About Philip Charles du Preez
BOER BOY: MEMOIRS OF AN ANGLO-BOER WAR YOUTH
Boer Boy: Memoirs of an Anglo-Boer War Youth, by Chris Schoeman (Zebra Press, 2010). This is the true story of a ten-year-old boy's experiences during the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902. Charles DU PREEZ recounts his life on the family farm Wonderkop in the Eastern Free State, the destruction of the farm, the flight during Lord KITCHENER's scorched earth campaign, and the capture of his mother and siblings. He recalls hiding in the mountains with his father, their capture and voyage aboard the Aurania to India as prisoners-of-war, life in the POW camps of Ambala (north of Delhi) and Solon (at the foot of the Himalayas), where he was the youngest inmate, and their repatriation to South Africa and re-building their lives after the war.
After serving briefly on commando, Charles' father, Philip, took the Oath of Neutrality and returned to his farm. The British military undertook to protect surrendered burghers against the efforts of their compatriots to get them to return to their commandos. Unable to implement this policy effectively, the British started the scorched earth campaign - rounded up the men and sent them away as prisoners-of-war, and destroyed the farms. In September 1901 Philip and his family decided to flee. They joined another 30 or 40 families, trekking away from the British. The troops found their laager, and Philip and Charles hid in a cave. They were captured in January 1902 and transported in open coal trucks to Durban, from where they were shipped to India. Philip’s wife, Charlotte, along with the younger children, was captured and interned in the Winburg concentration camp.
The war's scorched earth campaign was the first in modern conflict in which civilians were deliberately targeted as a way of shutting down the support networks of a guerrilla army. By mid-1902, 200 000 whites and 100 000 blacks were homeless and destitute. Thirty thousand Boer captives were held in India, Ceylon, St Helena and Bermuda, while their wives and children were held in concentration camps across South Africa.
Shortly after the war ended, Charles and Charlotte recorded their experiences. Charles also made a tape-recorded interview in the 1960s. The Anglo-Boer War Museum in Bloemfontein has the letters that Philip and Charles wrote from Ceylon to their family. Charles died in 1970. This book draws on these sources and other contemporary documents to describe a family going through that war. It also includes some introductory genealogy, information about the Winburg district and the build-up to the war. The book is illustrated with photographs from private and museum collections. There is much information about not only the DU PREEZ family but also about the VON MALTITZ family (their neighbours) and the WESSELS family, as well as a number of sharecroppers or bywoners that lived on the farm and later acquired their own farms. Boer Boy is also available in Afrikaans, titled Boerseun.
Philip and Charles brought back a love of polo from their time in India. The DU PREEZ and VON MALTITZ families became well-known in South African polo circles. The Hammonia area, close to Ficksburg, became one of the polo playing areas. At one stage three of the four Springbok polo players came from Hammonia.
Chris SCHOEMAN was born in Somerset East and has master's degrees in history from the University of Port Elizabeth and Colorado State University. He has worked as a historian and journalist and has authored and co-authored several books.
From Bygones and Byways