Boer Boy

Boer Boy – Memoirs of an Anglo-Boer War Youth
By Chris Schoeman

YOU ALWAYS HEAR the general’s stories, and you occasionally hear from the men who actually put their bodies on the line – but it’s not often that you hear from the children who’ve lived through a war.

Charles du Preez was one of those: separated from his mother, arrested with his father on their farm in the Eastern Free State, and transported to prisoner of war camps in India when he was just 9 or 10 (making him the youngest inmate there), he wrote his memoirs some years after he returned to South Africa (and he wasn’t repatriated, either: his father was forced to borrow the money they needed for their passage home. Paid it back, too. Every penny.).

Interestingly, though, Charles’s mother, Charlotte (who was held at the concentration camp at Winburg, with her younger children) also wrote an account of her experiences.

If this was only a childhood memoir, you could be forgiven for taking it lightly. But these are intertwined stories, and this is what makes this book so powerful.

I was surprised at how strongly the book evoked the Eastern Free State for me, and I found that I had no trouble imagining the camps in India – and once again I was reminded why I’ve always said that if you want to understand South African politics in the 21st century, you need to understand its war at the start of the twentieth.

I’ve lost count of the number of books I’ve read on the South African War of 1899-1902 and, to be honest, only some of them stand out in my memory.

But ‘Boer Boy’ does, for sure.

Buy it here