Souvenir handkerchief: Australian Bushmen's Contingent, Boer War

Place Africa: South Africa
Accession Number REL/00954
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Heraldry
Physical description Silk
Maker Unknown
Date made c 1900
Conflict South Africa, 1899-1902 (Boer War)

Man's white silk souvenir handkerchief with drawn threadwork border, printed in black, red and blue. In the centre a Bushman and his horse are silhouetted against a South African landscape set in a circle. The sides and base of the circle are decorated with flowering wattle, with 'BUSHMENS CONTINGENT' written in a scroll beneath it. Each side of the circle carries a flag: on the left a Union Jack and on the right a red flag with Union Jack in the upper left canton and on the fly a shield within a circle, set within four stars representing the Southern Cross. The latter flag may represent a version of the unofficial South African merchant ensign of the period, or an unofficial pre-Federation Australian flag. Each corner of the handkerchief bears the same device: crossed flags showing a Union Jack and the same red ensign as shown in the central device but missing its four stars. Above the crossed flag staffs is 'BUSHMEN'S CORPS'; below them '1900'.

History / Summary

The history of this handkerchief is unknown. Patriotic souvenirs of this type were popular during the Boer War and ranged from cheap cotton handkerchiefs with monochrome printing, often produced by local newspaper presses, to better quality cotton with more elaborate designs and multi-colours, and, at the upper range of the market, silk handkerchiefs, like this example, with a coloured design.

The handkerchiefs were produced in England, South Africa and in countries who sent troops to the war. Some were tailored specifically to appeal to the families of troops from a particular country; others commemorated the military and political leaders during the war or were designed as more general expressions of support for the troops of the British Empire as a whole.