Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Concentration Camp System

The guerrilla phase not only prolonged the war a further eighteen months but escalated it until it spread across almost the whole of South Africa. During this period several incursions led by various Boer generals, e.g. Generals CR de Wet, J C Smuts and JMB Hertzog into the Cape Colony took place. The war was finally quelled only through the severe tactics of the new British commander in chief, Lord Kitchener. He exhausted the Boers by devastating the farms that had sustained the Boers with a so-called scorched earth policy and by placing women and children, both black and white in concentration camps. He also built a formidable line of blockhouses that bisected the countryside and started flushing out the guerrillas in a series of systematic drives with success defined in a weekly bag of killed, wounded and captured. 

Rice Blockhouse - War Museum of the Boer Republics 

Captain March Phillips vividly describes what the difficulties were that confronted the British Army during the last phase of the war: "As for our wandering columns, they have about as much chance of catching the Boers on the veldt as a Lord Mayor's procession would have of catching a highwayman on Hounslow Heath...[the Boers] are all around and about us like water round a ship, parting before our bows and renting round our stern. Our passage makes no impression and leaves no visible trace". 

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