Miss Hobhouse had to own that she met with the utmost courtesy from the authorities with whom she had to deal, a fact alone which proved that the Government was only too glad to allow people to see what was being done for the Boer women and children, and gratefully appreciated every useful suggestion likely to lighten the sad lot of those in the Camps.
It is no use denying, and indeed no one, Sir Alfred Milner least of all, would have denied that some of the scenes witnessed by Miss Hobhouse, which were afterwards described with such tremulous indignation, were of a nature to shock public opinion both at home and abroad. But, at the same time, it was not fair to circumstances or to people to have a false sentimentality woven into what was written. Things ought to have been looked upon through the eyes of common sense and not through the refracting glasses of the indignation of the moment. It was a libel to suggest that the British authorities rendered themselves guilty of deliberate cruelty, because, on the contrary, they always and upon every occasion did everything they could to lighten the lot of the enemy peoples who had fallen into their hands.
THE PRISONERS’ CAMPS
I went myself very carefully into the details of whatever information I was able to gather in regard to the treatment of Boer prisoners in the various Camps, notably at Green Point near Cape Town, and I always had to come to the conclusion that nothing could have been better. Is it likely that, when such an amount of care was bestowed upon the men, the women and children should have been made the objects of special persecution? No impartial person could believe such a thing to have been possible, and I feel persuaded that if the people who in England contributed to make the position of the British Government more difficult than already it was, could have glanced at some Prisoners’ Camps, for instance, they would very quickly have recognised that an unbalanced sentimentality had exaggerated facts, and even in some cases distorted them.
In Green Point the prisoners were housed in double-storied buildings which had balconies running round them. Here they used to spend many hours of the day, for not only could they see what was going on around the Camps but also have a good view of the sea and passing ships. Each room held six men, and there was besides a large mess-room downstairs in each building which held about ninety people. Each Boer officer had a room for himself. When, later on, the number of prisoners of war was increased, tents had to be erected to accommodate them; but this could hardly be considered hardship in the climate which prevails at the Cape, and cannot be compared to what at the present moment the soldiers of the Allies are enduring in the trenches. The tents were put in a line of twenty each, and each score had a building attached for the men in that line to use as a dormitory if they chose. Excellent bathrooms and shower-baths were provided, together with a plentiful supply of water. The feeding of the prisoners of war was on a substantial scale, the daily rations per man including: