Military heroes came second only to the Queen herself in the hierarchy of Victorian celebrity culture. With the British Empire at its peak, filmmakers jostled for glimpses of conquering heroes like Lord Kitchener and Field-Marshal Roberts.
The second Boer War was the first major conflict of the film era, and a few intrepid pioneers travelled with their cameras to South Africa. While they rarely captured the fighting, the footage they sent home gave filmgoers an unprecedented window on the war. Other filmmakers were content to re-enact skirmishes at home or film processions of departing or returning troops to excite patriotic audiences.
Coldstream Guards Embarking on Troopship Gascon
Non-Fiction18991 minsSilent Location: Southampton
This close view of departing troops gets up close and personal with soldiers off to the Boer War.
H.M.S. "Powerful" Arriving in Portsmouth Harbour
Non-Fiction19001 minsSilent Location: Portsmouth
A mighty naval cruiser returns home to Britain, covered in glory - and Nelson's ship is there to welcome it
Troops Passing over the Modder by Train
Despite the retreating Boers blowing up the original bridge, the rapid movement of troops is quickly restored.
Royal Scots Regiment at Edinburgh Castle (1901)
Non-Fiction19015 minsSilent Location: Edinburgh Castle
Troops play up for the camera in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle.
Lord Roberts Presenting Medals to Boer War Volunteers in Liverpool (1901)
Non-Fiction19019 minsSilent Location: Liverpool
The Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces recognises war heroes old and new in front of crowds on a wet day in Edwardian Liverpool.
A Skirmish with the Boers near Kimberley by a Troop of Cavalry Scouts Attached to General French's Column
A Boer War re-enactment with a ring of authenticity
Band Marching down a Street
Non-Fiction18970 minsSilent Location: Barnet
A uniformed marching band takes to the street in this early film by pioneer cinematographer Birt Acres
Dispersing the Troops at Windsor after Parade
Non-Fiction18991 minsSilent Location: Windsor
The senior regiment of the British Army, the Life Guards, are dismissed after a Royal Review
Trafalgar Day London 1900
Non-Fiction19001 mins Location: Trafalgar Square
With the Boer War raging 1,000s of miles away, Victorian Londoners pay tribute to the military
Sailors on H.M.S. Black Prince Firing Cannon and Rifles
Naval trainees show off their weapons prowess for the camera
Train Load of C.I.V.s Leaving Southampton
Non-Fiction19001 mins Location: Southampton
Back in Blighty - after fighting in the Boer War, these volunteer soldiers are heading home to London and Middlesex
War Balloon and Transport Crossing the Vaal River
A Boer War poser: how do you get a balloon and a train of carts drawn by mules and oxen across a river with no bridge?
French Military Procession
Military processions could usually be relied on to draw a crowd, both in the streets and later in the cinemas.
Bluejackets' Field Gun Drill at Durban
Boer war sailors fire, dismantle, move and reassemble a pair of heavy guns in a contest of skill and dexterity.
The Arrival and Reception of Lord Roberts at Capetown
A military supremo takes command of British forces in South Africa
Parade of Troops with Band and Crowds Following
For Britons during the Boer War, a welcome opportunity to support the troops - and march alongside them
1st Volunteer Battalion, East Lancashire Regiment - Blackburn Rifle Volunteers (1900)
Non-Fiction19002 minsSilent Location: Blackburn
An impressive display of numbers from the local volunteer force as part of the Blackburn Easter Fair.
The 5-inch Siege Guns Crossing Vaal River
Boer war soldiers play at cowboys, as long teams of oxen are harnessed to keep heavy siege guns moving
The Australian Mounted Rifles Marching through Cape Town
Australia’s contribution to the Boer War effort is glimpsed en route to the front.
Duke and Duchess of York at Conway
Non-Fiction18993 minsSilent Location: Conwy
The spectacle of a royal visit in Victorian Wales is captured by local showman Arthur Cheetham.
Entry of the Scots' Guards into Bloemfontein
RW Paul’s tactic of lending a camera to Walter Beevor of the Scots Guards pays dividends in this Boer War footage.
The Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers Digging Entrenchments at Orange River, South Africa - The passing of the Armoured Train
British troops dig in during the Boer war campaign
Gordon Highlanders Leaving for the Boer War
18991 minsSilent Location: Aberdeen
A rambunctious crowd greets the Highlanders in Aberdeen, some more interested in the camera than the soldiers.
Mounting and Dismounting a 3-ton Gun
Royal Marines demonstrate the fearsome artillery skills they would take to the Boer War - all without firing a shot
Troopship Nubia Leaving Harbour
Non-Fiction18992 minsSilent Location: Southampton
The Nubia sets sail from Southampton as the crisis in South Africa escalates.
King's Liverpool Regiment
Another example of early amateur cinematography from Robert A Mitchell, yet to perfect his cranking technique.
The Late Queen's Visit to Dublin: Royal Procession Entering the City Gates
In Dublin, the crowds go wild for a rare glimpse of Queen Victoria as she enters the city in spectacular style
Lord Roberts Leaving for South Africa
Documentary18991 minsSilent Location: Southampton
With grim news from the Boer War, a popular military commander is given a fond farewell as he leaves to take command
C.I.V. Procession. Cyclists and Infantry
A very patriotic heroes' welcome for men who volunteered to fight for their country in the Boer War
Lord Roberts' Visit to Manchester (1901)
Documentary190110 minsSilent Location: Manchester
The Boer War hero addresses a capacity crowd in Manchester's Piccadilly Gardens and unveils a statue to the late Queen Victoria.
Lord Rosebery in Carlisle (c.1901)
Non-Fiction19011 minsSilent Location: Carlisle
Liberal politician and former Prime Minister Lord Rosebery addresses appreciative crowds.
Manchester's Welcome to the Imperial Yeomanry (1901)
Non-Fiction19014 minsSilent Location: Manchester
A volunteer cavalry regiment is enthusiastically welcomed home after active service in South Africa.
Ralph Pringle Interviewing Private Ward V.C. Hero in Leeds (1901)
Non-Fiction19012 minsSilent Location: Leeds
An ordinary hero of the Boer War in a curious silent 'interview'.
Sir George White Leaving the London Hippodrome
Non-Fiction19001 mins Location: London
Londoners turn out in their thousands to greet the returning Boer War hero after his famous defence of Ladysmith
Return of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment (1901)
Non-Fiction190114 minsSilent Location: Birmingham
Soldiers returning from the Boer War get a warm welcome home from crowds in Edwardian Birmingham.
Return of the Brave Manchester Volunteers (1901)
Non-Fiction19015 minsSilent Location: Manchester
Crowds throng the streets for the return of Manchester's Volunteers from South Africa.
The Seaforth Highlanders' Return to Cairo after the Fall of Omdurman and Khartoum
The Scottish regiment filmed on their return from fighting in the Sudan
The Surrender of Kroonstad to Lord Roberts
British commander Lord Roberts takes possession of Kroonstad - a huge symbolic victory in the Boer War
Torpedo Flotilla Visit to Manchester (1901)
Non-Fiction190119 minsSilent Location: Manchester
The might of the British Navy struts its stuff down the Manchester Ship Canal.
Trafalgar Day in Liverpool (1901)
Non-Fiction19015 minsSilent Location: Liverpool
Huge crowds turn out in Edwardian Liverpool for the annual celebrations marking the victory at the Battle of Trafalgar.
Embarkation of the C.I.V. For South Africa
Non-Fiction19001 minsSilent Location: Southampton
City Imperial Volunteers head for the Boer War battleground
Arrival of Wounded at Hospital Ship
Injured soldiers head home from South Africa in this film advertised as portraying "one of the dark sides of war".
General Buller Embarking on the 'Dunottar Castle' at Southampton
Non-Fiction18991 minsSilent Location: Southampton
Anticipating a swift victory General Buller heads for his third campaign in South Africa, with his wife in tow
Gordon Highlanders in Ladysmith
Non-Fiction19001 minsSilent Location: Ladysmith
The Scottish regiment joins the relief column following the devastating siege of Ladysmith in the Boer War
Review of the Life Guards by Her Majesty the Queen
Non-Fiction18992 mins Location: Windsor
Spot the Queen, as she bids farewell to part of the Household Cavalry before they head off to the Anglo-Boer war
The 'Roslin Castle' (Troopship) Leaving for South Africa
Non-Fiction18992 mins Location: Southampton
The 2nd Battalion West Yorkshires head off to join the Boer War