Start My Family Tree Welcome to Geni, home of the world's largest family tree.
Join Geni to explore your genealogy and family history in the World's Largest Family Tree.

Anglo Boere Oorlog/Boer War (1899-1902) BLOEMFONTEIN Kamp/Camp

« Back to Projects Dashboard

Project Tags

view all

Profiles

Bloemfontein

Bloemfontein was the first significant camp to be established and it was not typical of most camps. It was one of the largest, larger in fact than the town of Bloemfontein, which had a recorded population of 3,379 in 1890. Because it was used as a holding camp, it had a constantly changing population. Water supply and health were a never-ending struggle since the British army made heavy demands on the limited supply of water and the soldiers had brought a severe typhoid epidemic into the town. Above all, it never had a really competent superintendent. Nevertheless, it was by no means the worst camp in the system and it was under the direct eye of the central camp administration. Refugees began to trickle into Bloemfontein even before the British took the town in March 1900 but the camp was formally established about 22 September 1900. It was a bleak place, some two miles outside the town, ‘dumped down on the southern slope of a kopje right out on the bare brown veld’. There was no shelter of any kind so that the hot sun beat down on the tents. In June 1901 Inspector Daller commented that the old site continued to look disorderly: ‘... the outcropping rocks and broken contour of the site – surely such a steep slope is not necessary in a country where surface drainage is so easy – make it impossible [to keep tidy]. The tents are alternately huddled and scattered in a narrow strip between the rock above and the flat with its conspicuous latrines below. The turf has long since been worn away and the soil, being naturally black, gives an unfortunate tone of grimness to the whole.’ When Emily Hobhouse arrived there in January 1901 there were already at least 2,000 people there. At the end of March this had reached over 3,000 and a couple of weeks later the number was nearly 4,000. Families continued to pour in and Bloemfontein camp had reached the considerable size of 7,500 in August 1901.2 While the testimonies of the Boer women have to be used with caution, an early letter from a mother to her prisoner son suggests that conditions were rudimentary in these early months. At the time that she wrote, there were thirteen families in the camp, with twelve people to a tent. There was no fuel and the women had to scavenge the veld for green bushes and mule dung to make fires. ‘It is very hard to be beggars’, she wrote. Another woman commented, ‘I never knew tent life was so hard’. ‘Still’, she added, ‘it might have been worse’. The greatest hardship was that they were not allowed into town to supplement their rations. Fortunately her brother had sent some furniture to make their tent more comfortable.

They Survived

B

C

D

J

K

N

P

V

They Died

B

C

D

J

K

L

M

N

O

P

R

S