musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Tag: Boer War

The Kruger House

No reading about the Boer War would be complete without mentioning Paul Kruger, and there is no doubt that he was a significant person in the history of South Africa. His house is situated in Pretoria and is now a museum, so with some spare time I decided to pop in for a visit. 

It is strange to find the residential property of a State President at street level, but from what I read this is what Paul Kruger would have preferred. If anything he was a deeply religious person, not prone to outbursts of emotion, and well loved by his friends and countrymen, and respected by his enemies. Situated in  Church Street, The house was designed by Tom Claridge and built by the builder Charles Clark during 1883-1884. Right across from the house is the magnificent Gereformeerde Kerk Pretoria (aka Paul Kruger Kerk) of 1889.


The house is not overly complicated, but is well built and very simple when compared to a house like Melrose House. By 1899 it was one of the few buildings in Pretoria that had electricity and a telephone, although from what I saw water borne sewerage was not on the cards. Paul Kruger and his wife lived there until he left the country in 1900. His wife remained in the house until her death in 1901. The house was bought by the Union Government in 1925 and it was restored and opened to the public in  1934, being declared a National Monument in 1936.  

Sitting Room

A lot of the furniture and fittings do come from the original house, and while it does have a bit of a cluttered old fashioned feel about it I did find it was a very personal house, not really the sort of place that you would expect a  President to live in. 

One of Paul Kruger’s offices

Dining Room



There are also two display halls: The ZAR Hall, and the Exile Hall. 

Exile Hall

The ZAR Hall has some amazing historic artefacts that pertain to the Boer War, as well as many of the awards and gifts give to the President and people of the ZAR. The Exile Hall is more about the period when Paul Kruger fled the country on board the Gelderland, and his subsequent exile in Europe. 
Also on display are an oxwagon, and his state coach.
Of special interest to me is the State Railway Coach which is on the premises. Sadly this wonderful old clerestory coach, with its observation platform, is not open to the public. All I could really see inside it were a conference room, sleeping berths and a small kitchen.
 According to the information sign, the coach was used by Paul Kruger when he was at Machadodorp and Warterval-Onder, and carried him to Lourenco Marques from where he went into exile. It was restored in 1951 and placed at the museum in 1952. 
A final stop in my tour was the kitchen and scullery where some sort of inkling of domestic life was on view. 
Paul Kruger died in Switzerland on 14 July 1904, his body being returned to South Africa and given a state funeral on 16 December 1904. He is buried with his wife and members of his family in Church Street Cemetery.
Out of curiosity, in my visit to the archives in Pretoria I found a document that may have been signed by Kruger himself, ok, he is mentioned in it. 
© DRW 2013-2018. Images recreated 26/03/2016
Updated: 26/12/2017 — 16:06

Fort Schanskop

Following my visit to Fort Klapperkop in August 2009, I decided that a visit to Fort Schanskop would also be an idea and filed it away for when I attended the Memorial Service at the SADF Wall of Remembrance in October of the year. 


One of four forts constructed in 1897 to protect Pretoria against attacks. It was built by Krupp of Germany and erection by HC Werner was commenced in May 1896. The fort was shaped like a pentagon and had canons placed on rotating platforms on the embankments. It was handed over to the ZAR Government on 6 April 1897.

 The forts were surrendered to the British with the fall of Pretoria, and from then on were manned and armed until 1902 by the Imperial Army. The 4 forts were handed to the Defence Force in 1921 and declared National Monuments in 1938. Schanskop and Fort Klapperkop served as military museums but they were closed in 1993 and the forts were purchased by the city council. Schanskop was purchased by the Voortrekker Monument from the city council in June 2000 and was subsequently restored.
The whole structure is in a beautiful condition and is well maintained, but again it is let down by a lack or reasons to return. Realistically, once you have seen it you probably will never need to return. There are a number of displays inside the fort depicting life at the fort and exhibits pertinent to the ABW.



And of course there are a number of artillery pieces scattered around. 
Overall though, the fort is very similar to Klapperkop, although it does seem much smaller.
Like all of the forts around Pretoria it never heard a shot fired in anger, and as such was really just a waste of money. However, the paranoia against the “uitlanders” was very strong in the ZAR Government, and I am sure that at the time they considered it money well spent. 
Situated close to the Voortrekker Monument, the view is quite a good one, although there is not too much to see.  
The other two objects of interest at the fort are the Danie Theron statue, or “Piet Skiet” as we knew him. (The beret badge of the Commando’s featured a likeness of this statue of Danie Theron)
and there is also the “Tanganyika Trek Monument”. This is a scale model replica of the Trek monument that was inaugurated on 16 December 1954 in Tanzania to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first Afrikaners who settled in what was then Tanganyika after the Anglo Boer War. 
 And that was it, time to head off home, both forts in the bag. 
DRW ©  2009-2019. Images recreated 08/03/2016
Updated: 09/04/2019 — 06:04

Fort Klapperkop

I have visited Fort Klapperkop in Pretoria three times. The first was when I was in primary school and we went of an outing to Pretoria and the fort was part of the experience. At that time it was still a Military Museum and I do recall climbing over the military vehicles with much enthusiasm.

My second visit happened on 30 December 2008, and the fort was closed for the Christmas break. I only got as far as the main gate. And my final visit was on 16 August 2009, which is what this retro blogpost is about 

One of four forts (Schanskop, Klapperkop, Daspoortrand and Wonderboompoort) constructed in 1897 to protect Pretoria against attacks. It was handed over to the ZAR Government on 18 January 1898. Unlike Schanskop, Fort Klapperkop was surrounded by a moat. In February 1898 a Long Tom was mounted here, but removed in October 1899, its final destination being Ladysmith. The fort was equipped with electricity, heliograph, telegraph and a telephone. It was surrendered to the British with the fall of Pretoria, and from then on were manned and armed until 1902 by the Imperial Army.


The 4 forts were handed to the Defence Force in 1921 and declared National Monuments in 1938. Schanskop and Klapperkop served as military museums but they were closed in 1993 and the forts were purchased by the city council. Fort Schanskop was purchased by the Voortrekker Monument from the city council in June 2000 and was subsequently restored.

The fort is also home to the South African Defence Force Memorial


Like many of these old forts this one feels like it was really a waste of money, certainly the “enemy” that it was meant to protect against did not have to fight a pitched battle against it, and realistically it was more lip service to paranoia by the ZAR government than anything else.



The structure is beautifully maintained and on the day I was there I did not see too many visitors. Admittedly that could be because the access road is quite a killer! My poor little car struggled to raise itself up to the crest of the hill where the fort is.

The view of Pretoria from the fort is quite spectacular in parts, and at night it must be especially good.


Living in a fort like this as part of the garrison must have been very tedious, and I am sure those stationed here must have felt very frustrated by being so close but so far from the lights in the distance. the ZAR government were particularly afraid of the threat posed by uitlanders in Johannesburg and I was quite sad that you could not even see that city from the fort,

There are a number of interesting exhibits at the museum, especially artillery pieces like the “Long Tom” below


The weapon is a replica of the Creusot siege guns bought from France by the Boers and used extremely effectively during the Anglo Boer War.


Down below the battlements the rooms have been more or less restored to what they may have looked like during their occupation or house exhibits pertinent to the forts.



I could not help wondering whether the soldiers stationed her were ever chased down the hill with tar poles, or sent to weed the moat?



You can bet that bored soldiers were kept very busy by their superiors, for this is the nature of military service irrespective. You can bet some lazy bugger wangled himself a job operating the fumigation machine.

The problem with static defences like this is that any enemy worth his salt will go around your fort and isolate you very easily and starve you out.


Or will wait till nightfall and sneak up to your nice secure main gate and knock…..

The fort is an interesting place to visit, one of those really strange places that we have in South Africa which don’t quite make sense. But then we are viewing them with hindsight instead of as things were at the time when they were built. Unfortunately though, once you have seen Klapperkop there is no real reason to return, and that is a tragedy because there are only so many potential visitors.

Two other items of interest do exist at the site, the first is Class 6B- 537, formerly from the CGR and Imperial Military Railways.

When I was there she was looking very dilapidated, but was cosmetically restored not too long ago. How they got her up the hill I do not know.

The other oddity is a single decker tram (Brill?) that was in a very poor condition. I believe she may have been cosmetically restored as well.

And that was Fort Klapperkop in a nutshell, or was it a coconut shell?
© DRW 2009 -2018 Images recreated 08/03/2016
Updated: 24/12/2017 — 10:04

Vereeniging Concentration Camp Cemetery

When I went to this cemetery I was looking for war graves and was not even aware that there were any concentration camp graves in it. The cemetery is also known as Beaconsfield Cemetery, but it was originally known as Vereeniging Old Town Cemetery. There are 48 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War in the cemetery. 
The history of the associated concentration camp may be found at British Concentration Camps of the South African War.  When I visited it the cemetery was in a very poor condition, with uncut grass, vandalised buildings and the feel that the local municipality were not interested in maintaining it in any sort of condition.  It was also very exposed with very limited shade and few trees.   
I also recall it was very hot day and finding the graves I was after was a very difficult task, but I did manage to find them all. However, the concentration camp graves are a different story. These were made out of sandstone and were already in a poor condition in the 1960’s (
A double sided screen wall lists the names and date of death of those who died in the camp.
The site was restored in September 2011 by a team from the Erfenis Stigting so they may be in a different (and better) condition to what they were when I originally saw them in 2008. There are only 29 visible graves and I did not photograph all of them, many are just marked “Onbekend”.
The majority of deaths in this camp were from measles and not British soldiers as seems to be the general consensus. Childhood diseases proved to be as effective at causing deaths during the ABW as enteric fever was.
The sad state of this cemetery is indicative of  the poor state of maintenance in many small town cemeteries, and the poor state of the concentration camp graves is indicative of those who are quick to apportion blame for the deaths on the British, but who have never picked up a weedeater and gone out there to restore the graves of their own people.   More images of the cemetery are available at eggsa 
DRW @ 2008-2019. Recreated images 06/02/2016, link recreated 05/03/2018 
Updated: 09/04/2019 — 08:13

Suideroord Concentration Camp Cemetery

The cemetery associated with the Johannesburg Concentration Camp in Turffontein is called Suideroord, and I went to examine it on 14 June 2008. I will admit that it did nothing for me, if anything it seemed so typical of government designed institutions, and to be frank it is probably the sort of place you would walk past every day and never really know what it was about. 
 The images I am using here are a mix of those I took originally and some that I took in 2012, they are almost interchangeble,  

The fact that there was a concentration camp in Johannesburg is surprising, although logically it was inevitable, given the amount of refugees that were coming to the town. (Johannesburg was founded in 1886 so it was still a relatively new town).

The camp was situated in Turffontein, at the race course, although I have read that it was behind the track and not a part of the track. The truth I expect is somewhere in between. There are a number of rumours and conspiracy theories about this camp and logically some of them do leave more questions asked than answered, In fact that was probably my biggest argument about this “Memorial”, There is a decided lack of information at the actual site  and nobody to ask!  I suspect that is why Irene Concentration Camp Cemetery is a good one to visit, they have taken the time to tell history, and provide information as opposed to merely having a lot of puzzling memorials and not much else.  To this day I still do not know whether there are any bodies actually buried at Suideroord.    The big question is why are the people buried here and not in the municipal cemetery in Braamfontein? I suspect it has to do with the inmates being under the control of the military and the cemetery being under the municipality. I did read that the land had been donated specifically for the purpose of burials of  inmates, but again I cannot positively confirm it.

The memorial consists of a series of coffin shaped terraces.


And you can only really appreciate that when you view the Google Earth image. 


It would be interesting to know what the original layout of the cemetery was, but that information is probably gone forever. The names are listed on a plinth on the top terrace, and it is here where the plaque on my second image is found.


A number of the original headstones have been preserved in the small entranceway, but I am sure there were many more originally. Where have they all gone to?



The dedication plaque may also be found in this entryway.


There is also a plaque commemorating the original farm owners at the site.


As a piece of history the site is really important, however when it comes to understanding what you are seeing it fails dismally. 

And I think this is part of the problem I have with the whole concentration camp saga. The version we were taught in school was highly skewed and did not contain any facts that would stand up to scrutiny, and those who froth and foam about the behaviour of the British do not stand at the gates of a place like this ready to cut grass or explain just what you are seeing. The truth has been left by the wayside, just like these memorials have been. The cemetery may be found at Google Earth co-ordinates -26.272334° 28.024066°   

DRW © 2008-2019. Images recreated 04/03/2016
Updated: 09/04/2019 — 08:18

Irene Concentration Camp

Irene was the first ABW concentration camp site that I visited. And is probably the one that had the greatest effect on me. As many people know I really avoid the ABW as a subject because of the emotions it can stir, and because I am of English extraction I will usually get personally blamed for it.
Please note that the contact numbers and address on the board below may no longer be correct. The camp may be found at Google Earth co-ordinates: -25.871277°,  28.220548°, and the address is 11 Stopford Rd, Centurion, Pretoria, 0157, South Africa.

It was really by accident that I saw the camp, we were in the area and I saw the site but it was closed off, so I went looking for a way into it and ended up being directed to a place where I could get the key to the gate. The images I took though were really just a pinprick as I had limited time.

The Irene Concentration Camp was opened on 2 November 1900, the intention being that it would be one of the camps that would house the Boer women and their children that had been driven from their land by the British “scorched earth” policy during the Anglo Boer War of 1899-1902. Tragically the conditions in this camp, and most like it, were primitive and very little notice was taken by the authorities of the deaths that were caused by their lack of interest in the unfortunate inmates of the camps. The situation in Irene was also compounded by two uncaring and officious camp commandants who ironically were Afrikaners themselves.

It took women like Emily Hobhouse to raise public awareness about the situation in the camps, to a point where a commission of 6 women under Mrs Millicent Fawcett was established, who went and inspected and made recommendations about improving the camps and the lot of those inside of them.

Many other people took it upon themselves to assist where possible and often the dedication of medical staff and volunteers was all help there was. Of particular note is Henrietta Armstrong who kept an unofficial diary about the camp, as well as Hansie Van Warmelo and Hester Cilliers. By the time public opinion had swelled enough to force action it was too late for the thousands of women and children who lost their lives.

Approximately 4000 women and 23000 children died in these camps as a result of exposure, disease, starvation and a lack of medical care. There is no accurate figure available as to how many Africans died in the camps, where they were housed, or even who they were or where they came from. This particular garden of remembrance site is on the site of the camp cemetery. The generally accepted number of dead is 1149, but it is possible that many more are buried here.

The cemetery is a national heritage site, under the protection of the SA Heritage Resource Agency. More information is available from Centurion Heritage Society

The headstones are symbolic, with names inscribed on both sides of each stone. I did not photograph them all though as I did not have the time. I have 40 headstone faces photographed which equates to about 240 individuals. 

Some of the original headstones still exist, and these have been embedded in concrete and are on display, although I believe a number of them were in storage when I was there.

I was told that this wall was built from rocks removed from the original graves.

34 Children were reburied her and the list of names of the deceased are set in the screen wall behind.

There are five headstones to Imperial Soldiers who may also be buried at the site.

I found it a very emotive site with a strong atmosphere about it that  I did not feel in any of the other concentration camp cemeteries that I visited afterwards. 

A history of the camp may be found at The British Concentration Camps of the South African War website.

Sadly there is not a lot available in print about the concentration camps, but the following ebooks may be of interest at Gutenberg: Woman’s Endurance by A. D Luckhoff. , The Petticoat Commando by Johanna Brandt.

Services of Remembrance are held regularly at the site, and if you do wish to visit it is advisable to first find out whether the site is open or where you may obtain the keys.

 DRW © 2008-2019. Some changes made to page 31/07/2018
Updated: 09/04/2019 — 08:19

Krugersdorp Concentration Camp Cemetery

The many victims of Krugersdorp Concentration Camp are buried in Burgershoop Cemetery in Krugersdorp, and I have been in that cemetery on a number of occasions since I first went there in June 2008. That visit was not about the camp cemetery but more about the military graves in the cemetery. 

Cemetery main entrance

When I originally made that visit the camp cemetery was in a dismal state, as was the whole cemetery for that matter. The grass was uncut, weeds were everywhere, and frankly I could not understand why those who continually raise the issue of the camps were not in there tending the graves!

By the time I left South Africa in 2013 the cemetery, and particularly the concentration camp graves were in a much better condition; the latter being restored by the Erfenis Stigting. As a result most of the images I am using are from June and September 2012. Notice the difference?

From what I have read, the Concentration Camp was established on 19 May 1901, and was one of the biggest camps in the Transvaal with 5488 people in the camp. It was situated north east of what is now Coronation Park on the site of what is now the Dr Yussaf Dadoo Hospital. A blockhouse; Fort Harlech, one of the few still remaining today, overlooks the site. 

Burgershoop Cemetery is literally “up the road” from the concentration camp site and it contains a wide variety of graves ranging from concentration camp deaths, to Jameson Raid, Boer War, both World Wars, miners and ordinary people.

It is difficult to know what the death rate was for the camp, but one source mentions that there are over 1800 concentration camp graves in the cemetery. The stone for the crematorium was unveiled on 13 December 1961.

As far as I can tell the grave markers are symbolic, and very few are actually marked as belonging to a specific person, this is one of the exceptions.

Most of the graves are of a similar pattern, a rectangular kerb with a headstone engraved “Konsentrasiekamp 1899-1902, Rus in Vrede” and filled in with pebbles as below.  


Restoration started in 2011 and not only the concentration camp were being restored, but other ABW were getting attention. 

The cemetery is a very historic one, and it is sad that it had reached such a state of disrepair, but given that it seems to be a common problem this attention it was receiving was very welcome. More information on the camp may be found at  the British Concentration Camps of the South African War website

It is tragic to walk amongst these unmarked graves and to try to imagine the funerals that passed this way over a century ago, and to know that even today the bitterness still remains as does the hatred of the British. I have learnt one thing though; there are two sides to every story, and when I was in school we were only taught one side; and therein lays the tragedy because I was never told about the Black Concentration Camps. That bit of information was conveniently left out when the hand wringing was being done and blame being apportioned.


The Krugersdorp Native Refugee Camp was situated on the farm Roodekrans, and later they were relocated to the farm Waterval.  There are no visible graves for those victims that I am aware of. The sites of those camps are probably inaccessible and it is doubtful whether there would be anything to see anyway.  


Burgershoop cemetery in general.

Burgershoop is also the final resting place of many people, and it was quite an interesting cemetery to walk around because of the diverse range of graves in it. Unfortunately I never really felt safe here at all, and never really ventured far from my car. I did however cover a lot of ground and saw many things that saddened me. One area of the cemetery has a preponderance of children’s graves and the small statues have often been the targets of vandalism at some point. 

This small plot is next to the the Jewish section that used to be fenced at some point but the fence was very porous when I last visited. 

Incidentally the Krugersdorp Prison faces onto the Jewish Cemetery and it sounds like a very noisy place.  

There is also a crematorium at the cemetery and it was in use while I was there. 

There is a small Muslim burial area too at the bottom of the cemetery and I have images of it when it was very overgrown and from when I visited in 2011 which showed that it had been cleaned up.

Muslim burial plot. (1500×393)

A register does exist, and it is arranged in date order, from 1904 to 1940 although the first 3 pages are taken up by children’s graves. The register used to be held at Sterkfontein Cemetery in Krugersdorp, but that may no longer be true. You were also able to get lookups done at Sterkfontein (last info was 2012).  An accurate cemetery map did not really exist when I was there so I started to create my own based on two that they had at Sterkfontein. Unfortunately I did not finish that project so use this map at your own risk


Random images


Burgershoop Cemetery may be found at Google Earth co-ordinates 26°6.164’S 27° 45.610′.

DRW 2008-2019. Images recreated 04/03/2016, Link recreated 05/02/2018, some images added 02/06/2019

Updated: 02/06/2019 — 16:00
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