Private Charles Ward was a Leeds infantryman who returned from the Boer War a local hero, bearer of the last Victoria Cross awarded by the Queen herself. This intriguing item shows him interviewed - silent - by showman and regular Mitchell and Kenyon collaborator Ralph Pringle, who clearly saw Ward's newfound celebrity as an opportunity to attract a large paying audience of proud locals.
The screening of this film was apparently accompanied by the local regiment the Leeds Rifles. It's not clear, though, whether a commentator would have spoken some of Ward's words (though Pringle is seen taking some notes during the interview). Private Ward's Second Battalian Yorkshire Light Infantry was overwhelmed by Boer forces at Lindley, South Africa, in June 1900. With his officers all dead or wounded, Ward crossed enemy lines to deliver a message calling for reinforcements, and was seriously wounded in the process. Ward's elevation to the status of national hero reflects a trend in the Victorian and Edwardian periods of honouring the bravery of ordinary 'Tommies'; previously accolades had been reserved for the officer class. All the same, the more celebrated Boer War heroes still tended to be officers, among them Lords Kitchener and Roberts (both of whom turn up in more than one Mitchell & Kenyon film).