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Umballa POW Camp 9 months 1 week ago #80289

  • BereniceUK
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THE BOERS IN INDIA
("The 'Spectator.")
.
....Umballa lies on a. dead-flat plain running to the foot of the Himalayas, which rise in bold relief to the east. Normally it is grey with dust, and the long straight roads, fringed with bungalows standing in arid compounds, glitter white under the Indian sun; but after a night of rain, the trees look fresh and green and the subdued tints are pleasant to the eye. The Boer camp is pitched in cantonments near the church. It is a square with sides measuring nearly a quarter of a mile, and contains about 900 prisoners. The first thing that strikes the observer is the absence of restraint. Outside the enclosure, near the senior medical officer's tent, is a weighing machine loaded with joints of meat, which the Boer officers are receiving and carrying away. Others are applying to the medical officer, Major Rawnsley, R.A.M.C., for permission to go into the station, which is granted them with a caution to keep away from the Sudder Bazaar, where there is disease. In fact, the officers have permanent leave to go about the station all day and attend gymkhanas and other functions like members of the garrison. Others have smaller privileges of a similar nature. At a short distance the prisoners' camp can hardly be dlstinguished from that of their warders, but as we approach we see a slight fence. Fifteen yards behind rises a barbed wire entanglement, and any prisoner who gets into the space between the two fences is liable to be shot at sight, for which purpose sentinels are placed at intervals, and a few Bengal Lancers ride round the enclosure. However, no attempts to escape have been made, though two men got away from Bellary and wandered a 150 miles before being captured by the police.
....The camp is a model of neatness, and every precaution is taken against disease. A special water supply is laid on, and that is boiled, filtered, and locked up before the prisoners are allowed to draw it. Their health has been good, and in three months there have only been nine deaths; chiefly of those who were diseased before landing. The tents are spacious, the exercise ground large, and warm clothing has lately been supplied to everyone. The men are of the conventional Boer type— broad built, bearded, and usually with a slight stoop and slouching walk. Nearly all wear thick khaki trousers, and many dispense with a coat and wear a thick flannel shirt or woollen jersey. Most run more to flesh than to muscle, and they are not as well made, on the average, as the soldiers who guard them. The average age appears to be between 30 and 40, but there is a large sprinkling or young boys and old men. These old men are particularly well cared for. Besides being allowed out all day, they have two eggs apiece per diem and a ration of rum. Ths officers are allowed two glasses of beer. Otherwise no alcohol is permitted in the camp. The food is good and plentiful; in fact, many take imprudent advantage of its unusual abundance, and complain of internal pains. They eat hearty meals, and cannot be got to take exercise, and hence dyspepsia is not uncommon. However, they are encouraged to play games, and Lieutenant Sparkes, R.A.M.C., who is in assistant medical charge, plays Rugby football with them. They seem resigned, and are courteous, and, as far as can be judged, harbor no resentment. As Lieutenant Sparkes shows visitors through the camp he is greeted with smiles, and each lifts his hat (usually with the left hand) and says, 'Good day, doctor.' The hospital contains about twenty patients, mostly dysentery cases. Each tent holds four, and the patients appear to be most comfortable, and are supplied with warm blankets. They are attended by Boer orderlies. The prisoners are not fond of work, and will do nothing without pay. The orderlies have four annas a day, and grumble a little, but it is pointed out to them that if they do not work the sick will have to be tended by natives. They also are reluctant to work in the hospital garden, fearing that someone else will benefit by their labors when they go. This disposition doubtless accounts for much of the trouble in the concentration camps. But otherwise, as has been said, their attitude is pleasant and friendly. Several articles have appeared in the "Pioneer" and the "Civil and Military Gazette" written by prisoners, expressing their gratitude for their kind treatment, and to those who have given them athletic material, books, papers, and tobacco. One says: "We found the people along the line very sympathetic, and I can record one instance in which a warm-hearted lady of the Emerald Isle shed tears on beholding the burghers in their barred carriages sundered by thousands of miles from everything dear to their hearts."
....There are several workshops where the Boers may earn a little money. In one we notice an old white-haired commandant, transformed into a captain of industry, sitting in a corner making wooden candlesticks. In another they are making pipes. A farmer from Carolina sells a large wooden pipe for a rupee. His eyes sparkle as he tells us that this cold, fresh morning reminds him of a morning at home in the hilly Transvaal at this time of the year. "Myself was in no big fight," but he had seen Buller's operations in that part. "When will the war end?'' "I am afraid it will go on for a long time." "Well, if it goes on much longer you will have a chance of seeing the Himalayas." "Yes," with satisfaction, "they'll have to take us up to the hills." He had gone through the campaign without a wound, and had not been in hospital during his imprisonment except to be vaccinated. Many wear their arms in a sling for that reason, and the ladies who visit the camp say, "Poor things! What a number have been wounded." A New Zealander, named Chamberlain, plies his profession of dentist, and there is a store to compete with the Parsee shops. Most of the men are genuine Boers, but there are some foreigners. There is a Cornish miner, who hates the name of England, and will not go back to the Transvaal. "The English have ruined it. They don't know how to treat the natives." There are some Germans, and the only exception to the general good conduct of the prisoners was afforded by an irate German, who, indignant at having his slumbers disturbed by hymn singing, stuck a fork through the hand of one of the vocalists. In another tent an elderly man is making Christmas cards out of photographs. He is from Bloemfontein, he says, but has been all over South Africa as far as Tuli. He was a contractor and timber merchant. He carried himself very differently from the rest, and saluted in a military manner. Lieutenant Sparkes afterwards explained that he was believed to be a deserter from a Hussar regiment. There is a brother of De Wet in the camp, and many men of position. The prisoners have divided themselves into sections, each in charge of an officer elected by themselves, and have chosen a commandant for the whole camp. Each section does its own cooking, and the kitchen ranges are excellent. There is a very good wash house, but in the cold weather most of the prisoners find a handbowl sufficient for their requirements. Later in the afternoon a football match (Association) was played against a team of soldiers. The Boers were beaten after a good game. About 200 watched it, and they laughed like an English crowd when a soldier was knocked down, and applauded each side impartially. A burgher refereed with exemplary fairness.
....Not far from the football ground an attentive crowd sat listening to a preacher. Though it was a cold afternoon every man had removed his hat, and their demeanor was one of the deepest reverence. Doubtless they thought of themselves as the Chosen People whom the Lord of Hosts had led into the wilderness, and had told to possess the land across the river after rooting out the children of Ham. And now, like the peculiar people of old, they are undergoing a Babylonian captivity; but they are still unwavering in their faith in that God who has enabled them to resist a great empire so long. They are respected as brave foemen, and, as has been shown, everything has been done to make their capitivity press lightly upon them. Those who bring reckless charges of barbarism against the English in South Africa should remember that they are bringing them against the very class of men who are praised by the Boers for their humanity and courtesy. Major Masterton, V.C., the commander of the camp, received the honor for his gallant conduct during the assault on Ladysmith in January, 1900, when he was wounded in many places, and the same humanity is practised in war in South Africa as in peace in India. This policy will have its reward. There is reason to hope that, as anticipations have so often been falsified in South Africa, they will be happily falsified in the settlement after the war, and that the genial intercourse between the two races will disperse the bitterness and help them to settle down as free and contented citizens in a united empire.
The Daily Telegraph [Launceston, Tasmania] , Saturday 26th April 1902
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Umballa POW Camp 9 months 4 days ago #80320

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A very interesting article. Many thanks, Berenice.
Dr David Biggins
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Umballa POW Camp 9 months 3 days ago #80332

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Fascinating piece, Berenice.

Perhaps this is one of the "large wooden pipes", sold for a rupee each .....

It is inscribed with the Transvaal arms and "UMBALLA / POW" . 444 mm long.

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Umballa POW Camp 9 months 2 days ago #80340

  • BereniceUK
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^^ Lovely piece of craftsmanship. ^^

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Umballa POW Camp 9 months 2 days ago #80341

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I have done a quick calculation to see what 1 Rupee would equate to in today’s money.
It seems the Rupee was pegged to the GB Pound, with a value of 1 shilling and sixpence (in 1900, the price of 1lb of tea).
According to the National Archives historic currency converter, 1s 6d in 1900 had an equivalent value of £5.86 GBP in 2017.
So pipes like the one above were being sold for about £6 in today’s money.
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Umballa POW Camp 7 months 3 weeks ago #81215

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POW'S IN UMBALLA



Ernst van Biljon 1-1
Abraham Preller 1-2
Johannes Geldenhuis 2-2
Elmarie Malherbe
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