1900-1919 | Burning crops | Livestock targeted | Prisoners murdered

British officer – my instructions – shoot prisoners – loot the farms

John Dillon MP c. 1900 (public domain via Wikimedia) and Lord Kitchener c. 1901 (public domain via Wikimedia).

26 February 1900

On 26 February 1900, the Irish nationalist MP, John Dillon, read out a letter in parliament that he had received from a British officer who was engaged in a campaign of virtual genocide against the Boer population of South Africa.

‘The orders in this district from Lord Kitchener  ( commanding British forces ) are to burn and destroy all provisions, forage, etc., and seize cattle, horses, and stock of all sorts wherever found, and to leave no food in the houses of the inhabitants. And the word has been passed round privately that no prisoners are to be taken. That is, all the men found fighting are to be shot. This order was given to me personally by a general, one of the highest in rank in South Africa. So there is no mistake about it.  The instructions given to the columns closing round De Wet north of the Orange River are that all men are to be shot so that no tales may be told. Also, the troops are told to loot freely from every house, whether the men belonging to the house are fighting or not.’1

Dillon also quoted from a letter from William Clyne of the Liverpool Regiment, explaining that ‘Lord Kitchener has issued orders that no man has to bring in any Boer prisoners; if he does he has to give him half his rations for the prisoner’s keep,’ as well as a letter from Private John Harris, of the Royal Welsh Regiment, who reported that ‘We take no prisoners now. … There happened to be a few wounded Boers left. We put them through the mill. Every one was killed.’2

FOOTNOTE

  1. ‘Conduct of the War in South Africa,’ Hansard, 26 February 1901 accessed online at url https://api.parliament.uk/historic-hansard/commons/1901/feb/26/conduct-of-the-war-in-south-africa and Mark Weber, “The Boer War Remembered,” Institute for Historical Review, accessed online http://www.ihr.org/jhr/v18/v18n3p14_Weber.html
  2. ‘Conduct of the War in South Africa,’ op. cit..

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