23 min

Episode 140 - General Cronje demands a St Helena mounted guard & Peace Talks back on in Pretoria The Anglo-Boer War

    • Education

The first large group of Boer prisoners were taken by the British at the battle of Elandslaagte on 21st October 1899. The army had failed to plan for prisoners because the idea was the Boers would be beaten in a few weeks so why spend money on POW camps?
The first 188 Boers taken at Elandslaagte were temporarily housed with the naval guard in Simonstown on board the guard ship HMS Penelope. Several other ships were used as floating prisons until eventually permanent camps were established at Green Point, Cape Town, Bellevue and Simonstown.
At the end of December 1900 more than 2500 Boers were placed on board the Kildonan Castle guardship where they remained for six weeks before they were removed to two other transports at Simonstown.
The English army base at Ladysmith in Natal was used between December 1900 and January 1902 but was merely a staging area. Another staging area was established at Umbilo south of Durban in Natal where POWs would be placed on board ships and then routed to Cape Town.
But it soon became clear that the Cape prisoner of war camps were targets for attacks and the British then shifted the burghers offshore.
There were four main regions used to house Boer POWs, St Helena, Ceylon or modern day Sri Lanka, Bermuda and India. As you’ll hear in a moment, a few hundred were also taken to Portugal.
During the war, the British captured around 56 000 Boer prisoners and eventually ran out of space in host countries. India was only used as a last resort after the other three main camps became overcrowded.
Of course, the most feared of all these was the camp in St Helena, but by the end of the war disease was more rampant in the other regions – mainly because of the climate. St Helena has a fairly benign climate, its much cooler than Bermuda, Ceylon and India.
One of the first contingents of Boers to arrive in St Helena included general Piet Cronje who was captured along with thousands of his men after the battle of Paardeberg in February 1900.
Cronje and 514 his commando arrived on the island in the middle of the Atlantic after disembarking from the troopship Milwaukee on 27th February that year. Cronje had surrendered to Lord Roberts after being caught in the battle which shook the Free State Boers as Cronje was cornered with a powerful commando.
Illustrating his arrival on the island of St Helena, Punch Magazine published a cartoon of the general saluting the ghost of Napoleon and saying “Same enemy, Same result..”
Prior to the Boers arrival, the governor of St Helena RA Sterndale had published a proclamation which read :
“.. His Excellency expresses the hope that the population will treat the prisoners of war with that courtesy and consideration which should be extended to all men who have fought bravely for what they considered the cause and their country”
So as General Cronje prepared to make that winding march up the hill from the tiny port of Jamestown at St Helena, his men fully expected to be subjected to humiliation.
Instead, there was silence, no jeering nor rude remarks, as the Boers passed the crowds of islanders on their way to Deadwood Camp inland. Being escorted along with Cronje was his wife, whom Lord Roberts had allowed to accompany her husband. The Boer general and his wife were accommodated at Kent Cottage, not in Deadwood Camp itself and were surrounded by a strong military guard which changed every day.
Of course, Cronje was a general and for once, it was the Boers demanding special attention. Whereas the culture was supposedly based on a democratic principle of equality, Piet Cronje insisted that proper respect be shown to his rank and that a mounted guard should be provided.

The first large group of Boer prisoners were taken by the British at the battle of Elandslaagte on 21st October 1899. The army had failed to plan for prisoners because the idea was the Boers would be beaten in a few weeks so why spend money on POW camps?
The first 188 Boers taken at Elandslaagte were temporarily housed with the naval guard in Simonstown on board the guard ship HMS Penelope. Several other ships were used as floating prisons until eventually permanent camps were established at Green Point, Cape Town, Bellevue and Simonstown.
At the end of December 1900 more than 2500 Boers were placed on board the Kildonan Castle guardship where they remained for six weeks before they were removed to two other transports at Simonstown.
The English army base at Ladysmith in Natal was used between December 1900 and January 1902 but was merely a staging area. Another staging area was established at Umbilo south of Durban in Natal where POWs would be placed on board ships and then routed to Cape Town.
But it soon became clear that the Cape prisoner of war camps were targets for attacks and the British then shifted the burghers offshore.
There were four main regions used to house Boer POWs, St Helena, Ceylon or modern day Sri Lanka, Bermuda and India. As you’ll hear in a moment, a few hundred were also taken to Portugal.
During the war, the British captured around 56 000 Boer prisoners and eventually ran out of space in host countries. India was only used as a last resort after the other three main camps became overcrowded.
Of course, the most feared of all these was the camp in St Helena, but by the end of the war disease was more rampant in the other regions – mainly because of the climate. St Helena has a fairly benign climate, its much cooler than Bermuda, Ceylon and India.
One of the first contingents of Boers to arrive in St Helena included general Piet Cronje who was captured along with thousands of his men after the battle of Paardeberg in February 1900.
Cronje and 514 his commando arrived on the island in the middle of the Atlantic after disembarking from the troopship Milwaukee on 27th February that year. Cronje had surrendered to Lord Roberts after being caught in the battle which shook the Free State Boers as Cronje was cornered with a powerful commando.
Illustrating his arrival on the island of St Helena, Punch Magazine published a cartoon of the general saluting the ghost of Napoleon and saying “Same enemy, Same result..”
Prior to the Boers arrival, the governor of St Helena RA Sterndale had published a proclamation which read :
“.. His Excellency expresses the hope that the population will treat the prisoners of war with that courtesy and consideration which should be extended to all men who have fought bravely for what they considered the cause and their country”
So as General Cronje prepared to make that winding march up the hill from the tiny port of Jamestown at St Helena, his men fully expected to be subjected to humiliation.
Instead, there was silence, no jeering nor rude remarks, as the Boers passed the crowds of islanders on their way to Deadwood Camp inland. Being escorted along with Cronje was his wife, whom Lord Roberts had allowed to accompany her husband. The Boer general and his wife were accommodated at Kent Cottage, not in Deadwood Camp itself and were surrounded by a strong military guard which changed every day.
Of course, Cronje was a general and for once, it was the Boers demanding special attention. Whereas the culture was supposedly based on a democratic principle of equality, Piet Cronje insisted that proper respect be shown to his rank and that a mounted guard should be provided.

23 min

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