Tourism, Accommodation and Historical Attractions in Natal, South Africa
The Natal Battlefields
The Merebank Concentration Camp.
The Second Boer War - Merebank Concentration Camp.
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The first concentration camp to be erected in Durban was the Merebank concentration camp 12 kilometres South of the city, on the south coast railway line. This camp which was to become the largest concentration camp of the war with its more than 8,000 inhabitants were erected on wet marshy land that caused health and comfort problems. Criticism of the site had little effect.
The Merebank camp was divided into three sections, Grassmere, Hazelmere and Windermere. The inhabitants were accommodated in either wooden and corrugated iron huts, or wood and canvas huts or bell tents.
In these temporary homes women had to try and recreate homes with the belongings they managed too save. Rations such as meat, flour and potatoes were handed out from the commissariats office to queues. Inhabitants were allowed to buy extras to supplement their rations from stores in the camp.
Firewood was fetched from an allocated spot a fair distance from their huts, while water supplied by the Durban Corporation tended to be erratic.
The camp was administered by Superintendent H M Bousfield who was assisted by a team of administrators which included doctors, hospital matron and nurses, camp matron, camp storeman, clerks, teachers, Indian and African sanitary personnel and many others. Some inhabitants also worked in the camp.
General Schalk burger (bare headed, middle right) addresses the inhabitants of Merebank about the peace treaty. Notice the old man crying at far right.
The dreary monotonous life was broken up by political infighting, passes to visit Durban to bid farewell to POWs, or the seaside. The Merebank camp continued to exist until December 1902 when the last of its inhabitants left for home. During its existence there were 453 deaths mainly due to measles, enteric fever and dysentery.
These people were buried at three different cemeteries: 22 were buried at Isipingo, 19 at Jacobs/Clairmont, and 412 at Merebank. All three these sites have a monument.