmuseum

The Museum of The Black Watch offers an insight into one of the British Army's if not the world's most famous fighting units. Scotland's Black Watch is an elite military regiment whose history stretches back almost three centuries.
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