The camps were formed by the British army to house the residents of the two Boer republics of the South African Republic and the Orange Free State. They were established towards the end of 1900, after Britain had invaded the Boer republics. This database was designed to investigate mortality and morbidity in the camps during the war. Although it will include everyone listed in the registers during the war, it usually excludes returning prisoners-of-war and men who came back from commando at the end of the war, as well as the considerable movement of people which took place after 31 May 1902, when families were repatriated to their homes.
Heidelberg was one of the oldest camps and was probably already in existence in October 1900, when families harbouring Boer commandos were brought into the town, although there may also have been substantial numbers of destitute Boers for whom the British had to provide. By February 1901 there were over 1,200 people living there but the camp was never very large. At the end of June 1901 there were only 751 inmates and the number remained at under 1,000 for most of the period of the existence of the camp. Later a number of the families were moved to the Natal camps. Unusually, the superintendent for the entire life of the camp was a local Heidelberg man, 32-year-old Lieutenant Arnold Allison, previously with the Corps of Guides, who was married to a Boer woman.1 A number of Free State families had fled to Heidelberg as the British army advanced and they also found themselves in the camp. In May, however, they were returned to Kroonstad. It was some time before a similar exchange took place from the Free State, however, since Transvaal ‘refugees’ were not accepted until English-speaking Uitlander refugees were also allowed back – an indication of how sensitive the British authorities were to the anxieties of the impoverished Uitlanders at the coast. A black camp was probably formed early in 1901 but there is little information about it. There were also a handful of black servants in the white camp – 49, including 20 children in November 1901.