George B Beak.

The aftermath of war; an account of the repatriation of Boers and natives in the Orange River colony, 1902-1904 online

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Online LibraryGeorge B BeakThe aftermath of war; an account of the repatriation of Boers and natives in the Orange River colony, 1902-1904 → online text (page 1 of 27)
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Till'. \'aai I<i\'i;k near \'i-:Nri':RSKU(')o.\'

The Orange River near Aliwal North.






I 902- I 904






iaubltifjcr to t!)c 3inUta <BSa(t



(/4// rights reserved)




This volume is chiefly based on impressions gained in South
Africa in the course of five years' service, from 1900 to 1904,
firstly as an Intelligence, and secondly as a Eepatriation
Officer. By the courtesy of the Orange Eiver Colony
Administration, Government documents have been freely
placed at my disposal for the purpose of its compilation.
The account given is, however, in no sense of the word
official, and I must accept entire responsibility for the con-
clusions drawn and the opinions expressed therein.

The book has been written with a twofold object. On the
one hand it is an attempt to describe not only the generosity
and the liberality of the repatriation scheme, but also to
indicate the exceptional difficulties under which that scheme
was carried out. On the other hand it is an endeavour to
vindicate those engaged in the task of repatriation from the
charges of waste and extravagance which have been recklessly
brought against them. I have not hesitated, however, to
criticise very freely the department to which I had the
honour to belong, and I have striven throughout to give a
strictly impartial record of its work. This record is that of
an eye-witness — of one whose impressions of the Dutch, how-
ever erroneous they may be, are based, not on hearsay, but
on actual intercourse both in war and peace.

1 :^.(^S25 1


I have for the most part confined myself to the particular
subject under consideration, but the book may be found to
contain a certain amount of information — of practical utility
to intending emigrants and of interest to students of South
African politics — concerning a Colony whose fate at the
present moment hangs strangely in the balance.


OXFOKD, 1906.



Devastation - - - - 1

Concentration - - - - - - 21

Article X. of the Terms of Vereeniging - - 31

Divers Difficulties - - - - - - 62


ANOLA.L Diseases and their Treatment - - - 94

Back to the Land - - - - - - 119


The Drought - - - - - - 168

Repatriation from Within and Without - - - 212

Compensation - - - - 238





A. Circular as to the Method of keeping Accounts - 263

B. Terms for Land Settlers . . . . 267
C (I.) AND (IL). Close of Repatriation and Institution

OF Relief ...... 269

D. Extension of Relief ..... 272

E. AcknowledGxMents of Indebtedness - - - 274

F. Staff employed -...-. 276

G. Statement of Expenditure . . . . 278
H (I.) and (IL). Instructions issued regarding Claims - 280

Index - - - - - - - - 292


The Vaal Eiver near Venterskroon -
The Orange Kiver near Aliwal North
Springfontein Refugee Camp -
A Typical Bijwoner . . . .

A Typical Bijwoner Family
Some of the Headquarter Staff
A Ruined Dorp - - -
The Caledon River near Jammersberg Drift
The Mallein Test . - - -

Repatriation Cattle - . - -

The Central Remount Depot at Bloem-
fontein - ... -

Repatriation Waggons on Trek

De Uitspan - - -

The Arrival of Repatriation Stores at a
District Town - . - -

The Drive in for Rations - -

Early Occupation . - - .

A Typical Ruin . - - - -

Some Conductors and 'Boys' -

A Veldt Fire . . . . .

Piccaninnies ploughing - - - -


face pag

f 22




































The Repatriation Central Store at Bloem-

FONTEIN . . . - , To face page 174

Lieutenant-Colonel H. J. McLaughlin, D.S.O. „ 212

Three of his Subordinates - - • - „ 212

Major T. Marcus McInerney - - - „ 238

Claims Officers starting on Trek - - „ 238

Map - ' - - - - - At end




' Cry " Havock 1" and let slip the dogs of war.' — Shakespeaeb.

' Lordinges (quod he), ther is ful many a man that crieth "Werre,
Werre," that wote ful litel what werre amounteth.' — Chaucer.

' Ohne den Ea-ieg wiirde die Welt in Materialismus versumpfen.'


Possibly no contest was ever fought with more humanity than
the late South African war, to which this volume is a sequel.
And yet causes of complaint between the combatants, which
have been prominent in every other war, were not absent
from this. It is unnecessary, and probably futile, to enter
into a discussion of individual acts of treachery and cruelty
alleged by either side and given undue prominence in the
newspapers of both countries. It must be remembered that
the battle-field is hardly the place whence impartial criticism
can be expected to emanate, and, oddly enough, ' war breeds
animosity against justice, more especially amongst those who
take no part therein.' ^ Causes of complaint there have been,
and always will be so long as the sword is the final arbiter to
which human nature appeals.

How very far-fetched were the majority of charges^ brought

1 Vide in this connection, ' Usages of War in South Africa,' by John
Macdonell, C.B., Nineteenth Century, December, 1900.

2 The following is a specimen quoted by Mr. Macdonell : ' Presque
journellement des nouvelles de violations graves des lois de la guerre nous
parviennent. Des temoins oculaires sent venus nous dire qu'a Elands-



by the ill-informed continental press against British officers
and British soldiers will be clear to anyone who cares to read
Blue-Boolvs already published on the subject, and who takes
the trouble to question those who participated in the contest.^
The code promulgated from the Hague in 1899, and ratified
in September, 1900, may be regarded as the latest expression
of civilized opinion on the usages of war. But it is not

laagte on a perce aux lances des hommes inoffensifs, qui avaient jete bas
les armes et leve les mains en signe de se rendre, et qu'on a depouille les
pauvres blesses qui gisaient sur les champs de bataille de leurs montres,
de leurs bourses, et meme de leurs habits, comme c'est arrive entre autres
avec le General Kock ; que Ton a laisse massacrer les habitants du pays
enemi par les Linchive-Caffres a Derdepoort ; qu'on a assujetti les prison-
niers aux jeux monstrueux de 'pig-sticking' et de ' lemon-cutting,' comme
I'a declare sous serment un prisonnier evade, nomme Kannemeyer ; que
Ton a tue raide des prisonniers qui s'indignaient de la nianiere inhumaine
avec laquelle on trainait vei's Boshof, apres le combat dans lequel le brave
Colonel de Villebois-Mareuil fut tue, des prisonniers franrais et autres,
quoique grievement blesses, lies aux chevaux pendant des heures jusqu'a
qu'ils s'atl'aissaient.'

Here is another from a different source : ' Aides par des Cafres charges
de maintenir leurs victimes, les soldats anglais auraient viole des femmes
et des jeunes fiUes, auxquelles ils auraient communique la syphilis qui,
comme onle sait, ravage I'armee britannique dans I'Hindoustan' {Gazette
de Francfort, du 24 Janvier, 1900).

* Vide ' Krigserfarenheter van Boerkriget,' by Captain Wester. ' Captain
Wester protests vigorously against the aspersions cast on the conduct of
the British troops in South Africa ; he did not see a single instance of any
infraction of the laws and customs of war, and was filled with admiration
at the magnanimity and humanity of the men under very trying circum-
stances, while he considers British officers to be " above all, gentlemen in
the truest sense of the word " ' (The Times).

* The inhabitants of Ladybrand, of various nationalities, having heard
the statements made by a section in England and by the press on the
Continent of Europe, charging the British soldier in South Africa with
cruelty and barbarism towards women and children, and knowing this to
be totally unfounded, feel in duty bound to emphatically contradict such
accusations, and stigmatize them as vile slanders ' (Meeting at Ladybrand,
February 28, 1902).

' That this meeting, comprising as it does people residing in Winburg,
O.R.C., of various nationalities and of every shade of political opinion,
and who have an intimate knowledge of every phase of the South
African War, from the commencement of hostilities to the present time,
emphatically and indignantly protests against the gross slanders and
infamous fabrications circulated by the continental press against the
valour, honour, and humanity of the British troops, and further, this
meeting desires to record its opinion that the conduct of the British
soldiers, throughout the campaign, has been in every respect exemplary '
(Meeting at Winburg, February, 1902).


in reality applicable to the Boer war, because the late
republics * were neither signatories to the convention nor
had given in their adhesion.' In her post-war policy, how-
ever, Great Britain has evidently striven to give the vanquished
every possible benefit of the international agreement, and it
may be, therefore, useful to note what rules the Hague Con-
vention lays down on the subject of devastation. Articles 23
and 50, the most important ones in this connection, are
worded as follows : ' Article 23. — In addition to the prohibi-
tions established by special conventions, it is particularly
forbidden . . . (g) To destroy or seize the enemy's property
unless such destruction or seizure be imperatively required
by the necessities of war.' ' Article 50. — No general penalty,
pecuniary or otherwise, may be inflicted on the population on
account of the acts of individuals for which it cannot be
regarded as collectively responsible.' ^ These articles are the
expression of civilized opinion. It may be interesting to
trace to what extent they were violated, and, if it be found that
they were violated, what plea is forthcoming to justify their

It is evident that, at the commencement of the war, the
destruction of property was neither contemplated by the
British nor condoned by the Boers. A proclamation issued
by Lord Eoberts on March 26, 1900, reads as follows :
* Notice is hereby given that all persons who within the
territories of the South African Eepublic and Orange Free
State shall authorize or be guilty of the wanton destruction
or damage — or the counselling, aiding, or assisting in the
wanton destruction or damage — of public or private property,
such destruction or damage not being justified by the usages
and customs of civilized warfare, will be held responsible in

* This article was, apparently, contravened by Section 6 of Proclamation
No. 6 of 1900 : ' Where any damage is done to the railway a fine of 2s. 6d.
per morgen will be levied on the area of the farm or farms on which the
damage is done, and the farms in the immediate neighbourhood of the
damaged place may also, if I deem fit, be subjected to a similar fine.'
This proclamation was, so far as can be traced, enforced in five cases, all
in the Winburg district, and in every one of these the fine imposed was
later either wholly or partially refunded,



their persons and property for all such wanton destruction
and damage.'^ Yet, early in February, 1900, the Govern-
ments of the republics had complained of damage done by
the British soldiery, and on February 12 Lord Roberts had
called their attention to the destruction by Boers of farm-
houses in Natal." A somewhat acrimonious correspondence
as to the usages of civilized warfare continued for some
months. This was not unnatural. * War is cruelty, and you
cannot refine it,' said a soldier whose practice agreed with his
maxim. 'War is war, and not popularity hunting,' says
Grant. * War is hellish work ' is Napier's description of it.
* There is no clear via media between peace and war,' remarks
a recent writer ; ' when the dogs of war are let loose, the cry
is havoc. '^

On May 20, 1900, Lord Roberts admitted having ordered
the destruction of two farms in the Bloemfontein district
' because, while a white flag was flying from the houses, his
troops were fired upon from the farmsteads '; and he stated
that ' he should continue to punish all such cases of treachery
by the destruction of the farms where they occurred.'^ This
is quite in accordance with the usages of modern warfare.
' He who allows his house to be used as a _?;/ace cVarmes, a
fortress from which to fire upon the enemy, must, according
to military usage, expect to have his house burned.' There
were doubtless many cases of hardship, because very fre-
quently the owner was not consulted, and he could do little or
nothing to prevent his house being so utilized by a Boer

On September 2, 1900, the Commander-in-Chief telegraphed
to Commandant General Botha that orders had been given

i Proclamation, March 26, 1900, Cd. 582.

2 Cd. 582.

3 Nineteenth Century, December, 1900.

4 Cd. 582.

^ ' Much has been said of Boers firing on British soldiers from farms
which flew the white flag. What actually happened again and again was
that woixien and non-combatants flew the white flag on a homestead, and
that armed Boers carried on hostile operations on other parts of such
farms without any regard to the doings of those in the farmhouse '
(Morning Leader, September, 1900).


that the farm nearest the scene of any attempt to injure the
line or wreck a train was to be burned, and that all farms
within a radius of ten miles were to be cleared of all their
stock, supplies, etc.^

A precedent may be found for the above in an order issued
by General Sherman on November 'J, 18G4, which is worded
as follows : * In districts and neighbourhoods where the army
is unmolested no destruction of property should be permitted ;
but should guerillas or bushwhackers molest our march, or
should the inhabitants burn bridges, obstruct roads, or other-
wise manifest local hostility, the army commanders should
order and enforce demolitions more or less relentless accord-
ing to the measure of such hostility.'-

By October, 1900, the war on the Boer side was considered
to have degenerated into operations carried on by irregular,
irresponsible guerillas. The organization of the Boer army
was primitive, but such as it was it was in force until the end.
Laxity of discipline is the continual complaint of De Wet and
other leaders, and the commandants were severely handicapped
thereby.^ In answer to a telegram from General Botha,
urging that the republican forces were still perfectly organized,
Lord Eoberts pointed out that their tactics were not those
usually associated with organized forces, but had degenerated
into a guerilla warfare, which he would be compelled to
repress by those exceptional methods which civilized nations
had at all times found it necessary to use under like circum-

1 Cd. 582. This was in accordance with the proclamation of June 19,
1900. This proclamation again conformed to the usages of civilized
warfare {vide Lawrence, pp. 377 and 378).

- In 1871 the German Governor of Lorraine ordered, ' in consequence of
the destruction of the bridge of Fontenoy to the east of Toul, that the
district included in the Governor-Generalship of Lorraine should pay an
extraordinary contribution of 10,000,000 francs by way of fine, and
announced that the village of Fontenoy had been immediately burned'
{Hall, § 156).

3 ' The Boer discipline must have been a curious growth, and when we
realize the intense individualism of the fighting men, we begin to see the
greatness of the achievement of Botha and Delarey in keeping thein
together at all ' (' The African Colony ').

* Lord Roberts ' was unable to see that the Boers, being essentially a
nation of farmers, would regard with comparative equanimity the loss of


Roughly, from this date onwards, then, may be said to
have commenced that series of exceptional measures which
were destined finally to bring the republican leaders to their
senses, and that * process of attrition ' which was to culminate,
after more than a year and a half of march and counter-
march, in the terms of Vereeniging. It was at this period

their towns, largely the resort of races alien to themselves. . . . "When
those towns were gone, he persisted in believing that it was contrary' to
the usages of war for his enemy to remain in arms. Hence liis mistaken
resolve to treat, not as regular combatants, but as rebels, who required
punishment rather than defeat, a white race defending their homes with
a bravery and resource which have rightly won the admiration of the
world ' (T]ie Times ' History of the War in South Africa,' vol iv.).

The following would appear to cover the case in point. It does not,
however, confound skedaddling and flight with bravery and defence, as Tlie
Times historian appears to have done : ' On the other hand, one speaks
of guerilla war or petty war when, after the defeat and the capture of the
main part of the enemy forces, the occupation of the enemy territory,
and the downfall of the enemy Government, the routed remnants of the
defeated army carry on the contention by mere guerilla tactics. Although
hopeless of success in the end, such petty war can go on for a long time,
thus preventing the establishment of a state of peace in spite of the fact
that regular war is over and the task of the army of occupation is no
longer regular warfare. Now, the question whether such guerilla war is
real war in the strict sense of the term in international law must, I think,
be answered in the negative for two reasons : First, there are no longer
the forces of two States in the field, because the defeated belligerent State
has ceased to exist through the military occupation of its territory, the
downfall of its established Government, the capture of the main part, and
the routing of the remnant, of its forces ; and, secondly, there is no longer
a contention between armed forces in progress. For although the guerilla
bands are still fighting when attacked, or when attacking small bodies of
enemy soldiers, they try to avoid a pitched battle, and content themselves
with the constant harassing of the victorious army, the destroymg of
bridges and railways, cutting off communications and supplies, attacking
convoys, and the like, always in the hope that some event or events may
occur which will induce the victorious army to withdraw from the
conquered territory. But if guerilla war is not real war, it is obvious
that in strict law the victor need no longer treat the guerilla bands as a
belligerent Power and the captured members of those bands as soldiers.
It is, however, not advisable that the victor should cease such treatment
as long as those bands are under responsible commanders, and observe
themselves the laws and usages of war. For I can see no advantage or
reason why, although in strict law it could be done, those bands should be
treated as criminals. Such treatment would only call for acts of revenge
on their part, without in the least accelerating the pacification of the
country. And it is, after all, to be taken into consideration that these
bands act, not out of criminal, but patriotic motives. With patience and
firmness the victor will succeed in pacifying these bands without recourse
to methods of harshness' (Oppenheim, vol. ii., p. 67).


that the war entered upon a stage not wholly anticipated or
provided for by International Law.

In the preamble to the Hague Convention it is stated :
' These provisions, the wording of which has been inspired
by the desire to diminish the evils of war, so far as military
necessities permit, are destined to serve as general rules of
conduct for belligerents in their relations with each other and
with populations. It has not, however, been possible to agree
forthwith on provisions embracing all the circumstances
which may occur in practice.' The code is avowedly incom-
plete ; it expressly excepts military necessities, and it contem-
plates additions to meet unforeseen contingencies. Of military
necessity the man on the spot must admittedly be the best
judge, and it is not therefore surprising to find both com-
batants defending their actions on this ground.^

The situation in South Africa at this time was not altogether
unforeseen, but it was really an extremely difficult one for
which to provide. A fruitful source of dissension in past
wars has been confusion as to the nature of military occupa-
tion. The Boer army had been overthrown in the mass, and
the capitals of the two States taken, but powerful bands, still
unsubdued, were roving about freely, and towns occupied by
the British one day were evacuated the next.^ The theatre of

1 Vide telegram : ' From State President, O.F.S., and State President,
S.A.K., sent from Bloemfontein 9.20 p.m., February 19, 1900, to H.E.
Lord Roberts, Cape Town. With regard to the sending away of certain
of Her Majesty's subjects from their dwellings to beyond the lines of those
parts of the country occupied by the Burgher forces, we can affirm to
your Excellency that the instances where such — and that only quite
recently — has occurred, it was necessary in the interests of oitr military
operations, as in all instances there was at least strong presumption
existing that they did not behave themselves quietly and occupy them-
selves solely with their daily avocations, but either themselves acted as
spies, or assisted spies to make our movements known to the enemy.'

Cf. also reply of Lord Roberts, dated Paardeberg, Febuary 24, 1900,
whence the following is extracted : ' I, however, am fully convinced that
no wilful destruction of property has taken place except such as was
absolutely necessary for military purposes,'

2 ' I am told,' reported the R.M. Senekal at a later date, 'that during
the war every citizen, on rising in the morning, was wont to go and see
which flag was flying over the Court-house, to ascertain if an admiration
of the Union Jack or Vier-Kleur would be most acceptable to the
authorities there.'


war was too extensive for the British ever to expect, without
emplojang exceptional measures, to cope with an enemy who
had adopted guerilla tactics. The fighting area had to be
reduced. Diminution of territory involved not only the re-
moval of the inhabitants — a subject which will be dealt with
later — but also the destruction of property and the clearance
of supplies.

It was the widespread destruction of farmhouses, and whole-
sale devastation in certain specified areas, which called forth
such a storm of adverse criticism. And yet, in view of
the Hague Convention, such criticism would appear to be
unnecessary. All the rules adopted at the Hague are pre-
faced by the qualification, * autant que les n6cessit6s militaires
le permettent.' And ' military necessity ' includes many
things. Lieber, in his definition, admits that ' it allows of all
destruction of property, and obstruction of the ways and
channels of traffic, travel, or communication, and of all with-
holding of sustenance or means of life from the enemy, of
the appropriation of whatever an enemy's country affords
necessary for the sustenance and safety of the army.'^ The
definition of the term ' lay waste,' drafted by General Sir
Archibald Hunter, and approved by Lord Roberts, was no
less comprehensive, and entered more into detail. Civilized
opinion, then, as expressed at the Hague, acknowledges
devastation to be legitimate under certain circumstances, and
holds that the question of the necessity for such devastation
must be decided by the accredited representatives of the
belligerents themselves.^

The main difficulty in the situation at the close of 1900
from the British point of view, and for the Boers the main

1 See also General von Hartmann's ' Militarische Nothwendigkeit und

2 As a matter of fact, ' the private movable property of the inhabitants

Online LibraryGeorge B BeakThe aftermath of war; an account of the repatriation of Boers and natives in the Orange River colony, 1902-1904 → online text (page 1 of 27)