Friday, March 04, 2016

A Banquet for the Survivors of the Siege of Ladysmith.

A short while ago I wrote three posts (here, here, and here) about the siege of the South African city of Ladysmith in 1899-1900, during the second Boer War. I am delighted to be able to provide a follow-up story on how some of the besieged military men celebrated their survival over the next four decades.

The story comes courtesy of a Queensland regional newspaper, The Evening News (Rockhampton, Qld.) of 28 April 1939

Banquet to Celebrate Starvation

As 120 men sat at dinner in the Duke of York's headquarters, Chelsea, recently, their thoughts turned to the food they had eaten on the same night 39 years' ago.
Survivors of the siege of Ladysmith in the Boer War, they recalled their daily menu of four months:
3 oz. mealy corn.
Horse or mule.
1 gall. Red, muddy water condensed from the River Klip.

On Saturday night they had:
Roast Beef, Horseradish Sauce,
and Yorkshire Pudding.
Roast Lamb, Mint. Sauce, Potatoes
and vegetables.
Macedoine of Fruit.               Fruit Trifle.
Cheese, Biscuits, and Butter.

No wonder this experience draws together the survivors every year.
Some were prosperous. Others had been unemployed, and the dinner was almost as welcome as the siege ration.
Behind the chair drooped the famous faded Ladysmith Union Jack which hung proudly over the town hall throughout the siege.
At the first annual dinner in 1913, 450 [text unclear: maybe 250?] defenders turned up. Now the membership of the association is reduced to 150, and the baby is aged 60.

The recipe for the day commemorates another prolonged siege (seven months) of the second Boer war – that of the city of Mafeking (properly, Maheking.) I suspect the name of the dish was given to the simple steamed pudding on account of its frugal base of leftover bread.
From the Observer (Auckland, New Zealand) on 31 July, 1915:

However careful the housewife may be, odds and ends of stale bread are sure to accumulate, so I am giving this week some recipes for puddings, the chief ingredient of each of which, is bread. Of course, some of the scraps will be utilised to keep a supply of dried and browned breadcrumbs for fish and cutlets, but scraps accumulate very quickly, and some other means of using them up is necessary.

Butter a basin, and line thickly with golden syrup. Take about ½ lb. stale breadcrumbs, 1 tablespoonful self-raising flour, 1 egg, sugar to taste, 1 tablespoonful chopped suet. Mix all together with a little milk, and pour into the basin. Steam for 1 ½ hours. 

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