Peace terms - Procedure to be adopted in selecting prisoners of war for return to South Africa

It was about the beginning of April, that Acting President Burger received from Lord Kitchener a copy of the correspondence that had passed between the British and Netherlands Governments. As this related to peace in South Africa, Schalk Burger, so he said, took this act of Lord Kitchener as an invitation to discuss terms and the termination of the war. All knew that Schalk Burgher, Lucas Meyer and J. B. Krogh were always anxious to surrender or make peace at any price, and for this reason every one of them should have been removed, and patriotic men put in their places.

It was just a year ago that Schalk Burger sent that letter to President Steyn begging him to surrender, as the people were starving and it was impossible to fight any longer. Yet the burghers had fought another year, had been more successful than at any other time during the war, and all were still fat, saucy and in high spirits. However, he managed again to get a meeting of the two governments, which was authorized by Lord Kitchener. As Lord Kitchener, Lord Roberts, Joe Chamberlain and Milner were continually telling the English public that it was the officers, and not the burghers, who were carrying on the war, it was decided to have a conference of delegates, duly elected and instructed by the burghers themselves. For this purpose, all military operations were suspended and the different commandos in their respective districts came together to make known their feelings and elect a delegate.

I was then with the Johannesburg Commando, on the Sabi River, near Lydenburg. Lucas Meyer and J. B. Krogh arrived with the necessary instructions, and explained everything to the burghers. They tried in every way to deceive the burghers into voting for surrender and peace, but utterly failed. Every man in the commando declared for independence or war, and the men of the Lydenburg Commando did the same.

Commandant W. J. Viljoen was elected as delegate by his men, the Johannesburg Commando, and Commandant David Schoeman was elected as delegate by his men, the Lydenburg Commando. I heard both of these commandants pledge their words to do as their burghers wished, and stand for independence or war. Both of these commandants at the Conference stood for discontinuing the war and accepting the British proposals. With the exception of two or three small districts, all the burghers of the land were unanimous in declaring for war or independence. I must here state, however, that the burghers did not know at the time that 22,000 of their women and children had been murdered in the English prison camps, and that probably in another year all the rest would meet the same fate.

The delegates all being elected, they met, sixty in number, on May 15th, at Vereeninging, on the Vaal River. On the 31st of May, they agreed to accept the English proposals, as follows:


General Lord Kitchener of Khartoum, Commander-in-Chief, and His Excellency Lord Milner, High Commissioner, on behalf of the British Government;

Messrs. S. W. Burger, F. W. Reitz, Louis Botha, J. H. de la Rey, L. J. Meijers, and J. B. Krogh, on behalf of the Government of the South African Republic and its burghers;

Messrs. M. T. Steyn, W. J. C. Brebner, C. R. de Wet, J. B. M. Hertzog, and C. H. Olivier, on behalf of the Government of the Orange Free State and its burghers, being anxious to put an end to the existing hostilities, agree on the following points:

Firstly: The burgher forces now in the veldt shall at once lay down their arms, and surrender all the guns, small arms, and war stores in their actual possession, or of which they have cognizance, and shall abstain from any further opposition to the authority of His Majesty, King Edward VII., whom they acknowledge as their lawful sovereign. The manner and details of this surrender shall be arranged by Lord Kitchener, Commandant General Botha, Assistant-Commandant General J. H. de la Rey, and Commander-in-Chief De Wet.

Secondly: Burghers in the veldt beyond the frontiers of the Transvaal and of the Orange River Colony, and all prisoners of war who are out of South Africa, who are burghers, shall, on their declaration that they accept the status of subjects of His Majesty King Edward VII. , be brought back to their homes, as soon as transport and means of subsistence can be assured.

Thirdly: The burghers who thus surrender, or who thus return, shall lose neither their personal freedom nor their property.

Fourthly: No judicial proceedings, civil or criminal, shall be taken against any of the burghers who thus return, for any action in connection with the carrying on of the war. The benefit of this clause, shall, however, not extend to certain deeds antagonistic to the usages of warfare, which have been communicated by the Commander-in-Chief to the Boer Generals, and which shall be heard before a court-martial immediately after the cessation of hostilities.

Fifthly: The Dutch language shall be taught in the public schools of the Transvaal and of the Orange River Colony when the parents of children demand it; and shall be admitted in the Courts of Justice, whenever this is required for the better and more effective administration of justice.

Sixthly: The possession of rifles shall, on taking out a license in accordance with the law, be permitted in the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony to persons who require them for their protection.

Seventhly: Military administration in the Transvaal and in the Orange River Colony shall, as soon as it is possible be followed by civil government; and as soon as circumstances permit it a representative system tending towards autonomy shall be introduced.

Eighthly: The question of granting a franchise to the native shall not be decided until a representative constitution has been granted.

Ninthly: No special tax shall be laid on landed property in the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony, to meet the expenses of the war.

Tenthly: As soon as circumstances permit, there shall be appointed in each district in the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony a Commission, in which the inhabitants of that district shall be represented, under the chairmanship of a magistrate or other official, with the view to assist in the bringing back of the people to their farms, and in procuring for those who, on account of losses in the war, are unable to provide for themselves, food, shelter, and such quantities of seed, cattle, implements, etc., as are necessary for the resuming of their previous callings.

His Majesty's Government shall place at the disposal of these Commissions the sum of 3, 000,000 for the above mentioned purposes, and shall allow that all notes issued in conformity with Law No. 1, 1900, of the Government of the South African Republic, and all receipts given by the officers in the veldt of the late Republics, or by their order, may be presented to a judicial Commission by the Government, and in case such notes and receipts when found by this Commission to have been duly issued for consideration in value, then they shall be accepted by the said Commission as proof of war losses, suffered by the persons to whom they had originally been given. In addition to the abovenamed free gift of 3,000,000, His Majesty's Government will be prepared to grant advances, in the shape of loans, for the same ends, free of interest for two years, and afterwards payable over a period of years with three per cent, interest. No foreigner or rebel shall be entitled to benefit by this clause.

The war was now over and temporary peace once more reigned over the land. The burghers on hearing the news that peace was declared were wild with delight, and great was their rejoicing, for they were sure that independence had been granted. But when they heard, tAvo days afterwards, that it was practically an unconditional surrender, they were frantic with rage, and some even threatened to kill their delegates. When they again heard that 22,000 of their women and children had been murdered in the English camps, and that to continue the war for another year would probably mean the extinction of their race, all were silent, and are silent yet, but doing much thinking.

Some families became totally extinct during the war, and there is not one in the land to-day that is not in mourning for the loss of one or more relatives. Any one of the so-called great civilized nations of the world may send an overwhelming army to a distant land and murder and enslave a humane, God-fearing and noble race of people, and not one murmur of disapproval will be heard from the others. But let some interfering missionary go to China, stick his nose in other people's religious affairs, and render himself so obnoxious as to lose his head, then all the civilized nations will rise as one, denounce the act and demand the immediate execution of the party who had probably done a good service for his state and mankind. Yes, all civilized nations might be sublimely humane if they were not so beastly savage.


The Peace Terms being duly signed, all the commandos went to certain specified places in their respective districts and surrendered their arms. Of course, no one had any ammunition, but each one turned in a gun of some kind, and some of the most antiquated guns I ever saw were tendered, but they had a hole in them, and at some distant time in the past had been fired; so no complaint was made by the receiving officer.

In General de la Key's districts there were many who would not give their guns in person to the English, but piled them up on the veldt and told General de la Rey to do with them as he pleased. The receiving officers, on arrival, asked where the burghers were, and on being informed that they had gone, seemed very much put out because they were most anxious to get every man's full name, his district, etc. Then again, there are several who never surrendered any rifle at all, but the English do not know who they are, and probably never will. Together with the Johannesburg Commando, I surrendered my rifle at Potlood Spruit, a short distance from Lydenburg.

After all was over, the English intended to put the boys of the Irish Brigade over the border. I told the boys to tell them that they would have to put a rifle at each one's back, to get him to obey. They did as directed, and the English officers thought it best to drop the matter.

It was fifty miles to Machadadorp, the nearest railway station, and having received our permits, Commandant Pinaar, Veldtcornet Young, Captain Blignault, Lieutenant Malan and myself mounted our horses and started for Pretoria. We camped at Klip River where there was a small number of men in a fort commanded by a major.

The Tommies were very civil to us, and many of them, together with a young 2nd lieutenant gathered about us. In the course of the conversation, a sergeant said, to us, "Why did you surrender?" We answered that we supposed we had to, and asked him if he were not pleased. "Yes," he replied; but he said: "Do you see that major standing under that willow tree by the forts?" "Yes," we answered, "we see him." "Well," he continued, 4 4 we just wanted one more fight, so that we could knock him over, too." We were naturally very much surprised that an English sergeant should make such a remark in the presence of an English officer, but the latter seemed to take no exception to it.

More than 2500 English officers were killed during the war, and the English press explain it by charging that the Boers deliberately picked them out and shot them. The fact is that at a distance of 200 yards, no one could distinguish between an English officer and an English soldier, because in appearance they were indentically the same. When in our presence, we could distinguish the difference, because the officer's uniform was of a much finer quality of goods. The English prisoners used to tell us that they had evened up with this officer, and that one, and that many more were doomed before the war came to an end.

It is almost certain that the English killed more than half the number of officers who fell, because they so utterly despised them. Being so neglected, and treated worse than dogs, the English soldiers take advantage of the first favorable opportunity for their revenge. Those English officers who look after their men and treat them as human beings will never fail to find the English soldier respectful, obedient and faithful.

It was about June 20th when we reached Pretoria, and here we found hundreds of the burghers who had already surrendered near by Pretoria. Without exception I found every one disgusted with the Peace Conference, and as they explained why they thought peace was made, I wondered if Schalk Burger, Lucas Meyer, and J. B. Krogh did not each feel as if his ears were on fire.

Although we had not seen Pretoria for two years, yet we could observe no change except in the new faces we met on the streets. Once we knew every face, but now we scarcely saw one that we had known before. The Boer element of the town remained away from the frequented streets, because they did not wish to mingle with the English. When the Peace Terms were signed, it was distinctly agreed between Lord Kitchener and Lord Milner, and the two Governments, that no burgher was to be required to take the oath of allegiance to the King, and the burghers in the field before the surrender were so informed.

Now, to show what dependence can be put upon an English officer's word, I will tell you just what happened. Married men were most anxious to remove from the concentration camps what was left of their families. They purchased food, supplies, bedding, clothing, etc., put all together with their families in open car trucks to be carried to the railway station nearest their farms, and there deposited. Others loaded their provisions, etc., and their families in bullock wagons. No one could go any where without a permit, and now that these farmers were ready with their families to go to their burnt farms, they applied for their permits. All were informed that permits would be granted as soon as they took the oath of allegiance to the King, and not before. With one or two exceptions, all refused to take the oath, and I saw one burgher remove every thing from his car truck, and go into camp on the hill side. This created plenty of trouble, and the burghers were highly incensed. The Boer generals told Lord Milner that if he did not make his word good in regard to his agreement about the oath of allegiance, they would not be responsible for the result. Lord Milner then granted the permits, and the burghers went to their farms.

Now another scheme was tried, and a few of the burghers were caught in the trap. Of course all the Boer families were much scattered, some being in Natal, others in Cape Colony, others in the Free State and others still in the Transvaal. Suppose my farm and home were in the Transvaal and my family were in the Free State or Cape Colony, and I should ask for a permit to go and bring it. The permit would be granted at once, and I would take the train for the Free State or Colony, as the case might be. I meet my family, make all arrangements to return and then apply for my permit for myself and family to return to our home in the Transvaal. We are promptly informed that the permit will be granted as soon as I take the oath of allegiance to the King. I was surprised that the women and children were not called upon to take the oath too. I must now either stay in the Free State or Colony, or take the oath, as there is no way by which I can communicate with the Boer Generals.

Every letter was opened and censored and forwarded or not, as the English officer might decide. Secret instructions had been sent to all officials in South Africa, that no return permits must be given unless the applicants first took the oath of allegiance. About a dozen burghers were caught in this trap before it was exposed. Again there was much trouble, but the burghers could get no satisfaction, so they would write to their families to come to them, and the English could not refuse them permits, because they were not required to take the oath.

The Peace Terms required that all burghers should lay down their guns and acknowledge King Edward VII. as their lawful sovereign, and no more. This applied to prisoners of war in the same way as to the burghers in the field. Here I insert a private document giving private instructions, and it shows plainly what an unscrupulous thing an English official or officer is.



The selection of prisoners of war for return to South Africa should be made in the following order :

1. Those who have volunteered for active service, and are considered likely to become loyal subjects and useful settlers; and those who appear willing to accept the new order of things cheerfully.

2. Those who have shown no particular bias.

3. Irreconcilables, and men who have given trouble in the camps.

Lists of all prisoners of war have been prepared by the D. M. I., S. A., in conjunction with the local authorities of each district, divided into three categories, and it is desirable that this order should be maintained, as far as possible, and the lists made out by commandants of oversea camps, combined with the lists forwarded from South Africa, the corresponding classes being merged together.

It is to be understood that the lists supplied from South Africa are merely a general guide, and commandants of camps are invited to use their discretion in modifying the order, where their experience of the individual convinces them that an alteration is necessary.

No shipload of prisoners of war should include more than 100 men belonging to any one district.


No prisoner of war should be embarked without taking the Oath of Allegiance, or the approved equivalent declaration. The oath or declaration must be signed in triplicate, and it is of the greatest importance that the prisoner should retain one copy of the form, for purposes of identification, and that one copy should be forwarded to the Colonial Secretary of the prisoner's Colony for record.


To facilitate the work of repatriation in South Africa, a nominal roll of all prisoners should be posted to the Military Secretary to the High Commissioner, at least a fortnight before embarkation.

This nominal roll should give the prisoner of war's number, and the farm, district and colony to which he belongs.


Special lists will be forwarded from time to time, of men whose early release is approved by the High Commissioner, and these men should have precedence of all others ; similarly, names may be sent of men whose early return is not considered advisable, and such men should in each case remain till the last.


Prisoners of war who take the Oath of Allegiance, and who belong to Class L, may be permitted to proceed forthwith

(a) To South Africa, (provided they have the means of supporting themselves on arrival.)

(b) Elsewhere. In each case at their own expense.

The names of prisoners released under this clause, and the ships by which they sail, should be communicated to the Military Secretary to the High Commissioner, by telegraph, in the case of persons returning to South Africa, and by post in other cases.


It will be advisable in compiling the lists mentioned in par. L, to include only a small percentage of unmarried men without farms or means of livelihood, and to push forward as much as possible, men having families who need their support, and farms to which they can go immediately on arrival in South Africa, as it is this class who provide the work for the bijwoner class, whose return for this reason, it is necessary to retard.


Foreigners will not be allowed to return to South Africa.


On arrival of prisoners in South Africa, the S. O. Prisoners of War at the port of disembarkation will take over the prisoners of war, classify them according to districts, and arrange with the Repatriation Board in the two colonies for their distribution. The Repatriation Board will then make all necessary arrangements at the district concentration camp for the accommodation of the burghers, and for returning them to their homes as soon as transport is available.

In the ease of prisoners of war released in accordance with par. V. of these instructions, the S. O. Prisoners of War at port of disembarkation will arrange to meet them and take the particulars necessary for keeping all complete records.

W. LAMBTON, LIEUT.-COLONEL, Military Secretary,

South Africa. Pretoria, Fourth of July, 1902.

By the Peace Terms all prisoners of war were to be returned as promptly as possible, yet there are still prisoners of war on some of the Islands to-day, ten months after the Peace was made. The above document shows plainly how determined an Englishman is to violate his sacred pledge. When I say that no Boer now would believe on oath either Lord Roberts, Lord Kitchener, Lord Milner, Joe Chamberlain, or any other English official, I mean just what I say, and I am sure the Boers are justified. On the day that the Coronation services were to be held, all Dutch churches were to sing "God Save the King" at the conclusion of the services. In Cape Colony armed men were actually present in some instances. In not one Dutch church in the land was the order obeyed, and English bayonets could not have made the people sing it, so repulsive is it to them. Even inscriptions on corner stones of public buildings were chiseled off, that something in English might be put in their places. The English had shown so much meanness and treachery, that on the day for the Coronation services to be held, all of the 800 or 1,000 burghers in town pinned on their coats the Transvaal colors, and decorated all the Boer children with them. I didir t like to be behind, so I pinned mine on, too. As the English had no love for me and were actually thirsting for my blood, I stayed with my friends, the Boers. Six times that morning I was ordered to remove my colors, and six times refused, telling them that it was impossible for me to do so, and that they would have to do it. In every instance they took a look at my associates, and walked away. When the hour arrived for the services to begin, there were less than 200 white people, exclusive of soldiers, assembled in front of the Government building. Next to these were about 200 Kaffir women, mistresses of the English officers, and men. Next to these men, about 300 Kaffir boys who had fought side by side with the English against the Boers. Next to these was an open space of ground about eighty yards wide. Next to this open space were about 800 of the Boers who had so lately surrendered. The band played, then there was a prayer, followed by some talk, and the services were over. Again the band began to play, and when the first notes reached the Boers, they discovered that it was “God Save the King," so all turned their backs and walked down Church Street.

Both Boer and Englishman will admit that I have given a very short but accurate description of the Coronation services and the people assembled to witness them. But to read the English press on the following day, one could easily believe that all the Boers in the land were present to show their great love of their new Sovereign King Edward VII.

In the afternoon it was rumored about town that in the evening during the parade and displaying of fireworks, all Boer houses not lighted up and displaying the English flag would have the windows and doors smashed. The Boers prepared themselves, every one being armed with a good stick, and when night came every one was ready for business. All Boer houses were in total darkness. No flags were flying, but not one was interfered with. The English had met these Boer boys before and they had no desire to meet them again. Had the doors and windows of one house been smashed, I firmly believe the Boers would have taken the town. The Boers had surrendered, but they were determined that no Englishman would spit upon them with impunity. Through the English soldier, and through the officers' reports, and by witnessing many barbarous acts in the field, I learned a great deal about the English officer, but in Pretoria I learned enough more to sicken even the most rabid Anglo-American, and now I am going to recall to him a little that he has done to make him well known.