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Concentration camps during the Anglo Boer War

     
Revised: March 29, 2017 ** Hersien: 29 Maart 2017
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Afrikaans  
   

Klerksdorp concentration camp

 
   
The train journey from Klerksdorp concentration camp to Merebank
As witnessed by Mrs. Hester Jacobs (Translated from Afrikaans)
 
   

During the Anglo Boer War, the English destroyed farms, towns, cattle and crops. Women and children were send to concentration camps in open coal or cattle trucks.
Click thumbnail for larger version

Photo: During the Anglo Boer War, the English destroyed farms, towns, cattle and crops. Women and children were send to concentration camps in open coal or cattle trucks. No food, water, medicine or private amenities were available.

 
   

Seven days of hardship, suffering and humiliation

 
The train journey from Klerksdorp concentration camp to Merebank
As witnessed by Mrs. Hester Jacobs (Translated from Afrikaans)
 
 
  • 14 September. Klerksdorp concentration camp: Mrs. Hester Jacobs writes:

"This morning we were ordered to be at the station that evening. We and 300 other women and children were to be sent to Natal. We parted company with our Aunt, Bettie van Rensburg, who was standing next to the bed of her dying little child."

We also parted with one of our cousins,  Miemie Kies, at the body of her dead child. This was the second child that she lost. Later she lost a third child.

We bade another friend farewell, while standing at the sickbed of her little boy. Mrs. Borman, whose child was born during the moving of the convoy, already lost 2 other children at this stage.

"It broke our hearts to leave our dear friends in such a state and to go to the station with our own sick children. God only knew where they where sending us and what was to become of us."

 
  • Filthy cattle trucks

The women, children and old people were always transported in filthy cattle or coal trucks. Sometimes they used their clothes to wipe out the cattle dung from the trucks.

In these trucks the people endured the most dreadful sufferings. During the days, their skins were sun burnt almost to the point of infection and the heat was excessive, because there was no airflow in the trucks. During the nights, especially in June, July and August as well as September on the Highveld, they almost froze to death.

They were taken to the trains during the previous afternoon and had to try and sleep on the train before they left the next morning. There in the train they had to stay without food, water or medicine.

On a long journey like that to Merebank, they were on the train for 7 days. They were not allowed to leave the train. The train trucks were locked up with chains and guarded by khaki's or black soldiers.

 
  • Crying of hunger

The poor children suffered the most. They cried because of the cold, hunger, thirst and exposure and their mothers were helpless. When a journey was very long, they sometimes received dry, stale hop bread to eat.

Often the gushing rain poured down on the women, children and their small bundles. Their meagre belongings were drenched. Wet clothes had to dry on their bodies.

Where heavy, dirty goat skins where available, it was so full of holes or else so stuffy that the people almost suffocated. Sometimes the skins had to be cut open to let fresh air in.

The women could not sleep or rest in these train trucks, because they were to full. Trucks that were usually used for the moving of 15 cattle, were used for 30 to 50 people!

Furthermore, there were no private amenities available, thus persons had to answer the call of nature in front of everybody. In the presence of children and young boys, births took place in the cattle trucks. Most of the times with deadly consequences for mother and baby. One can but wonder where those poor mothers and babies were buried.

Emily Hobhouse writes: "The people, most of whom were unfit to travel, were sent to a marsh in Natal like Merebank, or carried infection to a healthy camp like Howick... they were exposed to poignant sufferings on the journey."

   

How does one describe such treatment of women and children? Heartless, callous and barbaric!

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