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.