Chocolate bar given to troops during the Boer War is found untouched

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Chocolate bar given to troops during the Boer War is found untouched in a helmet case 121 years later

  • A 121-year-old can of uneaten chocolate was found in a Boer War helmet case
  • The helmet case belonged to Sir Henry Edward Paston-Bedingfeld
  • The three-year Second Boer War, or South African War, began in 1899

121 years after it was given to boost troop morale during the Boer War, a chocolate bar has come to light.

The treat, still in the original tin, was commissioned by Queen Victoria in 1900. Conservators of the National Trust found it in Oxburgh Hall in Norfolk in a helmet case that belonged to the 8th Baronet, Sir Henry Edward Paston-Bedingfeld, who was in the South African conflict.

Anna Forrest of the Trust said, “You wouldn’t want it as your Easter treat [but] it is still complete and a remarkable find. ‘

The treat, still in the original tin, was commissioned by Queen Victoria in 1900

The treat, still in the original tin, was commissioned by Queen Victoria in 1900

The Second Boer War, or South African War, was fought between the British Empire and two independent Boer states over the empire’s influence in South Africa.

It started in 1899 and lasted for three years.

More than 100,000 cans were produced, each containing half a pound of dark chocolate.

Each soldier and officer was supposed to receive a box with the inscription ‘South Africa 1900’ and ‘I wish you a Happy New Year’ in the Queen’s handwriting.

Queen Victoria commissioned the country’s three main chocolate manufacturers, Cadbury, Fry and Rowntree, to fulfill the order.

The helmet case belonged to the 8th Baronet, Sir Henry Edward Paston-Bedingfeld

The helmet case belonged to the 8th Baronet, Sir Henry Edward Paston-Bedingfeld

The helmet case belonged to the 8th Baronet, Sir Henry Edward Paston-Bedingfeld

As anti-war pacifist Quakers, all three manufacturers refused to accept payment for the order and originally poured the chocolate in unbranded tins.

However, the Queen insisted that the troops knew they were getting British chocolate and that the firms withdrew and marked some bars.

The cans themselves have never been branded.

It is unclear which of the three manufacturers made the chocolate discovered in Oxburgh.

“By the turn of the century, Henry was a major in the militia of the King’s Liverpool Regiment and fought in the Boer War,” said Mrs. Forrest.

He was still in South Africa when his father died in 1902, when he returned to England and to Oxburgh Hall, aged 42.

We know his return to Oxburgh was mentioned in family memoirs.

‘It is said that one night in his tent, Henry heard a woman crying, followed by the voice of his father saying,’ It’s your mother Henry. I’m dying’.

In the morning he met the aide who wrote and dated his story.

But it took them two weeks to receive a telegram confirming his father’s death.

Henry’s uncle was a friend of the 5th Duke of Wellington and arranged for Henry to be sent back to England.

A121 year old tin of uneaten chocolate, still in its original packaging, found in a Boer War helmet case in the attic of Oxburgh Hall in Oxborough, Norfolk

A121 year old tin of uneaten chocolate, still in its original packaging, found in a Boer War helmet case in the attic of Oxburgh Hall in Oxborough, Norfolk

A121 year old tin of uneaten chocolate, still in its original packaging, found in a Boer War helmet case in the attic of Oxburgh Hall in Oxborough, Norfolk

“We think he returned home to Oxburgh with the chocolate, his helmet and a new title.”

As a gift from the Queen, many soldiers kept their chocolate tins, and some left them for safekeeping at home.

Some cans remain, but few can be traced back to their original recipient, and fewer still contain the chocolate more than 120 years later.

The items are not currently on display, but the National Trust hopes to do so in the future.

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