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Book Reviews

Carvings from the Veldt
Part Three
Revied by: Paul Heiser.The original review appeared in quarterly magazine of the SSAA (Historical Arms Collectors Branch) Inc. Queensland.

Local author and HAC branch member David George has just released volume three in his series of books that highlight the habit of both sides of the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) carving stocks with the owner’s names, or images of regimental badges and such like. A less knowledgeable author may have started to run out of steam in writing on such a specialised subject but again David comes up trumps and provides new material.

I treated myself by buying this book as a Christmas present to myself and I was not disappointed. At three hundred and forty four pages containing many never before seen photographs this is a book to be read slowly to absorb all the information. I particularly enjoyed the way the owner’s names on the rifles were researched to show their units and personal details such as any medals awarded to them. In the case of Boers who took up arms many had similar names or even the same name and it is not always possible to identify with exact certitude to whom the rifle belonged to. Likewise how many John Browns and John Smiths served with the British in South Africa is a matter of conjecture.

David George has been fortunate in that many descendants of those who served on both sides have supplied personal information on the person concerned. I found it interesting to me to learn the personal details of an obscure Boer farmer or volunteer from New Zealand and how they fared after the war. Many images show family groups and even their gravestones. Men on both sides seem to have eventually settled down after the end of hostilities and raised families and pursued a living as farmers, tradesmen or whatever.

As a collector is rather sad to see to images of stacks of captured and surrendered Mausers being burnt to avoid their being reused. One can only speculate on how many carved stocks went up in smoke and the tales they could have told to us. My spirits were restored when I came across a photograph of recently bug up Boer issue 7x57 cartridges still in their cardboard boxes. Along with the rifles there are large numbers of photographs of both official issue and homemade bandoleers and especially how these were adapted to field use.

Most people’s image of a typical Boer is a man off the land in long trousers, shirt and rustic coat with a large floppy hat and generally this is correct but there are numerous photographs in the book of what appear to be well off middle class town dwellers who took up arms. There are also a number of interesting images of professional Boer soldiers in European style uniforms. Images that are out of the ordinary are what makes this book so interesting.

David George is to be congratulated firstly for generously sharing his immense knowledge with fellow collectors and for secondly collating information and photographs that would have never have been available to collectors and lovers of history. I am sure many of us will be waiting to see if there will be a fourth volume in the wind, let us hope so. This is a great book that deserves to be on every collector’s bookshelf. David George can be contacted by clicking the link below.

Email David

Carvings from the Veldt
Part Three
Revied by: Alan Raves, Vereeniging, RSA, July 2017.

If you are a lover of anything relating to the Boer War then this pictorial history is a must for you.

This is not only a book about guns and war, but is a 'living history' about the belligerents that took part on both sides. Many of the men and women who are long gone are being remembered in such a special way. A striking fact about the book, is that when one looks at the photos, one can only wonder as to what was going through the persons mind. Was a young Kiwi trooper missing his family back home because it was Christmas time, or was a Boer fighter sleeping on the open veldt in the rain, wondering if the stories he had heard were true. The rumour spreading through the Commando was that the British were putting the Boer women and children into camps. The stories about the men who carried these weapons, are endless.

Dave George has done a wonderful job in linking names carved onto firearms, to burgers who fought in various Commandos. One example is of a farmer who lived in the OVS one hundred years ago. Thanks to this book I have been able to put his great grandson in contact with the current owner of a Martini Henry rifle, that once belonged to his great grandfather. After a lapse of 115 years this is utterly amazing. The trilogy of books written by Dave is a job well done and could only have been accomplished by someone filled with a passion for this subject. Having met Dave George personally I can say this to be the truth. This book is a definitive work on the subject and it took years to compile.

All we can say to Dave George is 'baie dankie meneer' (very many thanks Sir).

Carvings from the Veldt
Part Three
Revied by: Alan Raves, Vereeniging, RSA, July 2017. In Afrikaans

Oor Meester Geweer-Kerwers

As jy enigsins in die ongelooflike romantiek van die Anglo-BoereOorlog oftewel die Suid Afrikaanse Oorlog belangstel, is 'Carvings from the Veldt' deur Dave George –Part Three is nou net jou koppie tee. Dit is nie ʼn boek oor veldslae, bloed en medaljes nie, maar is bewese bewys hoe met ʼn unieke kunsvorm, daar hulde gebring is aan die strydende partye se rolspelers. . Baie opvallend is die waarnemer se gevolgtrekking van wat die skepper van sy kunswerk se gedagtegang was op die oomblik van handeling. Miskien was die kerwer ʼn jong Kiwi wat met Kersfees verlang het na sy mense. Of was dit ʼn Boer wat iewers in die veld geveg het vir volk en vaderland. Dalk denkende aan sy familie tuis wat dalk ook al weggevoer is konsentrasie kampe toe. Wie sal regtig weet? Verhale oor die inspirasie is legio met nog baie onverteldes.

Dave George se navorsing en veeleisende werk om die kloutjie by die oor te bring kan net met lof besing word. Veral om name en verhale by die wapen as eenheid oor te vertel. Danksy George se navorsing kon die uwe ʼn agterkleinseun in verbinding bring met die eienaar van ʼn Martini wat 115 jaar gelede deur sy oupagrootjie op kommando geneem is. Dit is mos ongelooflike speurwerk. Dave George se trilogie is kunswerke sonder weerga. Dit kan net ʼn sukses wees omdat ʼn maestro soos Dave soveel passie vir sy vak het. Die jare wat hy bestee het om hierdie kunswerke vir ons na te laat kan net met een sin begroet word en dit is: 'Baie dankie Meneer' ! Alan Raves, RSA, Aug. 2017.

South African Gun Magazine
MAN MAGNUM by Gregor Woods
Vol. 34, No.8, September 2009 edition.

Readers may remember Malcolm Cobb’s review of Dave George’s first book, Carvings from the Veldt in our September 2005 issue. Dave George is a South African who emigrated to Australia during the 1970s, where he produced that interesting work. The book was devoted to surviving examples of rifles and carbines from the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902 whose users or owners had carved their names, initials, regiments’ names, coats of arms of the OFS or Transvaal, and any other names, figures, portraits or patterns in the wooden stocks.

That publication drew so many enquiries from interested persons, museums, collectors’ associations and other groups all over the world, that Dave decided to follow it up with a second book on the same subject.

* Please note that this second book is not simply an updated version of the first one – Part Two is a completely new work.

Being mainly interested in rifles as tools, I thought that Boer War stock carvings was a somewhat odd subject for a book, especially since many of the carvings were crude, amateurish affairs. But then it occurred to me how many millions of ex-army or ‘war surplus’ rifles exist which offer absolutely no clue as to their battle history.

Serial numbers are of little or no historical use, for few armies kept records of the issue of rifles – and fewer still have kept the records for a century. A great many of these stock carvings are very useful in identifying the units and commandos from which they came, and the battles in which they were used, and may even identify the soldier who used the weapon. Such carvings can be of enormous importance and sentimental value to the soldiers’ descendants, not to mention anyone else with an interest in military history.

This is an impressive book, and the first thing that strikes you is the enormous amount of research and sheer labour that has gone into its production. Bear in mind that the book covers rifles and artifacts from both sides of the war – Boer and British, and contains contributions from all over the world. British military law forbad Imperial soldiers to deface their service rifles in any way, so the British examples were mostly those of colonial South African, Australian and New Zealand owners, or British regulars who may have bought their service rifles after the war and then done the carvings. The Boer rifles, of course, include many captured British .303s, in fact, if Boer War photos are anything to go by, there may have been almost as many Boers carrying .303s by the end of the war as there were 7mm Mausers.

The logistics involved in locating and photographing so many of these items boggles the mind, quite apart from the chasing down and categorizing the information. This book is truly a labour of love. All the photos are supported by text giving whatever details are known to relate to the particular item. It makes for interesting reading. It is also very well presented in hard cover, A4 size, 350 pages of high quality glossy paper and crammed with photographs, mostly in colour, with some black and white historical photos of Anglo-Boer War times. It covers rifles and handguns, as well as numerous hand-carved artifacts, and various other items that had names, initials, coats of arms and other symbols carved into their surfaces by people involved in the war, including prisoners of war.

The book begins with an introduction (circumstances and events leading to the war) and illustrates a selection of the various rifles and carbines used during the war. Then, Part One covers carvings on British and Colonial rifles and carbines , with a section on Boer, British and Colonial headgear. Part Two covers carvings on Boer rifles and carbines, and Part Three covers rifles carved by unidentified Burgers and soldiers. Part Four covers handguns with carvings and engravings. Part Five tells of Anglo-Boer War battle re-enactment groups around the world, and Part Six hand-carved artifacts and trench art. There is also a list of Mauser serial numbers of rifles and carbines with carvings, plus a glossary and other useful appendices.

This book will be of interest to descendants of the soldiers, militaria enthusiasts in general, but especially to those with a particular interest in the Anglo-Boer War.

Available locally from Zimbi Books, 012-349-1662.

Clarke’s Book Store, Cape Town 021-423-5739.

Gerry Reed, (Durban) cell 083-242-3711.

Review in the UK Magazine
BLACK POWDER by Alan Overton
Summer, 2009

Members may recall that this book was previewed by me in these pages in the autumn; my own copy has now arrived and far exceeds the very high expectations that I had formed of it. What a book it is. An A4 size hardback with over three hundred pages absolutely packed with photographs – mostly in colour - of carved Boer War rifles, carbines, pistols and artefacts providing an extraordinary personal link to those who fought in this bitter conflict. Much painstaking research has been conducted by Mr. George – it has taken him nearly four years of solid work with contributions from all around the globe – to record and document the rifles that, uniquely, frequently bear the name or initials of the Boers that carried them, and, so far as possible, to identify their owners and to briefly sketch their lives and their fates. Close liaison with the keepers of the archives of the nations involved has resulted in much detail being unearthed, including family origins, medal entitlements, Prisoner of War camp identified (if appropriate) and so on.

Many of these rifles and carbines are quite spectacular in the quality of the carving and decoration; frequently they include State Coats of Arms, silhouettes of, for example, President Kruger, the actions in which their owners fought and the farms from which they hailed. But equally interesting are the single initials, sometimes within a heart or lozenge device, with which a Burgher personalised the rifle that he carried; he knew its handling characteristics and its zero, and he knew that his life might one day depend on it.

There is a very interesting section on British and Colonial issue rifles that have been similarly carved, mainly to their Australian, New Zealand and Tasmanian owners, very few to British regular servicemen who were, of course, subject to military law and for whom defacing Her Majesty’s property might well result in a charge of misuse and damage; and the remainder are to Volunteers, who frequently purchased their own rifles and equipment and who could, therefore, do with them whatever they wished - but probably not until hostilities had ceased.

There is an excellent section on pistols; a number of C96 Mausers of course, but Colt and Webley are also well represented, the majority engraved or otherwise marked with the owner’s name and, often, his unit. Amongst the former is a C96 complete with buttstock, once the property of John Spencer Churchill, Winston Churchill’s brother, who was serving in the South African Light Horse. In the is latter a Webley Mk. IV inscribed to C.H. Bibby-Hesketh of the Duke of Lancaster’s Own Yeomanry Cavalry. Pistols with a proven Boer War provenance are rare birds indeed.

Other sections deal with miscellaneous carvings and trench art – particularly poignant is the work of Boer Prisoners of War who spent their time producing small, beautifully made articles such as pipes and trinket boxes. A fine selection of cap and unit badges and shoulder titles are featured, along with headdress and other equipment including swords, bayonets and bandoliers. Re-enactors from three continents have a section to themselves which documents their many activities and includes contact details for the various groups.

Mr. George’s brief synopsis of the war forming part of his introduction is rather less objective than perhaps Conan Doyle’s History (534 pages), or that of Wilson, and the sharp eyed reader will pick up one of two minor inaccuracies either of description or of fact but these by no means detract from the overall value of this book which is enormous. This book is, and will remain, the definitive work of reference for these historic arms for the future and Mr. George is to be congratulated for the dedication and sheer amount of effort and research that is evident on every single page.

This is a book that no serious student of arms, researcher or historian can afford to be or will want to be without; copies are available in the UK now and the book retails at sixty pounds sterling. UK internal postage and packing works out at about eight pounds sterling (the book weighs 1.75kilos!) but free delivery to the Imperial War Museum, London, or the MLAGB Range Complex, Wedgnock, can be quickly and easily arranged.

GUNBOARDS Website
Review by:
John WALL (USA),

Collectors interested in Boer war history and historically important Mausers, Enfield and Martini rifles, there is a fantastic book published last year in Australia which I highly recommend. The book focuses on Boer War rifles whose owners have carved the stocks with coats of arms, battles and soldiers' names. Many of these rifles have been researched back to their original Boer owners or the Commonwealth troops who brought them home. Their history and supporting documentation (always shown in photo form) is the best I have ever seen.

This is an outstanding companion volume to the Bester book, "Small Arms of the Anglo-Boer War". Dave has done an outstanding research job for this book, providng well-documented backgrounds and histories of many dozens of Boer Mausers, Enfields, Martinis, Guedes, and other rifles. Although all his illustrations and maps are in color, this 140 page book only costs US $60.00, plus shipping. Don't miss this one. This book ranks right up there with Webster, Speed, Bester et al, and Jones' Mauser books in research quality, writing and photography to make it one of the top 5 or 6 Mauser books of the first decade of century (so far!). (NB: This is a shortened version of original review).


GUNS AUSTRALIA
Review by:
DANIEL COTTERILL,
(Editor)

This book is an absolute "must have" for the collector of Boer War rifles. After a lifetime of interest and three years of solid research Dave George has come up with an original work that will become a classic. As the title implies, this book is very tightly focussed on the carved stocks sometimes encountered on rifles that were used in the Boer War. The text is logically arranged and clearly written, and in addition to describing the carvings and how and for what reasons they were done, there are many personal histories of the men who carried the rifles and what became of them.

With a picture said to be worth a thousand words, “Carvings from the Veldt” will be a valuable books as it features over 300 colour photographs of 134 different rifles and carbines. Boer War rifles are eagerly sought after collectors' items and there is no doubt that the first edition of “Carvings from the Veldt” will soon join that category. (NB: A slightly shortened version of the original review)









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