Tag Archives: South african War

Featured Artifact – South African War Emergency Ration

Hardly a week goes by without finding an interesting object even though our our collection is relatively small compared to many museums. One such object is an “emergency” ration used by Canadian and British troops during the South African War – also known as the 2nd Boer War – 1899-1901.

Generally produced by the Bovrill company in England, these cylindrical lead “tins” were about 14 cm (5.5″) long and 5 cm (2″) in diameter, were actually two separate tins joined together by a metal strip with a pull tab that could be used to separate the tins. The whole piece was wrapped with a paper label that instructed “Only to be used with permission of an officer.”  Each section also had its own lid on which were glued instructions on how to prepare them for eating.

They usually consisted of 4 ounces of concentrated beef (Pemmican) in one end, and 4 ounces of cocoa paste in the other. Ideally both were to be used with water – the beef to be soaked for 15 or so minutes in water to create a sort of beef soup – but in theory either could be eaten from the can if necessary. They were said to be able to sustain a soldier for 36 hours if consumed in small quantities!

Normally a mobile “field kitchen” would provide at least one hot meal a day but there were occasions when this was not practical. For instance during the Battle of Paardeberg, troops were pinned down for much of a day and night.

Certainly rations have come a long way since 1899!

We don’t know where our ration came from but its possible it was brought back by Captain Edgar Henry Redway – one of thirty officers and men from The Queens’ Own Rifles to serve in South Africa.  You can read more about Redway’s experiences in his diary.


Help needed transcribing South African War Diary of Edgar Henry Redway

Edgar Redway
Edgar Redway


Thanks to the diligent efforts of Corporal Michael McLean, an Electronics-Optronics Tech based at Canadian Forces Base Petawawa, we have now completed the transcription of Redway’s Diary.

You can read it here.


We recently received a donation of a diary kept by Queen’s Own rifleman Edgar Henry Redway written during part of his service during the South African War. We would like to transcribe this diary to make it more accessible for research.

If you are interested in helping in this project please email museum@qormuseum.org before you start, indicating which pages you’d like to transcribe. We’d like you to transcribe in groups of 10 pages to keep the administration simple realizing that this may not cover a complete date entry.

“In progress” beside the page list below means someone is already working on that group of pages. “Completed” means its done and dusted.

Before starting please review the instructions following the page list below.

  • Page 1-10 – Completed
  • Page 11-20 -Completed
  • Page 21-30 – Completed
  • Page 31-40 – Completed
  • Page 41-50 – Completed
  • Page 51-60 – Completed
  • Page 61-70 – Completed
  • Page 71-80 – Completed
  • Page 81-90 – Completed
  • Page 91-100 – Completed
  • Page 101-110 – Completed
  • Page 111-121 – Completed

The pdf of the diary can be found on here on our website.

Transcribing Guidelines

  1. Send your transcription in text format (not tables). You can use Word or simply paste them into the text of your email.
  2. Transcribe exactly what is written – including spelling mistakes and abbreviations or acronyms.
  3. Do not use bold or italics.
  4. If you are unable to determine a word or phrase, please put a simple [?] in place of the undecipherable text.
  5. Do not worry about replicating how it is laid out – it is easier to read if we just make paragraphs on our web page.
  6. Do not include page numbers.
  7. Please make sure you review or better yet, have someone else review your transcription for accuracy particularly if there are sections you are unsure of. Transcribing Redway’s handwriting can be tricky and a second set of eyes can sometimes catch something you may have missed.

Thank you in advance for your assistance!! If you have any additional questions, please email us at museum@qormuseum.org