Story: South African War

Patriotic handkerchief

This handkerchief was probably sold in early 1900 as New Zealand became caught up in enthusiasm for the war in South Africa. The words and music of 'The absent-minded beggar' refer to a poem by Rudyard Kipling with music by Arthur Sullivan, which was written to help London's Daily Mail newspaper raise funds for soldiers going off to the war. Men in the reserve had been called up, most of whom had been in full-time employment, and the soldier's pay would not compensate for their loss of wages. The first lines of the poem ran: 'When you've shouted "Rule Britannia," when you've sung "God save the Queen," / When you've finished killing Kruger with your mouth / Will you kindly drop a shilling in my little tambourine / For a gentleman in khaki ordered South?' The map on the handkerchief shows the two contested Boer territories of Orange Free State and Transvaal (the South African Republic), which lay between the British colonies of Cape Colony and Rhodesia. Lord Roberts, depicted on the top left, was the commander-in-chief of the British forces in South Africa at the time.

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How to cite this page:

Jock Phillips, 'South African War - Origins of the war', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/zoomify/36179/patriotic-handkerchief (accessed 20 September 2021)

Story by Jock Phillips, published 20 Jun 2012