Letter Written by an Internee at Boer War Concentration Camp at Howick November 1901

letter from boer war internee

Letter Written by an Internee at Boer War Concentration Camp Howick November 1901

Autograph letter signed. 4 pages. 8vo. (4 3/8 x 6 7/8 inches). Howich, 18 November 1901. To Gerrit Botha. In Africaans with translation.

Dear Gerrit,

Your letter dated 22 September reached me. Thank you very much. I am doing fine thanks to the hand of the Almighty and I hope to hear that you are doing likewise. Ah! I feel very sad, abandoned and lonely tonight. Far from friends and home. Ah, and in a strange country.
You wrote that I should never lose hope, but sometimes it’s hard, especially when I get such bad news regarding our beloved Transvaal and of our beloved, fallen two friends Frank Smeer and J. Baxter. Smeer had fallen, but Baxter was captured by the enemy and shot for wearing Khaki clothes. Terrible, isn’t it? Ah! If only I could die for my Motherland.
Have you heard from my father and brothers as I’ve been here for two months and haven’t received a letter from them. Ah, many horrible things take place here, but I thank God that I’m only one of the lower class. I pray that I will not be led into temptation; this is all I can ask.
I will send you some flowers that I picked in that terrible waterfall; look after it as if it were gold as I will not go there again. I heard from Frank and Boetie; they are doing fine. I believe that through God’s power they are persisting. We don’t see much here and seldom or ever see the sun. A thousand times I’ve asked ‘How long, oh Lord? How much longer?’ Send my regards to your father and all the real Afrikaners and don’t forget yourself and your mother.
Yours always,

PS: Gerrit, you asked if I still remembered the question you asked me by the fountain. To tell you the truth I can’t remember which question you are referring to. Maybe it will come to me at a later stage. Regards, Ann

From October 1899 to May 1902, the British warred against the Afrikaner Dutch settlers – or Boers – of the Transvaal Republic and the Orange Free State. During the conflict, the British adopted a scorched earth policy in order to deprive the Boers of food, shelter and other material support. Whole towns were destroyed and the displaced women and children placed in concentration camps, including Howick, in the KwaZulu-Natal Province South Africa, where our letter was written. The camps were overcrowded, and poor hygiene and sanitation led to disease and fatalities. Internees whose family members were fighting the British were punished with smaller rations to pressure their family to surrender. It is possible that our letter’s comment ‘I pray that I will not be led into temptation’ is to do with this practice; the Transvaal letter writer’s father and brothers are mentioned in the letter. The ‘terrible waterfall’ is likely Howick Falls, located on the Umgeni River. Khaki was the official uniform of British troops involved in the conflict and perhaps J. Baxter was shot for adopting the garb of his enemy. The conditions of the concentration camps, when made public by Emily Hobhouse, a delegate of the South African Women and Children’s Distress Fund, and British politicians such as future prime minister David Lloyd George, became a national outrage as well as a rallying point for the Boer warriors. A British victory in May 1902 resulted in the annexation of Boer lands into what eventually became the Union of South Africa, a part of the British Empire.

Paper is age toned and folded with some separation along the folds. In good condition. A rare and insightful letter about a dark chapter in British history.

Boer War 18 Nov 1901Boer War 18 Nov 1901