Simonstown camps

The first sizable batch of Boer prisoners of war taken by the British were captured at the battle of Elandslaagte on 21 October 1899. No camps had been prepared and by arrangement with the Naval authorities these prisoners (approximately 200 men) were temporarily housed on the naval guard ship HMS Penelope in Simon's Bay. Several ships were used as floating prisoner of war camps until permanent camps were established at Greenpoint, Cape Town and Bellevue, Simonstown. The first prisoners were accommodated in Bellevue on 28 February 1900. Wounded prisoners were sent to the old Cape Garrison Artillery Barracks at Simonstown which had been converted into the Palace hospital. The first wounded arrived on 2 November 1899.

Towards the end of 1900 with the first invasion of the Cape Colony the prisoners at Cape Town and Simonstown were placed on board ships. At the end of December 1900 some 2550 men were placed on board the Kildonan Castle where they remained for six weeks before they were removed to two other transports at Simons' bay.

Prisoners of war repatriated to South Africa after the cessations of hostilities were sent on arrival to Simonstown or Umbilo. Here they were provided with blankets and clothes before being sent of by train to their final destinations. As the war developed the number of prisoners increased and the provision of accommodation raised some serious problems for the British authorities. This was particularly so after the surrender of General P A Cronje and approximately 4000 burghers at Paardeberg. To keep large camps supplied while conducting a war over large areas would only have imposed intolerable strains on already overburdened supply lines. Not only this, but there was the very real danger of insurrections in the neighbourhood of the camps and the risk of the release of the captives. The solution to the problem was found in the shipment of the prisoners overseas.