Why Granny was in the concentration camp

Granny Sarah Alice Liddell; Bluegumbush farm, Witsieshoek, Free State, South Africa; Harrismith Concentration Camp

I posted an article in November 2020 discussing my granny’s internment in the Harrismith Concentration Camp during the Anglo Boer War and why the family had not spoken of it to succeeding generations. I could answer that question, but not why my granny’s family went to the camp. Nor why her uncles, aunts and their families went to this and other camps. I could make educated guesses from the information I had, but could not say for certain. I now know the answers.

I have at last obtained the claims for compensation that most of the families lodged after the war. My enquiries were held up by air conditioning failures at the Archives in Pretoria and then by Covid-19 lockouts, but these are now past and the documents have arrived. Over 500 pages of statements, receipts, military passes, letters, forms and the rest. These provide the reasons in the words of the people themselves.

This has required a major rewrite of one section of the article in order to correctly describe their experiences and to replace many “might haves” with “dids”.

The key revelation with respect to my granny is that she, her siblings and her mother were forcibly driven off their farm, Bluegumbush, by Boers of the Harrismith Commando because her father had begun working for the British military. They were given a day to leave with only what they could carry on a single ox-wagon. They went to Harrismith and sought safety in the “Refugee Camp” as some of its very first inmates.

Other families were forcibly removed from their farms to the camps by the British. Their British sympathies were no protection.

Everyone suffered depredations by Boer and British forces alike. Horses, cattle and sheep confiscated. Stores confiscated. Equipment deliberately damaged to render it unserviceable. Grain, fodder, crops and buildings burnt. One uncle rode around his farm with a British officer watching the farm being burnt. And he was regarded as a British Subject and had spied for the British.

The rewritten section can be found HERE.

The full article can be found HERE.

©Alun Stevens 2021

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