Boer War Album/Scrapbook
Boer War Album/Scrapbook
Title: Boer War Album/Scrapbook, 1902-1904
Editor: Benjamin Bremner
Description: About 80 folio-sized pages with newspaper clippings, postcards and ephemera neatly tipped in related to the South African exploits of Maude Lilian Bremner - the eldest daughter of noted Prince Edward Island historian Benjamin Bremner (1851-1938). More clippings, and ephemera laid in. Maude volunteered and was accepted to travel to South Africa and teach to Boer children in refugee camps at the end of the conflict. The scrapbook includes numerous articles reprinting letters written home by Bremner and other teachers part of the contingent. While in South Africa, Bremner would meet and marry an Australian, Major J. de Castilla, who was serving with the West Australian Mounted Infantry.
During the guerrilla phase of the war, Lord Kitchener decided to eliminate what he considered the Boers* main line of support, their countryside. To deny the Boer commandos access to food, fodder, and fresh horses, Kitchener's troops embarked on a campaign of farm-burning and deportations. The non-combatants displaced by this strategy were removed to a series of central or "concentration" camps. In theory, these displaced persons were safer relocated away from the fighting. In reality, the policy merely put them at the mercy of the same logistical blunders that plagued the rest of the British Army. The camps — crowded, unsanitary, badly supplied, and almost bereft of medical staff — were literally the death of 30,000 Boer women and children, many times more than the number of Boers killed in action. The scandal sparked in England by revelations about camp conditions prompted a series of reprimands for the military and reforms for the camps. One of these reforms called for a cadre of school teachers to "buildup the Imperial spirit" in South Africa. In Canada, forty teachers volunteered to work in the camps and help indoctrinate the surviving Boers with the culture, beliefs, and benefits of empire. Among this group were three Islanders: Clara Gertrude Arbuckle of Summerside along with Maude Lilian Bremner and Grace Dutcher, both of Charlottetown. As in the raising of military contingents, numbers were not as important as what they represented. "We in Prince Edward Island," the Examiner reminded readers, "may well feel assured that though our quota is small in number, it cannot be surpassed in quality. We are sending some of our best and brightest teachers, teachers who ... will know how to adapt themselves to their circumstances, and make the best of every situation." The Island women sailed in April 1902, arriving in South Africa on 2 June, one day after a peace treaty was signed. There they signed contracts for a minimum of one year's service among the Boers.
Source: Islanders and the Boer War by Darin MacKinnon and Boyde Beck in The Island Magazine, No. 26 / Fall-Winter, 1986
May the record also show service in South Africa was life-changing for two of the island teachers. Both Dutcher and Bremner would meet men and marry while overseas.