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Comment on 'K is for....'

With reference to Steve's 'K is for ....', I attach the following. It should need no explanation but for those not familiar with the ABW, a 'Kaffir Refugee Camp' was a place for displaced Black South Africans.

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  • Kaffir-Refugee-Camp.jpg

A very nice 'K' cover. Thank you.

However, I have two 'issues' with the write-up. First, there were no POW Camps in SA. So great was the British fear of insurrection by Cape Dutch sympathetic to the Boer republican cause that all captured ZAR and OFS combatants were shipped to POW camps overseas. However, Underbidder's description of the Refugee Camps as 'white POW camps' is appropriate. The occupants of these camps had been captured by the British Army who believed they were providing succour to Boer commandos active in the field. They were held forcibly in these camps against their will. You could argue that these women, childreren and old men were POWs, not refugees.

After the British had dynamited and burned their farms and bayonetted the livestock, the now destitute and forcibly 'displaced' Boer women, children and old men were marched off to so-called 'Refugee Camps'. They were not refugees throwing themselves on the mercy and kindness of strangers.  They were civilians whose lives had been destroyed for tactical military reasons by the British Army. By calling them 'refugees' the British hoped to deflect some of their guilt for what is today a war crime. These Boer 'refugees' would have preferred to have stayed in their homes (and keep on supplying the commandos) rather than see them destroyed by the British Army's scorched earth policy. After that they had to endure watching almost half of all Boer children in the Concentration Camps die.

Almost as many Black people were also housed in these so-called 'refugee camps' as Boers. This cover is proof of that. Some of the Black 'refugees'  came from the farms that the British had destroyed. Without work and food they had a more 'typical' refugee status. However, many of the Black people in the 'Refugee Camps' were also small farmers and others whom the British had rounded simply because they needed labour to build military defences like blockhouses and miles of barbed wire fences. Black refugee camps were less POW camps and more labour concentration camps. For a variety of reasons, Black people had a better survival rate in these camps.

The British Army perpetrated a wartime  holocaust and housed its victims in 'Refugee Camps'. It is one of the 20th Century's greatest acts of cynical misnomering and guilt deflection. Sadly, the death rate in these camps eventually gave the lie to the euphemism and finally the world got to know them for what they were, death camps run by a heartlessly indifferent jingoistic British military regime.

See David Mordants display.

Historical! But love the cover.