The Second Boer War was fought by the British Empire against the Dutch-speaking Boers, who were the combined forces of the South African Republic and the Republic of the Orange Free State. The Boer Republics declared war on 11th October 1899 and the conflict ended on 31st May 1902 with Britain annexing the region under the British Empire.

The Boer War was the first time that large contingents of Canadian troops would serve abroad, and represented an occasion for patriotism among Canadians, specifically those in English speaking Canada, many of whom supported the imperial adventure. A total of 7,368 Canadians served during the Second Boer War; 89 were killed in action, 135 died of sickness or injuries and 252 were injured.
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J.C. Wilson & Co. produced the later designs in their series of patriotic postcards and covers during the Boer War, and the patriotism of the subject matter, and in some cases, direct reference to the war itself, made these cards and covers a natural choice for mail to and from the soldiers, and in some ways, their most significant use.

In some cases, patriotic envelopes were supplied free of charge to the soldiers.

The inscription found on the back of some of the envelopes (Maple Leaf For Ever Types I & II both seen), stated:

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These envelopes supplied gratis, for free distribution to Canadian Soldiers in, and going to, South Africa, by Nelson Lodge, Sons of England, Almonte, Ont. Canada.
J.C. Wilson & Co., Montreal, Publishers
Nelson Lodge, established 1887, was a lodge of the Sons of England Benevolent Society, itself established in 1874 in Toronto. The lodge met twice monthly at Sons of England Hall in Almonte, in the Ottawa Valley southwest of Ottawa. The society was founded for “The bringing together of Englishmen for their mutual benefit and support, and the maintenance of the British Connection”. Sponsoring the free donation of envelopes for Canadian troops volunteering in the Boer War was likely seen as a fitting activity for the 38 Lodge members, whose occupations ranged from labourers to merchants & a surgeon.

In Kenneth Rowe’s 1981 publication The Postal History of the Canadian Contingents, Anglo-Boer War, 1899–1902, published by The Vincent G. Greene Philatelic Research Foundation, he notes that some of J.C. Wilson’s designs were used in South Africa (he excludes those used from Canada to South Africa). He offers a summary of the examples known to him at that time, (which have been modified to conform with Henry Gates’ naming convention, and paired with a listing of copies in the collection below), as shown at right.
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In addition to the Soldier’s Mail to Australia shown above, being Figure 51 in his book, Kenneth Rowe also illustrates, as Figure 52, an example of an Old Glory & The Maine cover with a 1d C.G.H. stamp mailed to Mr. John Mills, Woodbine Cottage near Perranwell Station R.S.G., Cornwall, England. The cover was mailed from O’Okiep, a mining town in N.W. Cape Colony on August 2, 1900. The same sender also forwarded a British Ensign Type II cover, (shown in the collection), from O’Okiep to the same destination several weeks earlier. A second British Ensign Type II cover from the same sender to the same destination dated August 2, 1900 is also known, as well as a third copy with a smudged date, and an Anglo-Saxon cover dated January 17, 1901.

The late Wm. G. Robinson offers several examples of J.C. Wilson covers used as Contingent mail in his award-winning exhibit Canadian Participation in the Anglo-Boer War, 1899-1902 published by the British North America Philatelic Society Ltd., BNAPS Exhibits No. 1, September 1996. He shows a First Contingent Royal Canadian Regiment example, (shown above right), of a Maple Leaf For Ever Type I cover with a Land of the Maple song back and a Type vi, Nelson Lodge, inscription on the back, mailed with a July 11, 1900 G.P.O. Capetown postmark on a 1 penny Cape of Good Hope stamp, to Halifax. He shows a Second Contingent What We Have We’ll Hold Type I cover mailed from Ottawa with a pair of 2¢ QV Numeral stamps to a member of the Royal Canadian Dragoons on May 7, 1900, with a Bobs song back. He also illustrates a Maple Leaf For Ever Type I cover with a Land of the Maple song back mailed with a G.P.O. Capetown May 17, 1900 cancellation, lacking a stamp, to Kingston, Ontario.

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The Hugh Westgate 1898 Map Stamp Collection also held a Soldiers of the Queen Type II cover (shown above) bearing a Map Stamp mailed to Natal, thought to be the only Map stamp cover used for postal purposes to Natal.

Some examples of Boer War-related uses of J.C. Wilson patriotics are shown in chronological order in the following pages.