Brutality of British officers - Suffering in the concentration camps - Poisoning of Boer prisoners at St. Helena
In some of the towns occupied by the English, and therefore not burnt down, the English commanders sent away such women as they felt sure the English officer could not make bend to his wishes, it mattered not what kind of a threat was made. All doubtful women were allowed to remain, and the great majority of the doubtful ones proved as loyal to themselves and people as those sent away. But in every town, so occupied, naturally there were many weak women who, under threat of being sent to some abominable camp where they would surely die, would consent to submit, if allowed to remain.
Even officers with the rank of general were in this damnable business, and I can prove it to their full satisfaction. In Rustenburg, for instance, Mr. English General, officers would appear at the back door late at night, rap hard and alarm the young women. Of course no men were near, for all were in the field. On being asked what was wanted, they were told to open the door and let them in. On being refused, these English ruffians in officers' uniform would make all kinds of threats, such as "we will break in the door," "withdraw food," " we will load you on a wagon and send you far away where the suffering is terrible, and the people are dying fast," etc., etc. In a few cases these ruffians carried their point, be it said to their eternal shame and disgrace. Hundreds of just such acts of infamy on the part of the English officers, can be proved in every town occupied by the English troops. In many instances even the English soldiers following the example, would try the same tactics, but they were easily frightened away. On meeting a young Boer woman, the first idea that enters the English officer's head, is to seduce her by flattery and promises, but, failing in this way, he resorts to threats to frighten her into submission.
In Pretoria, Johannesburg, Bloemfontein or any of the Boer towns, any woman seen walking or riding with an English officer, was marked at once as a mistress or common prostitute. The married officer who had his wife with him, would suffer from this, unless the people knew that the woman was really his lawful wife. In Pretoria, on Skinner Street, several of us were amused late one Sunday afternoon, on seeing an English officer with the rank of captain walking with two Hottentot Kaffir girls, one on each side, and both dressed in white linen and wearing pink stockings and high heeled slippers. These Kaffir girls were about sixteen years old, and he looked supremely happy as he braced his shoulders and passed us by.
Just on the border of the Pretoria township was a very neat Kaffir hut, and one day when we were near it, two of the artillery boys ventured that far, but before reaching the hut, they saw a man in khaki uniform mount a horse and fly. The boys went to the hut, found two Kaffir girls, and the rendezvous of an English officer. They took all his clothing, his top boots, some fine blankets, a revolver and some trifles, and returned to camp. The uniform disclosed that the keeper of the hut and women was a 1st lieutenant. The Kaffir girls told the boys that their master would get the soldiers and come after them, if they did not leave his clothes, etc. Sure enough, next day there came a column, and after a short skirmish it wheeled about and returned to Pretoria.
When the columns were raiding and burning farms in the bush veldt, in many instances they would drag the Boer girls, from sixteen to twenty-three years old, out of the houses, put them on wagons and cart them away, leaving the mother and little children to watch their home burn down and grieve over the fate of the girls. I can prove this to the very hilt, and without any trouble, too. The intention of the officers was to seduce these girls if they could, and if they couldn't, why then to use them anyhow, and I firmly believe that many of those innocent girls were forcibly violated. Where there were no young women, the little boys from seven to ten years old would be dragged from their homes and put in the camps. Many little boys of this age have walked and run miles to get with a commando, to escape being dragged away from their mothers, and many of them, too, have been shot down while trying to fly from English barbarity.
Along the railway lines, wherever you find an English camp, there, too, will you find a Kaffir camp. These Kaffirs were forcibly taken from their kraals on the Boer farms and put near the English camp. The reason given was that they wanted the men to work in the mines, and prevent them from giving information to the Boers. This was merely rot, for the Boers needed no information, as the English were always in plain sight. The truth is that they wanted the Kaffir women for the use of the English soldiers and officers, and to-day you can see half-caste kids by the score about those Kaffir camps. The Kaffirs are a very chaste people, immorality with them being punished by death, and now the Kaffir men who were forcibly taken from their kraals, and have seen their women debauched, hate the English with a bitterness that no pen can adequately describe. Yes, the English officer in the eyes of civilization is a typical gentleman, but as known and believed by the savage Kaffir, he is a brute. English officers, sick in hospital, and those not in hospital, plied their art. with the English Red Cross nurses, and over eighty of these had to be sent back to England.
So notorious were the relations between these nurses and the English officers, that the former were known among the enlisted men and the people generally, by a name borrowed from the Veterinary Department, and too utterly vile to be printed.
In reading a little book some tune ago, I came upon a passage that reminded me so forcibly both of the English and the ships' officers, that I here quote it. " Oh ! if hell has a pit hotter and more intolerable than all the rest, a just God must surely reserve it for the lurking foe, the English officer, the seducer dammed." Of course the words, " the English officer," are my insertion, and the space they occupy is most appropriate for them.
So much has been said and written about the English concentration camps, that I will not dwell upon this subject to a great extent, yet I must say something, because I fear that all are not acquainted with these diabolical institutions.
In the first place, I must tell what a concentration camp is. It is a lot of tents, 100 or 200, or possibly 600, all pitched close together on a piece of exposed veldt on the railway line, and surrounded by a network of barbed wire. On each of the four sides of the camp is a gate, and at each gate there are two armed men to see that no one escapes. In every tent there is a family. That is, a mother and her children. It matters not what the number of the family may be, that family must live, or rather try to exist, in that one tent. All are closely confined within that network of barbed wire, and there they must remain, arid subsist on such food as the English officers wish to serve them. To each family is given about one-fourth as much fuel as is necessary, so at least four must club together and cook together, if they do not wish to eat their food in the raw state. Every family is limited in the amount of water to be used, and must take what is given.
Now the reader has a typical concentration camp, in which the women and children are packed like sardines, the very women and children that the English once told the world were refugees, but now acknowledge as their prisoners. Once one of these camps was established and filled with women and children, but a few days passed before they began to die, and such was the death rate, that special details of men were employed daily to dig graves for the burial of the dead. When one considers, that within a period of six months, more than 12,000 of these women and children died, he must begin to think that something is wrong. In the camp at Irene, near Pretoria, I know of one mother and six children^ all healthy and strong, who were all dead within seven days after being confined there. The children were not sick, but would refuse food, their feet would swell, their stomachs bloat, and in a few days they would pass away. This looks very much like poison of some kind; and the Boer women who were not in the camp, assured me that poison was discovered in their food. I believe this, because I have heard the English say that they could never hope to hold the country as long as there were Boer women and children. The Boer women in Pretoria, begged for permission to take food which they had cooked themselves, to the sick women and children in the camp, and in every instance they were refused, and told that the authorities would furnish the food.
As surely as I live this moment, I firmly believe that the English made use of poison in the food to destroy those women and children, and many Englishmen are as convinced as I am, only they have not the nerve to say so.
I know the Apache Indians, and particularly one of their great war chiefs, the notorious old Geronimo. He was an Apache General, without education, without training, utterly unacquainted with all ideas of civilization, but shrewd and cunning, and, when on the war-path, would murder every man, woman and child he could lay hands on. I have travelled with him hundreds of miles, and followed the path along which lay his many victims, and therefore am acquainted with his method of doing away with his enemy in time of war. I know of Lord Roberts and Lord Kitchener, and their orders and proclamations. I know that both are highly educated, trained soldiers who are thoroughly acquainted with all the teachings of civilization and humanity, both in peace and in war. I have fought against them in South Africa, and I therefore am thoroughly acquainted with their method of fighting their enemy, and of doing away with men, women and children.
Those who were unfortunate enough to fall into Geronimo's hands, were killed outright, and without any ceremony or excuse, and his victims are numbered by the hundreds. Those unfortunate Boer women and children, who fell into the hands of Lord Roberts and Lord Kitchener, were doomed to slow death by torture, and the victims are numbered by the thousands.
The old savage chief showed far more humanity in his way of waging war than was shown by the two civilized lords. The one was open in his every act, while the others strove to keep all in the dark, by false reports and deliberate misrepresentations.
Had the war lasted another twelve months, I firmly believe that every Boer woman and child confined in the English prison camps of the Transvaal and Free State, would have died a slow death, and the Boers so believed when they consented to surrender. Three or four hundred Jews are deliberately murdered in Russia, and the civilized world is struck with horror. The Government of the United States sends in a petition of protests and is snubbed.
Thousands of women and children are murdered in South Africa, and the civilized world is undisturbed. The Government of the United States refuses to send in a huge petition of protests, and receives English thanks. I don't know who is Secretary of State for the United States, but I am sure it is either John Hay or Joe Chamberlain, or possibly both.
I will now drop the subject of the suffering Boer women and children, and take the reader to other parts, that he may see how the prisoners of war were treated on some of the English Islands.
I can prove that ground glass was used on the Island of St. Helena to kill the prisoners and 1 would like the opportunity of doing it. The English will fight shy, for they know that I know what I am talking about. Here were confined officers as well as men, and when they saw that some of their people were beginning to run down, and continued to run down until they were put in the grave, they began to think, and recall the fact that the English were supplying the food. Vegetables they suspected, but they did not come often and plentifully. Finally they decided when they did come they would not eat them, but put them to the test, and find out if there were any contamination. Nearly every one found ground and broken glass in the vegetables, but not at every inspection. Sometimes several vegetable days would pass by without any glass being found, but then a day would come when all or nearly all were rewarded.
This is a terrible charge to make, and I would not dare make it, did I not know that it can be proven to the complete satisfaction of any judge and jury. Many of the prisoners kept what they found as a souvenir, and every time they think of it they congratulate themselves for having sense enough to mistrust the English and the food they furnished.
To return to the concentration camps, the tents were sometimes 16 x 16 square, and in that tent there might be a family of four, or six, or a dozen. If there was a Kaffir girl servant, she must sleep in the tent, too, but was not allowed to draw rations. No visitors were allowed, because they might tell tales out of school. After peace was made, the mother of any family wishing to be released to return home, had to sign a declaration to the effect that she had at least $500 in cash, that she would not apply to the Government for help in any form, and that she would relinquish all claims for damages to her home and property. In addition to this she had to "bake an oath that she did not know of any arms or ammunition being concealed about her place, or in any other place. Those who could not or would not sign the above declaration, and take the oath, were held as prisoners of war in the camp.
After all the farms had been burnt, all property destroyed and there was no food to be had, and after more than 15,000 women and children had been buried, Lord Kitchener made a very generous and English-like offer to General Louis Botha. He said that he would return all the Boer women and children to their farms and give them three months* rations if Botha wished to have them. General Botha replied that he would be pleased to receive them, but six months' ration must be furnished so that they would have time to grow a crop, as he had no food for them. Lord Kitchener declined to accept General Botha's amendment, for it plainly meant that the women and children would not starve to death and that the Boers would not have to surrender to save them.