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Queens Chocolate Tins


UPDATED: 06/04/2023

6 April 1900, Distribution of the Queen’s chocolate to the Town Guard.
6 April 1901, Brigadier General Brabant arrives in Kimberley.
6 April 1984, Ben Fouche sets the amateur course record of 66 at the Kimberley course.

In 1899, British soldiers and sailors were in South Africa, fighting the Anglo-Boer War which lasted from 11 October, 1899 to 31 May, 1902. Queen Victoria was concerned about the morale of her army and navy and wanted to do something to lift their spirits. She had heard that officers had gained much pleasure in receiving gifts from home so she decided she would send chocolate, a luxury item to the majority of people in those days. She would send chocolate to all of her army and navy serving in South Africa (including Australian contingents) as a Christmas/New Year gift in 1899/1900.

The chocolate manufacturer, Cadbury, which since around 1854 had a Royal Warrant to supply Queen Victoria with cocoa and chocolate, was contacted and requested to produce the royal bars of chocolate, each in its own individual tin. This put Richard and George Cadbury in a dilemma because as Quakers they were pacifists and did not agree with the war. However, they did not want to refuse a request from the Queen. To prevent their confectionery rivals from accusing them of going against their principles, Richard and George’s solution was to invite fellow Quakers, Joseph Storrs Fry and Joseph Rowntree in a temporary three-way partnership to complete the order.

Forty thousand tins, designed and made by Fry, were produced in two different sizes. The larger of the two tins is 15 x 9cm (6 x 3½ inches) and it has a gold-coloured rim around the edge of the lid; this contained two layers of chocolate. The slightly smaller or rather thinner tin, which measures 16 x 8cms (6¼ x 3¼ inches) has a blue rim around the edge of the lid, and contained one layer of chocolate.

The design on the lid of both sizes is the same; in the middle of the red lid of the tin is a gold-coloured embossed picture of Queen Victoria’s head. To the left is Queen Victoria’s insignia, and to the right are the words South Africa 1900 and is inscribed ‘I wish you a happy New Year’ and signed ‘Victoria’ running along the bottom.

It was decided, by all three companies, that the tins would carry no brand name. However, Queen Victoria was not amused about this decision; she wanted her army and navy to know that she was sending them quality British chocolate. As a compromise, the Cadbury name appeared on interior packaging of the chocolate. The tins remained unbranded.

(From the bbc.co.uk website).

UPDATED: 06/04/2018

6 April 1900, Distribution of the Queen’s chocolate to the Town Guard.
6 April 1901, Brigadier General Brabant arrives in Kimberley.
6 April 1984, Ben Fouche sets the amateur course record of 66 at the Kimberley course.


Battle of Boshof 5 April 1900

General the Comte de Villebois-Mareuil, commanding officer of the International (Volunteer) Brigade fighting for the Boers against the British, departed from the new capital of the Orange Free State, Kroonstad, at 9pm on 24 March 1900. His destination was south of Kimberley in order to attack the British line of communications but, before doing so, he wanted to unite his mixed force of French, Hollanders, Germans, Italians, Russians and others by attacking and capturing the small town of Boshof. This would show the Boers what foreigner burghers were capable of doing.


Plaque commemorating Comte de Villebois

By 28 March his force, many ill-disciplined, had reached Hoopstad where they remained for several days rest before continuing their march on towards Boshof. The French Colonel had heard about General Christian de Wet’s success at Sannah’s Pos on 31 March. “This event was necessary to show that we are alive.” He hoped that his attack on Boshof would have the same effect as they moved out of Hoopstad on 1 April.

The farm Leeuwkop, north-east of Boshof, was reached on 3 April and de Villebois-Mareuil spent the day planning the attack on Boshof, which quite simply, was for Veldkornet Daniels’ Boer commando to wait on the southern side of Boshof while he, the French Colonel, launched an attack on the small British garrison in the town from the north. The southern commando would then capture the fleeing British soldiers, so he planned.

The following day, the 4th, Daniels reported to the Frenchman that the British now had some 7000 men in Boshof instead of the 300 soldiers of the garrison as Lord Methuen had arrived in the town unexpectedly. De Villebois did not believe this information and thought that Daniels and his men were attempting to pull out of the planned attack. Daniels withdrew his commando from the planned attack and departed company from de Villebois. The Hollanders also wanted to leave but were threatened by the Frenchman who said that he would only attack with the French and advertise the fact that the Hollanders had deserted. They remained, but the last entry written in de Villebois’ diary was about the Hollanders. “I wish that they would all go to the devil.”

However, the attack was postponed because of these developments and de Villebois only left Leeuwkop on the night of the 4th. Their guide took them on a circular route (appearing to get lost) and at 9am on the morn of the 5th they had reached the farm Merriesfontein belonging to Louis Beck. (The farm now belongs to the well-known Wessels family of Boshof and sits astride the Kimberley-Bloemfontein road some 10 kilometres the Bloemfontein side of Boshof).

The volunteer force was fatigued, as were the horses, and the French Colonel asked Beck if they could off-saddle. The farmer turned down the request stating that the British patrolled every day to his farm, so the exhausted force continued a further 1500 metres to a low kopje upon which was a shady wild olive tree. It was at this kopje that the force halted, off-saddled, had a meal and slept for the day.

By 10.30am Lord Methuen in Boshof knew exactly where the Volunteer Boer force was situated. This knowledge was passed on to Lord Methuen by either Beck – who had been seen to gallop off to Boshof – or by local Africans sympathetic to the British – who had also been seen heading towards Boshof.

At 1.30pm de Villebois-Mareuil was aware that Lord Methuen was marching out of Boshof towards his position as he spotted the scouts close to their (the volunteers) bivouac position and behind them a long column of ‘khakis’. De Villebois decided to make a stand where he was and awaited the arrival of the British.

The Cape Police held a kopje on the line of advance directly opposite the Boer volunteer’s kopje, the Boers horses and carts being between the two forces. The French Colonel’s volunteers opened fire on the Cape Police, which was returned, and the Kimberley Mounted Corps covered the western approach together with the Sherwood Rangers (Imperial yeomanry) under Lord Chesham, covering the entire south-eastern approach. The Yeomanry would concentrate on the lower section of the kopje.


Tree under which Comte de Villebois was killed

The British force became pinned down under fire from de Villebois’ force so Lord Chesham suggested that the guns come into action, which they did. British soldiers had already reached the top of the kopje having advanced from the east along the lower section, and cheered wildly when the first shell exploded among the Boer volunteers close to the wild olive tree. A second shell was fired, and it was a piece of this shell that killed the French Colonel, although Lord Methuen stated that it was the third shell that had killed him. The volunteers immediately raised the white flag, but unfortunately a certain Hollander, Nicolaas de Jongh, continued shooting and Lt Williams was killed. De Jongh was executed shortly afterwards by the British.

Seven Boer volunteers were killed, while three British soldiers died, Sgt Patrick Campbell, Lt Williams, and Captain Cecil Boyle. Boyle had played rugby for England, and had been General JDP French’s ‘galloper’ on the relief of Kimberley in February that year. Over 50 volunteers surrendered to the British, but one who had escaped from the fiasco, Harm Oost, was to play a role in South African politics in the years to come. Sgt Campbell was the husband of the famous actress Mrs Patrick Campbell (Beatrice Stella Tanner).

Apart from Lord Methuen giving the French Colonel a full military funeral and paying for his headstone, Lord Chesham took de Villebois’ horse, Colenso, back to England and re-named it Villebois. Lord Chesham’s son, Lt Cavendish, was later killed in the battle of Diamond Hill, and this horse outlived the entire Chesham family. When it died it was buried on the village green at Latimer, Buckinghamshire, part of Lord Chesham’s estate.

The battle for Boshof had been a mistake by the Comte de Villebois-Mareuil – he had paid for it with his life.

When visitors to Latimer stare at the horses grave on the village green, one wonders if they even know how the history of one brave but foolhardy Frenchman, a dusty Free State town, a famous English actress, abuse of the white flag, South African politics, and two sentimental English Lords, are all tied up in that one grave.

Photographs show the tree under which Comte de Villebois was killed, and the plaque close to the tree.

From Kimberley Calls and Recalls on Facebook By Steve Lunderstedt

Aeon Computer Kimberley

About Steve Lunderstedt


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