Deadwood Camp Gedenksboek
Census of P.O.W.s and
Oath of Allegiance problems before repatriation

Census notification
Census notification 31 December 1901
Information given to Line Captains to be made known in Enclosure (31 December 1901)

H.E. The Governor of St. Helena has been directed by the Secretary of State for the Colonies to make a census of Boer Prisoners of War.
The plan will be to make separate registers in each Camp of Transvaalers and Orangists. A separate sheet will be prepared for each man, in triplicate, giving:-

  1. Full names:
  2. Age:
  3. Exact address stating District and Sub district or wijk
  4. Married or single
  5. If married, number, names and as far as known where about of family.
  6. Particulars as to property, especially landed property and stock.
The above information will be required in the Prisoners Own Interests and to facilitate repatriation.

The Commandant will make a confidential report in each in each case , and copies will be sent of each Prisoner's register to the High Commissioner for South Africa, copies to the Secretary of State for the Colonies and Copies kept in St Helena.

The Commandant proposes to class all Prisoners of War by Districts, as shown in the Official list of Prisoners, and taking one District at a time, to ask each Prisoner individually to give him the information asked for. Particular attention is called to the paragraph which is underlined in red ink.

The Commandant wishes to assure Each prisoner that as far as he is concerned all information will be treated as confidential. He proposes to commence the registers on 1st January 1902

W.S         H.O.P. Wright (Lt Col.)
Commandant P.O.W.

The Commandant understands there is considerable concern what is meant by "Oath of Allegiance".
It means that a Prisoner takes an Oath and a bond, to be true and loyal to the King of Great Britain and Ireland. It confers on him full citizenship as a British Subject.
It does not mean that a Prisoner binds himself to fight, as under the British Government, all who take up arms, do so voluntarily, whether in the Regular Forces, Militia, Volunteer Forces or Colonial Forces.

W.S         H.O.P. Wright (Lt Col.)
Commandant P.O.W.

Census notification pg2
Page 2

Broad Bottom Camp
6 January 1902.

Col Wright
Prisoners of War
Broad Bottom Camp

Sir !
Your letter to Line Captains, with enclosed forms of Census, has been made known in this Camp, according to instructions given by your Honour. Prisoners of War regret to see, that your Honour has been directed by Sec. of State for Colonies, to make Census of Boer Prisoners of War, they, with all due respect, venture in taking the liberty of requesting your Honour, to make known to Sec. of State for Colonies, that under present circumstances, they are compelled to refuse in answering the questions, put to them in the Census form, for certain reasons well known to your Honour.
All Line Captains sign this letter for themselves as well as for their respective lines:-
With regard to the "Oath of Allegiance", a full explanation has been given by Line Captains to all Prisoners of War.

They are
your obedient Servants:-

Notes in margin. This letter was given to Col Wright on 7th January 1902 and signed by all Line Captains except A Gauche who was out on leave, perhaps purposely.

Information given to Line Captains to be made known in Enclosure

Broad Bottom 8th January 1902.

The Commandant has received the letter of the Line Captains, dated 6th January 1902, and regrets to find political influence has been brought to bear upon Prisoners of War in the Enclosure regarding the proposed Census of Prisoners.

He must point out that he has considered every Prisoner entitled to his individual opinion on any matter, whilst at Broad Bottom Camp, which may affect his future.
It must be distinctly understood that in making of the Census, the Sec of State for the Colonies has made no reference to Boer Prisoners of War taking an Oath of Allegiance but that on the Circular States the information is required in the Prisoner's own interests and to facilitate repatriations.
The Commandant proposes therefore to continue the Census as he has begun it, calling upon each individual Prisoner to give such information regarding his family and property as he thinks may help him, in the resettlement of land, and he earnestly advises all Prisoners to take this opportunity of bringing their Claims before the Government.
W.S         H.O.P.Wright (Lt Col.)
Commandant P.O.W.
Tuesday January 7th. The Colonel let know that he wanted the men from District Bloemfontein Line 1, to come up and give the necessary information about the Census, but all of them refused to go up for that purpose. Then came on the following day his letter to Line Captains - and now we are waiting for the second move.

Census notification pg3
Page 3

Information given to Line Captains to be made known in Enclosure

Broad Bottom 18th January 1902.

The Commandant of Prisoners of War Deadwood has reported that information was taken there by Broad Bottom Prisoners, stating that the Commandant of Broad Bottom required Prisoners to sign the "Oath of Allegiance" in connection with preparing the Census.
As this statement is absolutely false , and at variance with the information given by the Commandant to the Line Captains, it can only point to some conspiracy, not only to prevent the Census being taken, but also intimidate Prisoners who might be desirous of putting in Claims.
Until some explanation is given, all the privileges that has been allowed to prisoners of War at Broad Bottom will be curtailed.
H.H the Govenor has been shown the letter signed by the Line Captains, and whilst feeling the refusal on the part of the Prisoners to put forward Claims is a distinct gain for the British Government, as less Compensation will be required, he feels very sorry for the poorer Class of Prisoners, who may never get a chance again putting forward their losses through the war.(sic)
The Commandant to help these latter class of Prisoners will be prepared to hand over Register to Line Captains, or to Individual Prisoners, who may still wish to have on record what their losses are, and who would prefer preparing the sheets themselves.
The Quartermasters and Censors will also have registers in their office, if any are desirous of making Claims as over 600 Regiisters have been prepared at Deadwood (untrue)and the work is still going on, it appears to the Commandant that the Broad Bottom Prisoners are adopting a very foolish attitude to the matter.

W.S         H.O.P. Wright (Lt Col.)
Commandant P.O.W.

Census notification pg4
Page 4

The implementation of the proposed Census in Deadwood Camp


A Census of all Prisoners of War is being taken.
All Prisoners of War are required to attend here as soon as possible, between the hours of:-
9.30 a.m. - 12.30 p.m.
1:30 p.m. - 2.30 p.m.
on any day for this purpose, except Sundays and holidays
W.S         J. H. Warden (Major)
8 - 12- 01


The undersigned, Marthinus Johannes Wolmarans, Commandant of the District Potchefstroom Z.A.R., hereby declare that, the above notice having been made known, I have been summoned by the Colonel because I do not wish to comply with the [Census] notice.

The Colonel assured me that the Census was only intended to allow the PoWs to register in order to receive compensation after the war, for any damages suffered by them. So as not to answer any questions, I became stubborn and he said he was only interested in whether I was a permanent resident of the Z A R [Transvaal]. I refused thereafter to answer any questions, stating that I had nothing more to say. I left the office and instructed my fellow officers and the burghers not to comply with the summonses.

Despite this, many of them were, in their own words, summonsed to the Census office on the sly and forced to comply with the notice.

I can further state that the Census has become a total failure.

M J Wolmarans
Commandant: Distr: P C Stroom Z.A.R.


Those who find themselves unexpectedly in the Census office with no good reason, answer the first two questions, while those who are against [the census] [are to] say "you have taken our names so many times already that I do not want to do it again" and walk away.

Some other answer the 4th question "How do I know if I am still married, or if I still have a wife and children? Your censors have torn up our letters for months and months." One even answered "Yes, I was married. But your nation murdered my wife and that is all I have to say".

When it came to the sixth question, the answer was generally "How can I as a PoW say, after sitting for two years on St Helena having been banished. Besides which it does not concern you, I will determine the damages once I am in my own country and apply to my own government for compensation."

These and similar answers were patiently received by the Censor. It did not take long before nobody went into the office any more. Eventually the English abandoned the effort and no more was said [about it] in either Broad Bottom nor Deadwood.

Census notification pg5
Page 5

2nd Call for the proposed Census in Deadwood Camp


Now that peace has been proclaimed in South Africa, Prisoners of War are requested to come to this office at 10 a.m. daily, for the purpose of giving particulars required for the Personal Registers
These particulars are required solely in the interests of the P.O.W. themselves, with a view to a speedy return to their homes.

W.S         J.W.Hind. (Lt Col)
Deadwood 4.6.'02


The undersigned, Marthinus Johannes Wolmarans, Commandant of the District Potchefstroom Z.A.R., hereby declare that I was once again summoned by the Colonel to attend on 4th June 1902 because he wanted my opinion on last year's cancelled Census. He had received orders to reinstate the census.

My reply was that the Colonel could well recall that the matter of the Census had almost led to unrest in the Camp, and that the Authorities had been forced to acknowledge the failure of the census. I gave my opinion that, as much as the census had failed the previous year, it would be unlikely to achieve any good end this time. Many [burgers] had given me the assurance that, they were NOT going to comply with the census, whether the English succeeded in conquering our country, or whether our Government were the winning party; only once they were [back] in their country would they go to the appointed offices, surrounded by their wives and fellow citizens who could agree the actual damages, but not now, after almost 3 years of being absent from our properties. I would advise you not to undertake this hapless exercise because it will not succeed. The Colonel thanked me for my candid opinion, saying he still had his orders and he would have to "try" to do what he could. In addition, while the first Census had been tried during war, he could not believe that the burghers would object in peace time. My answer was that now that there was peace, the burghers were all of the opinion that they wanted to see for themselves how things were running under the new rulers. The interview came to an end and within a few hours the "notice" was placed on display.

M J Wolmarans
Commandant: Distr: P C Stroom Z.A.R.

Deadwood Camp
St. Helena 13 June 1902

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