From the collection of the late Wm. G. Robinson, this J.C. Wilson “What We Have We’ll Hold” Type E-3 patriotic cover was sent from Ottawa on May 7, 1900 to E.J. Holland of the Machine Gun Corps, Canadian Mounted Rifles, Active Service, South Africa. The cover may have been sent by Andrew Holland, listed as E.J. Holland’s next of kin in Ottawa.

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Edward James Holland (2 February 1878 – 18 June 1948, aged 70) was to become a Sergeant, Regimental No. 176, in the 1st Battalion, Canadian Mounted Rifles, Royal Canadian Dragoons. At age 22, Holland enlisted on December 29th, 1899 in Ottawa, from the Princess Louise Dragoon Guards, an Ottawa militia unit. He was promoted on May 16, 1900, and made Sergeant on October 1, 1900.

Six months to the day after this mail was dispatched, Sgt. Holland went on to win the Victoria Cross for his actions in Lilliefontein, known as the most desperate situation faced by Canadians during the war. During the Boer War, four members of Canadian units won the Victoria Cross, the British Empire's highest military decoration for gallantry, three of them during the action at Lilliefontein on November 7, 1900. From his Victoria Cross citation: “Sergeant Holland did splendid work with his Colt gun, and kept the Boers off the two 12-pounders by its fire at close range. When he saw the enemy were too near for him to escape with the carriage, as the horse was blown, he calmly lifted the gun off and galloped away with it under his arm.”

The cover bears a pair of 2¢ QV Numeral stamps postmarked with an Ottawa duplex cancellation. There are no transit markings or arrival markings. With the pair of 2¢ stamps, the cover was mailed as a two-ounce letter.

The reverse of the cover bears Song Back No. 8, with the lyrics of “Bobs”.

Frequently, mail sent to soldiers serving in the Boer War is in heavily worn condition, having from Canada to South Africa and back, and having spent the duration of the war, often folded, in a soldier’s kit.
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