Boer War Report

Date / Period
Object Type
Books, Guides and Manuals
Canadian Red Cross
International Humanitarianism and Presence

The first major Canadian Red Cross activity to gain the country’s attention was its response to Canadian participation in the Boer War (1899-1902). The society’s founders published this report in 1902 to publicize and celebrate their contributions to the aid of sick and wounded soldiers. Today it is one of very few artifacts of the earliest Red Cross work in Canada, and an important one for that reason.

The Boer War was fought over colonized territories in what is today South Africa, between the British Empire and Dutch settlers known as Boers. The issue of whether Canada should send any troops to support the British cause divided Canadians, but in the end the government sent a volunteer force. Those who were in favour of this decision supported war charities – the Canadian Red Cross among them – that offered assistance to Canadian and British troops in South Africa.

The society’s Boer War report tells us that Canadians in every province contributed to Red Cross work, but also that this support was often limited to the biggest cities or particular social groups within a province. This reflected Canadians’ divided opinions on whether Canada should be participating in the war or not. It also reflected the fact that this was the Canadian Red Cross’ first real opportunity to fulfill its mandate to aid the sick and wounded in wartime: it had no existing reputation for effectiveness, nor were many Canadians yet familiar with its purpose and principles.

The society provided supplementary hospital supplies and comforts that helped ease servicemen’s suffering, and gained Canadians’ trust as a result of its Boer War work. This helped demonstrate the value of voluntary organizations as adjuncts to government medical provision in wartime. Although the Canadian Red Cross folded its operations at the end of the war, it had established an important base of support for any future wartime activities.

Boer War Report

Boer War Report
Report by The Canadian Red Cross Society of its operation in the South African War 1899-1902
Boer War Report
Two pages from the Canadian Red Cross’s Boer War report, 1902.

Stay Informed & Stay Connected