A knowledge of military history and the collecting of badges often go hand in glove. “One sort of complements the other, ” says longtime Kentville collector Gordon Hansford. “Whenever I pick up a military badge for my collection, I can’t rest until I’ve dug out its history and the history of the regiment it represents.”
As a result of his interest in badges and a determination to research their story, the retired school teacher is a knowledgeable military historian. This knowledge comes in handy on occasion when Hansford is called upon to “give a talk” on military history before Legion branches and historical groups. He enjoys these talks immensely he says since occasionally “some good comes of them.”
A talk Hansford once gave before the Fieldwood Society may have sparked a special celebration in Canning, for example. In this talk, Hansford dwelt upon the prominent monument that stands beside the Main Street in Canning. This monument commemorates the memory of Harold Lothrop Borden, a Canning native who was slain in the South African (Boer) War while serving with the Canadian Mounted Rifles.
Possibly as a result of Hansford’s talk, the Fieldwood Society and the Canning branch of the Royal Canadian Legion have plans to mark the 100th anniversary of Borden’s death with an elaborate ceremony on July 16; the ceremony will be held at the Borden monument. Borden fell on July 16, 1900.
Not a great deal has been written about Harold Borden but readers interested in his story are referred to volume 7 of Kings County Vignettes, which is in local bookstores; a publication of the Kings Historical Society, volume 7 of the Vignettes has an article on Borden by Daniel Sanford.
Borden came from a prominent Valley political family. Borden’s father Sir Frederick William was elected to the House of Commons in 1874 and except for the years 1882-87, served until 1911; Sir Frederick served as minister of militia and defence in the Laurier Cabinet from 1896 to 1911. Sir William was a cousin of another famous Canadian, Sir Robert Borden, prime minister of Canada, 1911-20.
Another member of a prominent Valley family, Robert Holden Ryan, served in the Boer War with Harold Borden. Thanks to the generosity of Advertiser columnist Brent Fox, I have a large file on Ryan who must be considered another famous Valley son; this file contains among other things, letters Ryan wrote during the Boer War, war records and a detailed 1986 article by Brent Fox (from the Novascotian) that traces Ryan’s career.
Ryan was in the skirmish in which Harold Borden fell; two days after Borden’s death, Ryan wrote to his father describing the incident. It is a curious letter which early on mentions that Borden had been ill for two weeks. A few lines later Borden’s death is nonchalantly described. “The first to drop was Borden. He was shot through the heart. I was along side of him at the time.”
Ryan’s letter ends with the observation that “the game (war) goes on and I tell you what, but I like it. It beats snipe shooting all to pieces.”
I have no doubt that Ryan’s letter describing Borden’s death on the battlefield will be referred to during commemoration ceremonies in Canning on July 16th. Ryan’s indifference to the fall of a comrade who was from his home county will undoubtedly be ignored.