Boer POW camps in India

Boer prisoners camp Bhimtal

Short article on the Boer prisoner of war camps set up in India during the Boer War.

The British took over 25,000 Boer prisoners of war and shipped them to other colonies, while confining civilians, including women and children, in concentration camps in South Africa. The prisoners were sent to India from April 1901 when the facilities in St. Helena, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and Bermuda became inadequate.

At the end of the war in 1902, 9,125 of the Boer prisoners of war, including some foreign volunteers, were in about twenty cantonments all over India. This was the largest number in any colony: there were nearly 6,000 in St. Helena, 5,126 in Ceylon, over 3,000 in Bermuda and1,733 in South Africa.

Among the prisoners of war in India was Commandant T. F. J. Dreyer, commandant of the Potchefstroom Commando, who served under General Smuts and was captured during the daring raid of 300 miles through British lines in 1901.

One prisoner - J. L. de Villiers managed to escape from the camp at Trichinopoly. Dressed as an Indian, he went to the French colony of Pondicherry and returned to South Africa via France and the Netherlands.
Another prisoner, Commandant Erasmus, a Johannesburg solicitor, took an interest in Indian history, philosophy and literature. He gave a series of lectures on the subject to the Transvaal Philosophical Society: they were published by Gandhi in Indian Opinion.

The Kimberley Public Library has some material in their archives from a Mostert, concerning his experiences as a POW at Ahmednagar.

Over 140 Boer prisoners are buried in cemeteries in the Indian subcontinent.

Posted By

Mike Harman
Mar 6 2017 17:08


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May 18 2017 18:54

While researching my Trent family in SA. I found most of them served on the British side (Siege of O'kiep, Uitenhage TG and Cape Sharpshooters) except for one branch that lived in Amsterdam, Ermelo, this branch seems to have sided with the Boers.

I found info for young Trent girls who died in the Volksrus concentration camp.
I know of only one Trent who could be their father and that is Sidney Samuel Trent who owned a farm in Amsterdam, Ermelo area. (memorial list's 4 girls but info is only supplied of 3)

Yesterday I received a death notice for a Rachel Trent born circa 1874 died 1935, on the notice it states her husband James Trent died in India many years ago. Which would make it between the time of his daughters birth in 1891 and her marriage in 1910, where on the entry it has her father as deceased. Both her and her husband died within 5 years of their marriage.

This James would be the missing brother of Sidney Trent, (still looking for information of another brother John.)
I have gone through the list of prisoners in all the online sites and cannot find any information for Trent's. I also tried looking for him as serving in the British army and still cannot find anything.

I contacted the Boer War Museum in S.Africa and they advised me that they could not trace such a surname on their system as his record might be in the Public Records Office in Kew, Surrey, England. They in turn directed me to their online search engine and I have gone through all the documents but can still not find anything.

Is there any way I can find more information to confirm if James Trent was indeed a prisoner of war or not and how I would be able to locate his actual grave. Very sad that he has just been forgotten.

Any info would be appreciated

May 18 2017 18:58

I don't think you'll get much help here with finding out more about James Trent (unless he was a famous commie or anarchist, though you never know what some ppl may discover), but good luck with your research in any case.