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Namaqualand monument honours Concordia town heroes

Bravery comes in many forms, that’s the message punted at the unveiling of a monument to honour the Concordia town guard.

The men refused to be drawn into the South African War, a conflict between the British and the Boers.

The history books are filled with men and women and their brave acts on the battlefield.

The monument at Concordia in the Namaqualand honours 110 men who did the opposite when they refused to fight.

Initially labelled as cowards but the men refused an order to join British troops against the Boers who had stormed into nearby Okiep in the Namaqualand.

Instead the men chose to protect their families. More than a century later, the history books have been rewritten.

The monument bares the names of the 110 men. Descendant Denvor Cloete says: “My father taught me the victor is the person who walks from a fight.”

The monument was constructed by locals and the movie about the Concordia town guard is in the pipeline.

Namaqualand monument honours Concordia town heroes

Namaqualand monument honours Concordia town heroes–20170427


Himeville fort and museum

Originally built as a fortified laager, the “Old Fort” in Himeville (the last of its type to be constructed in South Africa) was completed in 1900. In 1902 it was taken over by the Natal Mounted Police and was used as a prison until its closure in 1972. Subsequently, through the efforts of local residents and the local Historical Society, who took over the buildings in 1976, it became a museum, which was opened to the public in 1981.

Said to be one of the best rural museums in South Africa, the museum comprises a large complex (warders’ house, cells, the armory (originally the only building within the laager walls), workshops and parade ground, and a few additional buildings erected to house some of the exhibits).

The warders’ house, furnished much in the style of 1900, comprises a typical living/dining room, kitchen, bedroom and nursery. Wildlife exhibits; local pioneering records and photographs; typical examples of a Post Office/telephone exchange and a schoolroom; rock art and other items associated with the Bushmen of the area; and bead work and other artifacts of the local AmaBhaca community are on display in some of the old cells. A variety of exhibits is housed in the old armory, while a modern addition houses a number of farming and dairy implements, and a display of relics from the Boer and the two World Wars. Around the parade ground are displayed several agricultural implements; carts and wagons; a blacksmith’s forge and workshop.

Howick concentration camp

Howick concentration camp

During the Anglo-Boer War from 1899 to 1902, the British established a concentration camp on the outskirts of Howick. Natal had several concentration camps namely at; Ladysmith, Eshowe, Howick, Colenso, Pinetown, Pietermaritzburg Jacobs, Wentworth and at Merebank.

The second concentration camp to open in Natal was at Howick during January 1901. (The first camp was at Pietemaritzburg) The 3300 inhabitants of this camp, who came from both the Free State and the Transvaal were all housed in tents.
This camp at Howick was known as one of the better camps during the war. Most amenities were available to the notoriously republican inhabitants of this camp, while many worked on farms in the area or relaxed next to the Umgeni River and the bigger boys were also allowed to work as laborers on farms in the vicinity, thus earning a little money with which they were able to buy certain medical necessities and additional food.

The cemetery used to hold 64 British graves and 84 Boer graves, but all the graves remains were placed under the memorial – a monument to honour the women and children who died during their incarceration in the camp which marks the location, and was erected by the War Graves Commission. The Military Cemetery is close to the site of an Anglo/Boer War military hospital and concentration camp.

The second Natal camp to open in Natal was at Howick during January 1901. The 3300 inhabitants of this camp, who came from both the Free State and the Transvaal were all housed in tents.

Most amenities were available to the notoriously republican inhabitants of this camp, while many worked on farms in the area or relaxed next to the Umgeni River.

The Howick camp were closed during October 1902. Approximately 155 deaths occurred in the Howick camp. The dead are honoured by a monument erected by the War Graves Commission.

The Natal camp system was somewhat different from the Transvaal and ORC systems although the majority of the inmates came from the Boer republics. Howick was one of the oldest camps, established originally by the military to take families from northern Natal. Certainly it was in existence by March 1901 when the military reported that there were 705 inmates, all housed in marquees. The sick were cared for in a separate ward in the general Howick hospital. The Rev. van der Horst ministered to the inmates and taught at the school. The camp was not fenced but the inhabitants and their friends needed passes to visit since the country was under martial law.

Reports were scrappy, providing only the barest information but the camp appeared to be run reasonably well and the people were healthy, apart from a few cases of typhoid, bronchitis, pneumonia and rheumatism. Numbers increased slowly – at the beginning of August 1901 there were still only 648 white inmates and 13 black, while a handful of people had reported sick. There were no deaths at all. In August, however, three families arrived from Klerksdorp, one of them with measles. Although the case was isolated, it was an ominous trend. At some stage the superintendent, Mr Caldecott, was subsequently replaced by Dr Hunter

Only on 1 November 1901, a full year after the Transvaal and ORC camps, was Howick camp handed over to civilian management. This coincided with the removal of families from the Transvaal camps and a month later it was reported that there were now 3,383 people in Howick camp, when it was full. With the Transvalers came disease and an epidemic of measles was followed by scarlet fever. Mortality rose although it was never as great as that of the Transvaal and ORC camps. Nevertheless, when the Governor of Natal, H.E. McCallum, visited the camp in February 1902, he found it in good condition, largely because of the efforts of Dr Hunter, he believed.

The Ladies Committee had a somewhat different impression when they arrived in Howick on 2 December 1901. They considered it a somewhat haphazard camp. It was divided into two sections with a marshy depression separating them. The older camp consisted mainly of marquees while the newer had bell tents, most of them squalid and neglected. In almost every respect, they considered, the second camp was inferior to the older establishment. Towards the end of the period many of the residents were moved out of tents into huts. This was a relief when a gale in June 1902 ripped through the camp, destroying most of the tents.

Although the camp was not bad, it made a poor initial impression on the new inmates from the Transvaal; many remembered only the misery of arriving in the pouring rain. Mrs Sue Nicholson from Pietersburg, who had some descriptive powers, described their plight.

In the afternoon a train of open trucks would pull up at the siding, and its freight of draggled human beings, wet to the skin, would be disgorged with all their belongings as saturated as themselves. These poor women, some walking with the aid of a stick, or with children in their arms and children clinging to them, would be marched along the muddy roads, knee deep in the slush. Some were barefooted, for their shoes refusing to be withdrawn with the foot from the sticky mud, remained buried there. Children nipped with cold and crying with hunger, the mothers dumb, trudging on, only clasping their babies closer to their breasts to infuse a little warmth, were it possible. . . .’

Mrs Nicholson herself had more positive memories. She had nothing but praise for the superintendent, Dr Hunter (as did others). Her family included two ‘native servant-girls’ who were not rationed but she had some money and was able to supplement her rations from the stores in the camps, at a cost of £12 a month – an astonishing amount of money to spend on food, but vegetables were expensive with onions at 9d a lb. This additional nourishment, she believed, enabled herself and her children to survive the diseases which attacked them. These were numerous. Mrs Nicholson, apart from giving birth shortly after arriving in the camp, suffered from typhoid fever, while her children were infected with whooping cough. The new baby was sickly but, to everyone’s surprise, survived on a diet of extract of beef and French brandy. She speculated on the virtues of the Dutch medicines as opposed to modern scientific practice. Coming from the Zoutpansberg district, where there were few doctors, she had recourse to traditional remedies but, she believed, properly administered by experienced people, they always worked and she used them regularly for minor ailments.

The Natal government, when it took over the camps, was determined to show that they could run the system more cheaply than the military had done. Consequently they produced a comparison of costs which gives us some idea of the economy of these camps. By far the most costly item in Howick camp was the meat, 46,386 lbs in January 1902 for about 3,000 inmates cost £942 4s 7d, while bread, 73,278 lbs, was the next most expensive item at £381 13 3d. £1736 7s 3d had been saved in that camp alone, the Governor proudly told Milner

While the food was monotonous, it was certainly far better than that of the inland camps. Dr J.B. Haldane, a pro-Boer who analysed the camp rations after conditions in the camps had become public in 1901, considered that the Howick inmates were did not suffer from serious nutritional deficiencies. On the whole the government analyst, Dr Sidney Martin, agreed although he considered that none of the inmates received an adequate ration of calories.

As in the other camps, the British seized the opportunity to inculcate imperial values into their new subjects. The Natal Mercury, reported proudly that a course of lantern slides had been shown to the camp inmates. ‘It is an excellent notion to give the Boer adult some perception of the vastness of that Empire of which his country now forms a part’, it stated

At the end of the war there was a moment of excitement when the camp was visited by some of the Boer leaders, including Schalk Burger, to explain the terms of surrender. The Natal camps were closed down rapidly at the end of the war and by August 1902 Howick had only two families remaining. Because it was used partly as a transit camp a few people lingered on, however, into November when the camp was finally closed.