This film is part of Free

Nurses Attending the Wounded

Brits versus Boers... or are they?

War 1899 1 mins Silent


In scene one, Brits and Boers battle, then in scene two nurses arrive to tend to the wounded and the dead, strewn across the frame. But what may seem like incredible battle scenes are too good to be true. The composition and arrangement of figures on the landscape could hardly be bettered: the film is part of the widespread practice of constructing Boer War scenes for public consumption. However, we need to be careful about labelling this as 'fake news'. We mustn't assume that audiences were completely gullible about the artifice.

Decades later, in 1936, producer RW Paul recalled having sent two cameras to South Africa, neither of which was able to capture actual battle footage. So to "meet the demand for something more exciting, representations of such scenes… and the work of nurses on the battlefield were enacted on neighbouring golf links, under the supervision of Sir Robert Ashe, an ex-officer of Rhodes's force". Crucially, he noted that they "were issued [to showmen by Paul's company] for what they were, though I cannot vouch for the descriptions applied to them by the showmen" who exhibited them to the public.