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Drawn-out wars in far-away countries involving unprecedented numbers of British soldiers who had to endure long periods of inactivity only really began at the turn of the century with the Boxers in China and the Boers in South Africa – two campaigns which also saw an unparalleled number of souvenirs and local trinkets sent home to families and sweethearts by the serving men, including, presumably, this military sampler, crudely woven in colourful wools on meeli sackcloth.

Commander-in-Chief Lord Roberts had reannexed a large amount of territory lost to the Boers, including the Transvaal and Orange Free State, and declared the war was as good as over by the autumn of 1900, but this sampler dates from sometime after the Winter of 1901, when the tactics of the war changed on both sides, and the new C-in-C, Lord Kitchener, strung a dense network of barbed wire across the veld, interspersed with blockhouses to combat Boer guerilla insurgents.

The efficacy of these tactics is disputed, as the dozen or so men of the third battalion Essex Regiment who staffed Blockhouse 122 would have challenged few rebel commandos before the war ended in May 1902.

A testament to the boredom endured by the blockhouse soldiers is the fact that this textile is one of very few military examples not commissioned from a local craftsman, but woven by the soldier himself.

Its crudity therefore appealed to the collectors from South Africa, USA and Britain who underbid it at Bosley’s to a quadruple-estimate £650 (plus 15 per cent premium).