- Posted February 9, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
The written word: Your personal essays
How the Boer War affected my family
My great-great grandparents were Daniel and Francina Van Graan. Hestira (my great-grandmother) was their 6th child. She was only six years old when the second Boer War broke out in South Africa.
When the war broke out Hestira was staying with relatives because she had measles. Here was where she was captured by the British and taken to a concentration camp. She was held in the concentration camp for the duration of the war - her parents didn’t know whether see was alive or dead.
By the end of the war there were about 94,000 people in these camps and about 30,000 Boer women and children died of disease and starvation. Black South Africans living on Boer farms were also taken to concentration camps.
Hestira’s father Daniel and his eldest son went to fight. Daniel was a field Cornet in the Potchestroom area.
His wife Francina stayed on the farm until she became a fugitive. Francina was considered a fugitive because she used to hide food, supplies and horses in the banks of the Mooi River for the Boers.
The British found out about this and were planning to take her to concentration camp, but she was warned about it and she sent for help. Her husband and some of his men came to rescue her.
She became very well known in the area, but she was continually on the run for the next 2 years. She used to leave notes for the British troops saying things like “the faster you chase use the faster we grind our corn” because they had attached a grinder to the wheels of their wagon.
Once she was almost caught. Spies had told the British where she was staying, but when she saw the soldier coming she ran up to the bedroom and told her friends to tell the British that she was giving birth. She started to yell and scream ‘the baby’s coming’. The soldier was so embarrassed he left. In the meantime she and her children climbed out of the window and into a wagon.
While all this was happening Daniel continued to fight. He was wounded 7 times; the last time was in the head.He was to badly hurt to keep up with the others, so they made him a bed and left him in the path of the British, who they hoped would give him medical attention.
The British helped him even though he and his wife had a price on their heads.
In 1902 the war ended and the family traveled back to their farm, but like many others it had been burnt down under the British “Scorched Earth Policy”.
Hestira, who is my great grandmother, survived the camp and was reunited with her family.
I wrote this as an essay (with my family’s help) when I was in high school. It’s a true story.
Photo: Hestira Van Graan and husband Stephanus du Toit